Ever noticed that when writers are portrayed in movies they tend to come across as, well, nuts? The examples are endless. Take Nim’s Island, the author in this film is so agoraphobic/germaphobic she can’t open the door to get her mail, runs through bottles of handsanitizer, and only eats a certain kind of soup—not certain which phobia that is. She also carries on vivid conversations with her only companion who happens to be the main character in her novels. *Gerard Butler, so certainly tempting, but throw in delusional schizophrenia. And then there’s Stranger Than Fiction where the novelist, another ‘eccentric’ to put it mildly, has Godlike power over her bedeviled character who ultimately arrives on her doorstep begging for his life. She plans to kill him in her novel. And the list goes on.
I suppose there’s some justification for this crazy writer theme, as there’s a fine line between creativity and insanity. And it’s not lost on me that this portrayal is coming to us via the scriptwriters, although they’re mostly making fun of novelists. But it’s my thinking that most people simply do not understand the mindset of writers. For example, on chat loops, Twitter, workshops…we blithely inquire of each other which would be the best way to kill someone in a given situation or time period.
When I taught my herbal lore class last fall I received numerous queries as to which poisonous herb to use for the desired effect, depending on how fast or slowly an author wished their character to succumb–yes, yes, we’re speaking of characters–and in what form to deliver the fatal elixir, mixed with food or other medication…and should they disguise the bitter taste or will the unsuspecting victim just knock it back as is?
Writers can be quite morbid at times, but all in pursuit of our craft. How to better persuade readers that the story is REAL, because to us it is.
The other day on Twitter I noted a tweet from, I assumed, a writer asking what was the most romantic way for a young man to propose to his girlfriend and make it really special. My first thought was, are they writing a contemporary or historical, so I shot back, “What century are we in?”
The answer from the probably puzzled groom to be was, “The 21st, I hope.”
“Ah, a modern setting,” I said to self while wondering at the ‘I hope.’ I mean surely they knew what time period their story was in. But I persevered. Being primarily an historical author, I simply pointed out that in many of the romantic comedies I’ve seen there’s a tendency for the proposal/I love you confession to come via a microphone or shouted in front of a crowd, like in a football arena.
The tweeted answer was, “Yes, I see what you mean but she’s not a sports fan.”
No biggie, I thought. Most anywhere people gather will do. An Irish pub, fountain in the center of a town square, airplane terminal, or best of all breaking into the adored one’s wedding to someone else just in the nick of time.
Not helpful in this situation, I might add. Once I realized I was advising an actual proposal, I chuckled heartily and left him to it. The last I saw a proposal at Disneyland was faring the best.
Among random tweets from writers I noted this week: “Gonna watch Winnie the Pooh with the kids and then finish my demon novel.” Anyone see the irony in that? But it’s typical. All of this has led me to my conclusion that writers have their own language–a secret life–which most do not understand.
I’ve gotta go figure out how to handle that ghost/exorcism without making it TOO paranormal. In my latest historical, of course. ~