Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Let's Pretend They're Not Really Killing Themselves

I find myself becoming more and more attracted to the idea of suicide as a plot device. Two weeks ago I turned a writing exercise into a short piece on suicide jumpers, and today I’m outlining a longer story based off the Japanese phenomenon of suicide websites.

There’s something inherently creepy the taking of one’s own life, and it’s perfect to throw a bunch of “what if” questions at. What if these people weren’t actually doing it to themselves? What if it was something on the website? What if it was a ghost? Is it possible to influence people to commit suicide by manipulating their emotions? Actually, now that I think about it, both the short story/audio book and the film 1408 did it rather well. So yes, if a room can force people to terminate themselves with no lengthy back-story, so can a website. Now, to keep it from being hokey, that’s going to be the hard part.

Suspicions Confirmed on Suicide Site's Involvement in Group Deaths

I found this story while perusing the Mainichi Shimbun’s new website. It’s a dual-language Japanese newspaper that tends to translate more sensationalist news items. It’s stuffed to the gills with potential story ideas, and I often print small stacks of articles to take home and browse. They’ve recently split from MSN, so their archives from previous years aren’t available at the moment. I’ve been reading the site off and on for several years, and between the news and Japanese novels and film I’ve noticed a trend going on. People in Japan kill themselves openly a lot more often than we do here, and it’s being done more and more in groups. With a large portion of them, even if the final act is done in private, a lot of the planning stage is done online with a group of like-minded people. I’ve read a number of articles where people who don’t even know each other meet in person and then go off to die together. It’s quite an unnerving idea for me.

So here’s the big “Let’s Pretend” for today. Let’s pretend this isn’t suicide. Let’s pretend something is making this happen. What is it? A monster, a ghost, a psychic? Do we even need to know, specifically, what it is? For now, at least as I outline this story, I’m content with a rather ambiguous antagonist. I want this to have a very personal, frightening feel. I want to have convincing, three-dimensional people falling into this bizarre online “trap.”

I’m finding it hard to be content with myself anymore unless I’m busy. If I’m not writing, I’m reading fiction manuals. If I’m not reading fiction manuals, I’m out walking, and if I’m not out walking I’m doing laundry or cleaning the fish tanks or trying to read fiction for pleasure. This busy feeling is an odd thing, considering how long I spent wasting time indiscriminately. Being busy feels kind of nice. It makes me appreciate the time I do get to spend doing the little things that make me happy.

Apparently writing about suicides makes me happy. I’m not sure what that says about me.

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