As a writer, I don’t think that there is any subject that is quite so fascinating and character / storyline producing as the concept of madness.
Madness can come in many forms, from straight-jacketed crazy eyed, padded room dwelling lunatics, to the internal madness that comes too much stress. Sadness can induce a certain element of madness also.
If you think about it, any emotion that we experience, could if delivered in the right time and place, or rather the wrong one, or in a dose too large for us to control, could induce a state of madness.
When you are thinking of plotlines and potential characters, the subject of madness, and insanity, for I believe them to be two very different things, is a fantastic source of material. I mean, sure, if you write romance I can see how a madman offers a less appealing leading man, but as a writer of horror and dark fiction, I am in my element.
You can use madness as a metaphor for so many different aspects of life, from paranoia and anxiety through to social commentaries madness and its lingering touch can be used.
As with everything, it must be used to good effect and not merely because it can be. But that applied to almost everything in writing.
I think madness is something that is universally frightening, to everybody, of all ages. There is something undeniably real about it as a condition, in whichever form you choose to use it. As individuals, one of our common fears is that involving losing our minds. Whether through illness, old age, or from a mental health standpoint, it unifies us.
Don’t forget, that while the word, madness, may conjure up dark images, not once have I mentioned that it was an evil force. Of course, there is something fun about writing the rantings and ramblings of a mad man – I mean I do it on this blog almost every day – but what about if you made the madness the villain, but kept the sufferer as the victim. You could write quite the emotional journey on this topic.
Similarly, what makes a creepier situation for a horror setting than an abandoned asylum, or the old house that saw witness to mass murders; that was present to the previous owner’s descent into madness, the legacy of which provides the setting for your tale.
My next novel, which is currently with my editor, features madness in several forms. We have an enforced madness, which sees the main character’s mind bent and subjected to the will of others, making him fear his own sanity had left him. There is an asylum in disguises that plays host to all manner of madness, and that is just in the heads of the people that run the place.
As writers, madness is often a tough subject. We know the way our minds work, and understand that they may not always be in line with the way others of our age, or demographic think and work. We process things differently, and are used to our minds going to very dark places.
I am sure we are all aware of the many similarities that have been discussed between mental health patients and creative types.
Madness is a terrifyingly fascinating subject and I hope you all feel inclined to explore it in the literary not literal, sense of the word.