#WritersWednesday: Obsession and manipulation in fictional characters

Mirror or mask?In Bret Easton Ellis’s Glamorama Victor Ward is obsessed, by his look – the better you look the more you see – by his women, or at least some of them, and finally by the solitude he faces once his devilish dad, the ominous senator and presidential candidate Johnson, has manipulated him to exile, near death, and substituted his shadowy alter ego, his doppelgänger, the fake Victor, to himself. The whole story is that of a long destruction through obsessive behaviour and manipulation of a fragile human being by people close to him. ““You want to know how it all ends?” Chloe asked, eyes closed. I nodded. “Buy the rights,” she whispered.” Spare me.

In Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl Amy Elliott Dunne starts her career as the baby obsession of her parents who end up building a fortune writing stories about their daughter. She then becomes – apparently – obsessed by her sexy and devious husband Nick: “I am fat with love! Husky with ardor! Morbidly obese with devotion! A happy, busy bumblebee of marital enthusiasm. I positively hum around him…” When Amy’s true nature is revealed to the reader, some 200 pages into the novel, it becomes clear to us who the manipulator was: she’s no Cool Girl, although she played the part to perfection for the benefit of her parents and husband: “But it’s tempting to be Cool Girl. For someone like me, who likes to win, it’s tempting to want to be the girl every guy wants.” Amy frames Nick who does not stand a chance, now obsessed by guilt about his supposedly dead wife… And when does it go wrong? “Can you imagine, finally showing your true self to your spouse, your soul mate, and having him not like you? So that’s how the hating first began…”

In my novel, The Page, Julian at first does not recognise his old flame, Melissa, who, in their youth, was obsessed by him, by his look: he was then the Cool Guy. It is now his turn to wonder, to question, to suspect that the too young woman in front of him may not be what she seems to be. But who is behind the scene? Is she the victim of an abhorrent plot? Or is she a willing actor in manipulating him? I am at the crossroad now, having to decide whether Melissa is on the side of evil, or is still prisoner of her devotion to Julian – or both?

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