More assumptions people make about writers . . .
Question: What assumptions do people make about you because of your writing? Are any of them true?
Here is a list of assumptions people have made about me because of what I write:
1. I practice Wicca or some other form of ritual magic. Not true. I’m an atheist. I think magical thinking is interesting. I sometimes wish the world worked that way, that I could know my future from tea leaves and such. So I write about it instead. If it were true, I’d write about something else instead.
2. I condone violence as a solution. Not true. I’m not a pacifist, but I think violence should always be a last resort, and circumstances need to be extreme for violence to be necessary or justified. The fact some of my characters do not agree with me is what make it, y’know . . . fiction.
3. That I’m confused/troubled/ambivalent or otherwise messed up about my sexuality. One person even asked me if I thought of myself as a prude. Nope. My characters sometimes have issues in that part of life. I write it that way because I think those are interesting and complex problems to have. Good characters need to have problems, that’s what moves the story along.
Question: Do you base characters and situations on real people and real life?
So far, no, I have not based any of my characters on real people and real life. I think even if I were to try to do so, eventually characters start to breathe on their own. That’s a pretty exciting part of the writing process. I feel like I’d be doing something wrong if I tried to reel a character back into whatever box I wanted them in. “Hey stop it, you’re based on my great aunt Matilda, and she would never do that!” If I let characters breathe on their own, it ends up better anyway. In the early versions of Blood Rain, for example, Dougherty was a homophobic jerk. As I got deeper into writing him and probed the layers of why he did police work, that started to change. Now he gets some of the coolest lines, and is an admirable bad ass. He’s a nice foil for Suzanne, who is often awkward and uncertain.
One thing to be really clear on– I never write “me”. People make the assumption that writers who work in first person POV have cast themselves in the starring role. It seems like that assumption gets made with some frequency regarding women writers especially. I’m not Suzanne. My issues and concerns are not hers. My early childhood wounds and adult-life vulnerabilities are not hers, either.
Situations in my writing take even less from real life, primarily because I write UF. Since we don’t actually live in a world where magic is real, vampires exist, people can communicate with the spirits of the dead, and so on, I end up having to make stuff up. I don’t mind, it is my job as a writer to make stuff up.
I haven’t tried these, but people tell me they work:
1. Write yourself a permission slip. Give yourself permission to be awful. “Dear World, Please excuse Chloe for being a talentless hack. She can’t help it. Don’t judge. She’s doing the best she can. Love, Chloe”
2. Visualize, then banish your inner critic. Get a good mental image of your inner critical voice. It might resemble one of the monsters from Where the Wild Things Are, or your alcoholic uncle, or your eighth grade English teacher (Oh, by the way, fuck you, Mrs. Valensky). Once you can clearly see the critic in your mind’s eye, banish them!* I would imagine flipping Mrs. Valensky a quarter and telling her to go see a movie.
* In accordance with emerging contemporary practice, I’m using “them” as a gender-neutral pronoun. Suck it, old school grammarians.
Let the wild rumpus start!
I link and post a lot about writer’s block. That’s ’cause it is a frequent visitor. *sigh* Here are three things that I do to shut down writer’s block:
1. Have a shower (a cold one in summer, a hot one in winter, or whatever floats your boat). If you change what you do with your body, you change what you get with your mind.
2. Go for a walk. This is the same principle, plus it works off some of the adrenalin amped up by the anxious writer’s block thoughts.
3. Change formats. If you are writing longhand in a notebook, go type on the laptop. If you are sitting at the computer banging your head on the keys, find some paper and a pen.
Can clutter effect our productivity as writers?
Apparently, it can.
Interesting read and how-to re: why good writers keep journals.
Here is a nifty link that discusses how to methodically break down writers’ block with music. Neat, huh?
Arguably the most important life lessons being a writer has taught me:
5. Wherever I go, there I am
It’s impossible to escape my own obsessions, habits, quirks. That’s ok.
4. Everyone else is just as weird as me.
S’true, especially if you get to know them well enough to critique their writing.
3. Sometimes you just gotta grind it out.
It’s all hard work. Whine all you want, Chloe, it’s just hard work.
2. No one ever thinks they are the villain.
Man, I could write a thousand blog posts on this particular topic, both about characters in writing and people in flesh-world (a.k.a. ‘real life’)
And, with no real fanfare, here is the number one thing being a writer has taught me:
1. Just because I think it’s awful doesn’t necessarily mean it is actually awful.
Apparently the human mind is a criticism-machine, cranking out mean-spirited commentary without provocation. Pay it no mind.
A little video on the Oxford (a.k.a. serial) comma