kill people

When I was young, I was friends with these native-Shipibo kids who played a game that was pretty much dodgeball... with a twist.

The twist was that they called it "Mata-Gente," which is Spanish for "Kill People." Oh, and the other twist is that they didn't smile and laugh and pretend like it was all in fun, like the bigger kids do in dodgeball. Nope -- they were in it for the blood.

Maybe that's why I liked it. It felt honest. "Kill People!" they screamed, and even with those flimsy little rubber balls, they did their darndest. As one of the smaller guys out there (read: perpetual target), I appreciated the sincerity.

So... confession time: I like to kill people.

There's this cliche in the literary world that you gotta "Write what you know," and while most beginning writers don't take it nearly far enough -- writing only what they know experientially and ignoring what they know emotively and perhaps even spiritually -- I think that, like most cliches, this one exists because it's true. As I've compiled short stories for a book I'll be releasing in the not-too-distant future, I've found that most of my stories that have worked the very best have contained elements from both my emotional and experiential lives.

And I kill people in them. 

Lots of people: old people, young people, people in a taxi... it's a bloodbath. Well, not exactly. There's also a story about a Hutterite boy getting caught with a dirty magazine, one about two trees that fall in love, another about getting into a fight at a high school reunion... and so on... but believe me, the peoples, they gwan be dyin'.

I tend to think that this is because it's a great way to build emotional intensity into a story, but an English-professor friend of mine told me once that people die in stories because the author is punishing them. I'm not sure if she's right, and I'm killing all these people because I've got something against the human race; but I'm happy to say that I've started to work in earnest on my next screenplay, and somebody's definitely gonna die at the end.

Yup... and I'm gonna kill 'em. 

I think this might be why the beating-out-the-scenes phase of this one is going so smoothly. Or maybe it's because this next, fifth script is digging into what I know on a lot of different levels -- emotionally, psychologically, and so forth. Regardless... somebody's gonnaa die.

Another confession: I've never actually killed anyone. 

I have thought an awful lot more about death than most people, though, and although I've not known too many people who've died, I've tended to feel quite deeply about it when they have.

So, in this latest script, I'm writing what I know and feel and experience, and someone's going to die. I'm going to kill him (it's a secret who) and, if I'm lucky, you and I will one day sit side by side in a theater and have a good sob about it, after said bucket has been kicked.

Because as much as I like to kill people... I absolutely hate it when they die.


  1. when I saw A River Runs Through It in the theater, I knew ahead of time someone was going to die, but not who or how or when. It made the experience of watching the film horribly suspenseful because I kept expecting it at every turn.

  2. Yeah... in the short story I'm basing it on, it's obvious who dies. But today, I thought of a way to disguise that, I think it's going to make the thing really tense, and add a lot of layers to the relationships.


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