by JT Ellison
I was teasing with a friend the other day, emails flying back and forth, the comments benign but tinged with that frisson that exists between good friends. After one exchange, involving the novel concept I’m sure we are the only two writers in the world to have ever had, about running away to a deserted island with never-ending margaritas and dedicated slaves, he simply said, "Don’t tempt me."
My immediate reaction was, oh, how many times have I thought that? How many times have we all thought that? It’s one of those statements that separate us from animals. We are all tempted, by any number of little and big issues, every day. I daresay some of us do a better job of limiting our temptations than others. Assuming that we are governed by morals and values, that we are able to put the temptations of life aside, the big sins and the little. The big ones: don’t kill, don’t cheat, don’t covet. The medium to big ones: don’t have sex with strangers we find attractive, don’t take that extra drink that will send us over the edge, don’t have that cigarette once you’ve given up, don’t, don’t, don’t… The little ones are trickier, and I’m certainly not going to presume to list them here, my morality and yours may have differences.
There are seven deadly sins: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride. Think hard. I’m sure you can find a little of yourself somewhere among these. I know I can. What? You’re a saint? Well, take this quiz. Maybe you aren’t as sweet as you thought.
But I have faith that the vast majority of Murderati’s readers are little white lie types rather than full blown sinners, AKA murdering psychopaths. So what better place to live vicariously than through our characters? I absolutely adore writing bad people. The freedom to allow them to think uncharitable thoughts with impunity, to kill, maim, key cars, lie, cheat and steal… all those things that I’m programmed NOT to do. Does that make me a bad person? Man, I hope not. I just find it enjoyable to explore my darker nature through my antagonists.
So, dear readers, I ask you these three questions.
- When was the last time you muttered "Don’t tempt me" under your breath?
- If you could choose one sin, (only one, mind you,) that you could commit with with the knowledge of immediate absolution, what would it be?
- Who is your favorite evil character?
Feel free to post anonymously : )
Wine of the Week: An article on celebrated wine consultant Michel Rolland, and a Château le Bon Pasteur 2003 in his honor.
1. Just about every conference I go to. The perpetual candy store, yike.
2. It’s always lust. There’s not even a close second.
3. Hannibal Lecter. I know, not very original of me, but I just love that someone so evil has a woman as his Achilles heel, and that he actually saves Clarice’s life in the end.
Dang. I just took that sin quiz. Sloth and Gluttony are running fast, but getting edged out at the last minute by Pride.
1. I succumb to most temptations.
2. Yeah, Alex is right. It’s always Lust.
3. Dr. Jekyll’s Mr. Hyde, I think, for exposing the evil in all of us.
1. Any time someone mentions a weekend (or week. Or month) away from the kids.
2. Gluttony. I’m a sucker for great food.
3. I’m going esoteric here and saying the character of Socia in Dennis Lehane’s “A Drink Before the War.” The guy was a horrendous criminal but ultimately a wounded, angry little boy.
1. Anytime someone offers to take my kid for an afternoon so I can write without interruption.
2. Definitely gluttony, though the absolution would also have to include a nullification of calories thusly consumed.
3. I’m having a hard time thinking of a specific example at the moment (not enough coffee yet today), but I’m intrigued by fundamentally evil people who nonetheless perform acts of redemptive goodness, and by fundamentally good people who perform isolated acts of great evil. The character of Peter in Jodi Picoult’s “19 Minutes”, which I’m reading now, might fall in the second category, but since I’m only 1/3 of the way through the book it’s hard to say for sure.
I’m not having good luck narrowing down a response either – am thinking another latte is needed first… 🙂
But, Tammy’s number three resonates for me. I am FASCINATED by people/characters who are either evil but perform an act of goodness/kindness or good but perform an act of evil.
I’m also keenly interested in writing about characters who do the above and/or form attachments to good/evil characters and trigger the incongruous act.
Re: sins – I must be leaning toward gluttony in the moment, as I’m sitting here thinking… latte? Wine? One of each?
Like Louis, I succumb to most temptations. I normally mutter don’t tempt me to myself when I hear about an easy way to get money. If I knew I had immediate absolution (and that included noone getting hurt or screwed) I’d so rob a bank or some mafia slush account or something like that.
And Mr. Burns from The Simpsons is the best villian ever. Pure evil, but with bits of humanity.
“Don’t tempt me”I probably say it — and mean it — at least once a week.
Lust.I regularly commit several of the others already.
Villain?My favorite changes frequently. Right now, I’m enjoying Hattie in ELLA ENCHANTED; she’s a snotty girl who has realized her stepsister MUST obey her every command.
This is a great book, btw.
1. I have three teenagers, so of course the notion of running away to a desert island appeals to me on a daily basis, along with a few other choice temptations. Give me the island thing for a day – as long as I can have all the books I want to read. JT can have the margaritas; I’ll take strawberry daiquiris.
2. Sloth is probably my favorite, and hoo-boy am I guilty of that one pretty often. I think if given the choice I’d take lust, mostly because … well, never mind. 😉
3. I’m rather partial to Jeff Lindsay’s Darkly Dreaming Dexter, although I’m not sure I’d really call him “evil” – are serial killers supposed to be so likable?
Great post, JT.
J.B.I cannot for one instant imagine that sloth would be a sin you’d indulge in on any kind of a regular basis.
. . . not with three teenagers.. . . not with your writing activities.. . . not with your volunteer activities.
There should be an 8th sin: overworking
Ooh, great answers, guys!
I have to vote with JB on Dexter. I have some sort of sick crush on the television version played by Michael Hall. What is WRONG with me?
I’m seeing a trend toward the desire for some alone time. May that wish be granted for all of you.
My sin? I was surprised by the quiz. I expected a little bit of everything, but it said my sin was Greed. I think that’s because I answered that I envied my neighbor’s car. Really, I envy my Dad’s car. Cars. I want a Boxster, and I want a BMW. A 330cI convertible, specifically. Hey a girl’s gotta dream, right?
Ummm, is having sex with strangers you find attractive really such a bad thing?
Just, ummm, asking. (Consent and both parties being single a key element here, obv.)
It’s all in the perspective, Gobbler. All in the perspective.
My “don’t tempt me”s usually involve food – most likely chocolate (which is my drug of choice).
Sloth is far and away my “best” sin (from the quiz), so I’ll take absolution for it.
My favorite bad guy is Bill Sykes – someone I love to hate.
1. Five minutes ago.
3. Lieutenant Rawls from THE WIRE, at the moment.
Cornelia, hey girl! Great to see you! Good call on Rawls…
B.G., considering I’m on an M&M kick, I’m with you!!!
I took the test, J.T., thinking that I would score high on SLOTH or GLUTTONY. But it’s all about PRIDE, baby. I should have known, but probably my PRIDE got in the way. Very unattractive.
Considering all the amazing things you have to be proud of, Naomi, I think the answers were skewed. ; )
The last time I “don’t tempt me”d was when my co-worker made a comment about my boss, about how well she’d fit on one of those shelves in the morgue on NCIS… 😉 I don’t normally get all homicidal about my job, but it was one of those days….
My deadly that I’d do if there was no remuneration is lust. Not gonna mention any names, just let me say, there had better NOT be a time limit.
Favorite villians…. Hmmm. There’s so many, and I have a soft spot for unrepentant evil. I can’t decide between Early Methos on the old Highlander television. ( “I killed thousands! and I LIKED it!”), the Master on the old Dr. Who shows, and Roger Chillingsworh in “the Scarlet Letter”.