“Did you notice him changing his personality and the way he acted around different people in different situations?” Balian asked Savio, a handsome novelist and screenwriter in the fantasy–science fiction mode.
“Yes. He would start to tell a story, and if the person didn’t respond well, if they kind of went like [Savio mimed exasperation or skepticism], you know, like that might be a little bit of BS or might be too much, he would notice it, he would stop. You would never hear that story again and he would move on.”
Having grown up to be an author, or, as he styled himself on the Internet, a “neo-confabulator” (Battle for Forever and Idiots in the Machine were a couple of his books), Savio was well equipped to describe the defendant’s creative process, its mechanisms and themes. It began with careful linguistic modifications: “He tried to affect what I think at the time he thought was an American accent. And he would practice things, each just with me sitting there, like ‘Pass me the bread …’” There were also adjustments of behavior, customized for the audience at hand. Around jocks, according to Savio, the defendant was “more relaxed.” Around people he deemed his social inferiors “and didn’t feel were worthy of his time,” he would “just be very short” and “wouldn’t even affect his speech much.”
I felt a sense of recognition, hearing this. The careful edits and revisions practiced by the ambitious German eighteen-year-old as he gentrified and Americanized himself (“We talked about sort of living the American dream,” remembered Savio) resembled literary operations that I performed daily at my desk. The difference was that my artistic guesswork occurred in isolation, while Clark got to test his drafts and sketches in front of a living, responsive audience. I imagined the satisfaction he must have felt when one of his tales or invented manners hit home, drawing a smile or a nod, causing a face to soften and turn receptive. I had to wait months or years for the equivalents of such communicative rewards, and when they came—if they ever came at all—it was in the disembodied form of letters, e-mails, and reviews. There was much to envy in his approach. He didn’t live by writing, he wrote by living.
Walter Kirn, Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade, Liveright; 1 edition (March 10, 2014)