They’re a villain to me, not to everyone, and probably not in their own points-of-view
Some secrets are fun and innocent.
Others kill (literally and figuratively).
I explore secrets, lies, and other villainous acts in my completed psychological suspense. How these things create a distance between individuals and within ourselves. How they traumatize. How they blur the lens we put on to view the world. How they bring people together in the short-term, but wear them down in the long.
[Btw, at any time, feel free to skip to the questions at the end]
Like many writers, I used my life experience to breathe truth into my works.
HERE’S A SHOCKER: I’ve harbored many secrets throughout my twenty-four years of living. *Le gasp*
The more closely the author thinks of why he wrote, the more he comes to regard his imagination as a kind of self-generating cement which glued his facts together, and his emotions as a kind of dark and obscure designer of those facts. Reluctantly, he comes to the conclusion that to account for his book is to account for his life. – Richard Wright
Most writers regard the truth as their most valuable possession, and therefore are most economical in its use. – Mark Twain
A writer without interest or sympathy for the foibles of his fellow man is not conceivable as a writer. – Joseph Conrad
To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. – Herman Melville
I was in my early teens when my older sister confided in me: My uncle had molested her in the past.
I was shaken, disturbed.
We hear about people doing “bad” things from the media or from gossipers in the family. We read about villains in books with their smirks, suave attitudes, and smart comments. But when there’s a villain laughing with your parents, ruffling your hair, smiling at your siblings, it’s . . . sick.
My sister made me promise not to tell. She didn’t want this pain, this betrayal to spread and erode the family. So for years, we silently kept the secret to ourselves. When the family would get together, I even managed to kiss his cheek in greeting (part of our culture). Somehow, I found a way to separate his actions from him.
(If you’re wondering why I’m still calling him my uncle, it’s because I’m holding him accountable.)
Harboring the secret wasn’t easy. My frustration, disappointment, and disgust would come out at the worst times. I would break down crying in the most embarrassing places. Like school. The teacher would be talking, and whoops, there I go, rushing out the door with the flood of tears.
I wasn’t directly violated, but I was still violated. Think of Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
“Seven years, […] Working with the Slayer. Seeing my friends get more and more powerful. […] All of them. And I’m the guy who fixes the windows. They’ll never know how tough it is, Dawnie. To be the one who isn’t chosen, to live so near to the spotlight and never step in it. But I know. I see more than anybody realizes because nobody’s watching me.”―Xander
Everything changed five years ago.
My sister couldn’t keep the secret any longer.
She told our mother.
I’d been prepared to go to the grave with this secret. So imagine my shock. I was on my way to take an exam when my mom and sister called.
Hearing and feeling your loved ones cry their souls out. Having no way to console them. Knowing you played a part in it, because a passive passenger is still a passenger (a quote from my little sister). That’s the worst.
I was in a movie where I paused while everything else sped up.
I tried to go on the elevator, but I forgot which floor my class was on. Heck, I didn’t even know how to operate the elevator anymore. Push a button? What?
My mom wasn’t going to keep this to herself. She called my grandma (her mother) first. There’s no telling how someone will react to bad news, but what we didn’t expect was for my grandma to jump on my uncle’s side. Asking why my sister’s saying this when she knows my uncle’s the main provider for his immediate family.
I know molestation is a “taboo” topic and more common than many would like to admit (especially while my grandma was growing up), but hearing the anger directed towards us was unbelievable. I died even more inside.
My sister and mom needed my grandma. She let them down. She let us all down.
Next was my aunt, who switched to defense mode, too. That’s understandable, because that’s your husband, the father of your children, WHATEVER. Why would you immediately believe he was capable of such a thing?
But to flat-out call my sister a liar? To basically call my mom an idiot for believing her daughter? To tell us we’re all dead to her? Where’s the freakin’ line, because I’m pretty sure she crossed it.
What did my uncle have to say: “Why are you doing this?” Not, “I didn’t do that” — or — “let’s get to the bottom of this, because I didn’t do that.” Just . . . “why are you doing this?” Why are you telling the truth, is how I interpreted his question.
It’s crazy. Before, my sister and I kept the secret for the sake of the whole family. But here they were, only thinking of themselves without skipping a beat.
With this big explosion, many harsh words were said on both sides. For a long time, I focused on the wrong my uncle, aunt, and grandma were doing, more so than the wrong being flung from “our” side.
I kept moving forward in life, but a major part of me was bleeding the whole time. I didn’t allow myself to pay attention to the wound, just shake it off. But I used hatred and anger to . . . I don’t know, make the cut in the family easier, protect myself, and wield a sword that was never mine to swing.
I turned away from forgiveness, rejected it multiple times, openly and behind closed doors. I kept thinking it’s them who need to seek forgiveness, but the things I said, thought, and did were shameful. Seriously, I even dreamt of physically hurting them, many times.
I hated myself for not being able to fix this situation somehow (even though I knew it wasn’t in my hands). I kept thinking, how am I supposed to have confidence in these eyes that didn’t see what they were capable of? This mouth that couldn’t form the right words to make them see reason? This heart that believed in them? How could they do that to my sister, to all of us?
But I’ve come to realize that just as Christ bears my cross, He bears theirs. That day the truth came out, they failed us, but we failed them, too. And that’s hard to wrap my mind around. It’ll take some time.
I don’t need my grandma or aunt to believe what my uncle did as much I did before. The truth is the truth.
This whole ordeal taught me that the decisions we make with the best intentions (e.g., telling the truth) don’t always lead to ideal outcomes, but they’re still worth it. And I learned that even though people can be villains to me, it doesn’t make them villains to everyone (and it shouldn’t). It’s important to remember that in life and as I write, whether the “antagonists” are people, nature, society, technology, the supernatural, fate, or the self.
Down with the villains and all that jazz. But every time I write, I’ll make the effort to show that all my characters have flaws, redeeming qualities, and instances of growth. In turn, that’ll influence how I live my waking life. Because these “villains” are or were loved by someone, have something to fight for, and hurt and bleed just like the rest of us.
I know how easy it is to forget that or not give two flippin’ penguins. Trust me. But my lack of understanding or concern doesn’t diminish its importance. Their importance.
I leave you with these questions:
1. What makes a villain a villain?
2. Who or what are your favorite villains?
3. What are your thoughts about harbored secrets? Have they or are they affecting your family?
4. What are you going to do about them?