Instead of writing fiction, he stole people’s lives.
He did this often, and was proficient enough at doing this secretly that he was never accused of doing it. He wrote under a pseudonym and never gave oral interviews, agreeing only to correspond with reporters via email. His friends all thought that he wrote on a freelance basis for various online advertising companies. His editor was a unique, quirky kind of fellow, and thought that the aura of mystery of the author could be used to promote his books, which ended up being true.
But he didn’t actually write fiction. He stole people’s lives.
It wasn’t easy. If he’d ever need to defend himself in court, he would stand up proudly and explain just how difficult the task was. It required hours of watching, of following, of listening to the most boring conversation. It took a year, two, sometimes three, because even though every person’s life is interesting, there need to be events in it that merit writing about. Sometimes he wished he could do something active to cause a disruption in a character’s life, but he was too scared to. It would be too much like inventing, like creating a fiction, and that was something he simply didn’t do.
The people whose lives he stole somehow never noticed it. When they read his books – not all of them did, but some – they merely thought that it was eerie, how close the story was to their lives. But they weren’t objective, and so they didn’t recognize themselves entirely in the nasty, harsh light of the truth that he presented.
It really wasn’t a problem. He knew that his methods were different than other writers’, but he didn’t mind. He sometimes worried that by stealing people’s lives he was, in a sense, depriving them of something essential. He was terrified of meeting his characters in the street years after writing their lives down, and discovering that they’d turned into empty shells of what they’d once been.
He was lonely, the thief of lives, because he never allowed himself to lead a very interesting life of his own. He was much too scared that someone like him would come along and steal it.
9 thoughts on “Life Thief”
I love it. It’s creepy but sad at the same time. I also like that he doesn’t turn out to be a kidnapper or murderer or something because that’s where I thought it was going in the beginning. The different direction is nice
Thanks, Miss Rosemary :).
I actually didn’t think about him being an actual kidnapper or murderer – it’s always interesting to see how things we write are perceived differently than what we imagine, isn’t it?
Very interesting. I’ve been kicking around this same idea in my story. Maybe a good writer does elaborate and enliven a character, making them better than in real life, so that if she were to meet that person later they would appear to be an empty shell. Or maybe a good writer simply records what is. Or maybe both are good, just different styles, just require a different attitude– one writer thinks of himself as a little god, stealing what already belongs to him, and the other thinks of herself as a witness. Your post made me think! Thank you!
Thank you for the thoughtful comment – you’re definitely thinking about the same things that I was considering as I wrote this.
Oooh, I like it! (I agree with Miss Rosemary: creepy but sad. Very well put.)
He’s an interesting character. He’s, like . . . it’s like he should have a whole back story and stuff, except that he’s got no life of his own because he just steals other people’s . . .
I really like the bit about him not intervening in other people’s lives because it would be too much like inventing. Heh.
Exactly, Erin, that’s totally how I was thinking of him – too preoccupied with other people’s lives to live his own, really.
Ooooh yes creepy and sad…but yet in a way writers do exactly this except they mix people lives up with the characters and we aren’t so into it that we forget to live, yeah this guy is kinda’ creepy! Would love to see what you come up with if you delve a bir farther into his world.
I didn’t find this sad or creepy. In fact, it was lovely to read. An unusual take on a writer.. very interesting.
Will this be taken further?
I may take this further, actually. I’m in a short story writing workshop this year, and so I may be taking some of my posts as bases with which to start on something a little longer.