Telling a story from the point of view of a sickening character

I’m not going to tell you how to do it because I can’t force myself to do it. In my work in progress, somebody is shooting KKK members. At the outset, I don’t want the reader to know who’s doing it. Yet, if I tell the story from the point of view of the person who is doing it, I won’t be able to hide what they know.

Unless they were hypnotized or have random bouts of amnesia or I resort to some combination of trickery and/or bad writing, their thoughts are otherwise transparent to the reader.

I catch writers doing this all the time. They’re “inside the head of one of the characters” who has just done something important. But, since the author doesn’t want the readers to know what that character did, s/he simply doesn’t allow the character to think about it.

Not possible (other than the amnesia or brainwashing thing) and yet it happens do often, I wonder why editors don’t catch it.

One alternative (in my work in progress) would be to tell the story from one or more of a KKK members’ POV. I saw too much of the KKK when I was growing up, and looked up more about them while working on Conjure Woman’s Cat and its two sequels. It’s one thing to know the organization’s history, rituals, and symbols, but quite another to know the workings of a member’s heart and soul.

I don’t want to know that because I’m not strong enough to know.

I once wrote a story from the POV of a woman (Sarabande) who was assaulted. It seemed to work. But I never could have written those scenes from the POV of the bad guy. I cannot go inside the head of a rapist any more than I can go inside the head of a KKK member.

It’s one thing to tell a realistic story. It’s another to jeopardize one’s sanity. I’ve read some nasty things in novels and whenever they are told from the POV of the perpetrator, I wonder how the author survived the experience.

Some clinical psychologists have told me they take a shower when they get home from work and, while doing it, visualize the disturbing things heard during the day being washed down the drain. Would that work for a write? I’m not willing to find out.

What about you? Do you ever wonder how authors handle some of the hideous things in their novels, especially when told from the perp’s POV?

Malcolm

Note: I announced on my website today that I need a break and will discontinue the site by February 20. This blog will remain as will my author’s page on Facebook.