The Secret Life of Bees, errrr, Writers


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.  ~

17 responses to “The Secret Life of Bees, errrr, Writers

  1. My favorite: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!

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  2. I think we’re all a little “nuts”…but doesn’t that make life interesting? 😉

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  3. GREAT post and SOOOOO true! We are a strange breed!

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  4. Beth, you make me chuckle. I remember seeing “Stranger Than Fiction” and thinking what a great movie it was. Of course, to me, ALL my characters are real, so I guess that’s why I loved it so much. Very good post, my friend.

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  5. I love the characters in my head and the imagination that comes with them. One day I was sitting quietly at my friend’s ceramic shop. She, of course, knows I am a wee bit wacky considering all the ‘strange’ people in my head that I talk to all day. Murder was on our mind that day and when I came up with the perfect crime I just burst out with it, startling most of the people in the shop. Elaine quickly explained my situation and all settled down again. I can’t see anything strange about this, but guess non-writers wouldn’t agree. 🙂 Poor souls – they don’t have a wide variety of friends like I have.

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  6. Wonderful blog, Beth (and oh, I see my favorite picture of Daniel Day Lewis on the side panel of your blog – Last of the Mohicans – loved the movie) Anyway, that’s a perfect example of writer brain – I got side tracked while replying to your blog. That is a perfect example of what Jennifer Crusie noted recently in a workshop I attended. It’s called Disinhibition per Scientific American, and we writers tend to have it – in otherwords our filters are faulty!
    Now, back on topic – Yes, authors are protrayed wacky in movies just like Priests or Pastors are usually portrayed as evil or hipocrites, and rich people as evil and deceitful- all stereotypes – but as we know, stereotypes are founded on a consistency noted by other people.

    One of my favorite author movies was Secret Window – Johnny Depp starred in the Stephen King story.

    Great blog!

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  7. Of course we are nuts-We frown while searching for a conflict, stare with a smile when finding a resolution to that same conflict, go through red lights because we were deep in a special scene, mumble a dialogue line, get up in the middle of the night to type the paragraph that eluded us all day…. We don’t exactly live on earth!

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  8. Caroline Clemmons

    Great post, Beth, Think of all the interesting people you know and see if even one of them is “normal” instead of nuts. My 103 year old friend tells me that normal is a setting on your washing machine.

    One of my favorite writer movies is “Her Alibi” because Tom Selleck is blocked, and also because he’s upset someone tells him his books are “predicatble.”

    Similar to Paisley’s experience, several friends met for dinner and plotting. They were discussing how best for one of them to kill off a character. They noticed the people at the next table becomming alarmed and shooting them frightened glances. They had to explain they were writers plotting a novel.

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    • Love your plotting experience, Caroline, and your very wise old friend’s remark. I haven’t seen that Selleck movie so must add it on Netflix. Sounds good.

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    • Also, where I live in the Shenandoah Valley, I am almost the only writer I know, so am a real standout as far as being different goes. Some might even say ‘odd,’ in comparison to others. And this is a highly conservative area where most of my neighbors drive horse and buggies, so I feel especially unusual here. If it weren’t for my online friends I’d be very cutoff from other writers and was for years.

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  9. Pingback: Knocking at MWF’s Door « phd with kids

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