Eight things a writer shouldn’t tell their friends or family

-WOMAN-SHUSH-

Writers are weird ducks – at least as far as ‘normal’ people are concerned. Our brains are a never-ending source of people, places, ideas, stories, worlds, languages, dialects and facts – many of which don’t actually exist. Except in our heads.

And we love to research. We collect strange, trivial facts like little boys collect bugs – can’t get enough of them. And given that we spend an extraordinary amount of time alone (in our heads) we’re not particularly good at social intercourse. Read – we lack filters.

But we’re creative. And creative is fun. And we want to share the fun. Especially since we spend so much time in our heads in our little rooms making stuff up.

So it might not occur to you that some things you just don’t want to share with your friends or significant others. Like:

1. The fact that you know at least 50 different ways to kill someone. Poisons, weapons, hand to hand combat, choke holds, garrotes, tools of torture, lethal herbs, how to mimic real life heart attacks – you know them all and find them fascinating. Sure, you need to know these things because you write murder mysteries. But do you think that cute guy or gal you just started dating wants to know that you could kill them 50 different ways?
2. That they are an inspiration for a character. Now you may think this will flatter them or make them feel special. However, given human nature, chances are they will search your stories for anything that even remotely sounds like them. Or they’ll criticize you for depicting them as a bitch or a jerk or stupid or somehow incorrect and unflattering. And God help you if you break up – a lawsuit could be in the offing.
3. That ten minutes into the movie you’re watching you know who did it or how the story will end. You’re a writer, you recognize plot points, inciting incidents, red herrings and every other writer device employed to create a story. And you’re okay with that because you enjoy seeing how other writers use those devices to craft a story. Your girlfriend/boyfriend, mom, sister, friend however, is not a writer. They don’t want to know the ending. They want to be surprised. So don’t ruin it for them.
4. That basically you think for a living. Let’s face it, we write and we write a lot but before we write, we think. While we’re writing, we think. We just think all the time – working out plots, character arcs, playing what if… Whatever. And the truth is a lot more thinking hours are logged in than anything else. This will surprise and likely disappoint your non-writer friends. Because they can think and nobody pays them for it. And let’s face it, we already have to deal with people who think that writing is the same as talking and since they can talk, writing really shouldn’t be a job, right? Imagine the response to the thinking angle. Although there’s boundless evidence that many people don’t or can’t think – everyone believes they are thinkers – and brilliant ones at that.
5. That you talk to your characters – regularly. Come on, admit it. We all do it. We all talk to our characters almost as much as we talk to the ‘real’ people in our lives. It’s part of the process. But strictly speaking, talking to imaginary people likely classifies as one type of mental illness or another. And those meds are expensive. And though  you get a lot of alone time in a little room, they usually won’t let you have writing implements.
6. That the character you created that they adore was once a clown with a gambling problem and a criminal record. It doesn’t matter that the character is currently a super hero who uses laughter to do good in the world. If you tell them about previous incarnations it’ll ruin it for them. They’ll never see the character the same way again. Ditto for first drafts.
7. Any idea you have for a book. Sure, there might be a few writer friends or beta readers you can run an idea by. But the average lay person will inevitably turn that conversation into an idea they always had for a book. They will then proceed to tell you all about their idea and offer it to you because they’ll never get around to writing it themselves. And heck fire, they’ll split the profits with you too. In the alternative, it may be such a good idea that your friend blabs it around and next thing you know, somebody else has written the book. Keep ideas to yourself.
8. How many books you sell/money you make. Unless you’re a NYT bestseller (in which case they’ll already assume you are a bagillionaire) keep your sales data and financial gain or loss to yourself. It only opens the door to criticism and suggestions of finding a real job or worse, advice on how you could do better.

If you keep these things to yourself you may pull off living up to the carefully crafted image of the mysterious, interesting writer that you’ve spent years creating. If you don’t ,you’ll just be Arnie’s and Mabel’s kid who lives in their basement and refuses to get a real job.

How about you? Have you told friends or family too much about your writerliness? Were they shocked, disappointed, sad? Did they point their finger at you and laugh? What do you keep to yourself as a writer? Speak your mind in the comments below.

Writer Chick

copyright 2015

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Have you hugged your weird today?

banana man

Have you always been a little bit weird? A little strange? Dressed a little funny and maybe just didn’t fit in with the crowd. Maybe they even made fun of you because you liked purple sneakers or wore green with everything. Or your pre-meal ritual simply frightened them a little. Perhaps, you’re the only who ever laughed at your jokes – because nobody else got them, right? Until maybe purely by accident you bumped into a fellow weirdo and you secretly shared the joy of your weirdness.

Because you know something the non-weird don’t know. Being weird is really fun. And freeing. And those ‘normal’ folk have no idea what they’re missing either.

But this post is for the closet weird among us. Those who shared their weird with no one. Who only let their weird hang out when they’re alone or perhaps with a few close weird-minded friends. And to you closet weirds I say, “Embrace your weirdness.”

Why?

Well because…

  • It’s what makes you, you
  • It’s easy being the same as everybody else – it’s hard to be yourself
  • It might encourage suppressed weirdos to come out of the closet
  • It’s fun and makes you and others laugh
  • Behaving and doing what’s expected if overrated
  • It’s your God-given right

And when you feel alone in your weirdness, just remember there are/were lots of really famous weirdos, like:

  • Weird Al Yankowich
  • Einstein
  • Thoreau
  • Picasso
  • Robin Williams
  • Lily Tomlin
  • Annie Oakley
  • Dorothy Parker
  • Michelangelo
  • Shakespeare

I mean why be normal when you could be weird like these guys? Am I right?

How to embrace your weirdness

For those of you who’d like to give weird a try, following are a suggestions on how you might want to take it out for a test drive:

  • Spend the day playing nothing but Weird Al Yankowich tunes
  • Whatever requests are made of you today at the end of your answer add: “would you like fries with that?”
  • Wear two different sneakers to the gym and see if anyone notices, if they do, tell them it’s a new trend
  • Go to your favorite coffee place, order a coffee then sit in the dining room having a conversation with the main character in your book – if you aren’t a writer, then have a conversation with the main character of your favorite book
  • Start a fund for lost pens or homeless sneakers
  • Wear a top hat
  • Walk your dog or cat in a stroller
  • While riding on the bus sing to yourself intentionally screwing up the lyrics to well known songs (example: another one takes the bus, rather than, another bites the dust)
  • Wear a Tu-tu and ballet slippers, or any outfit that makes you feel happy
  • Tell people your favorite cause is lint preservation

Here’s a few pictures that might inspire you:

groucho girl white face clown little boy clown water in face

Or anything that strikes your fancy. You may find you really dig your native weird – because between you and me, everybody’s got a little weird in them.

How about you? Do you let your weird hang out or hide it from friends, family and co-workers? What’s your favorite way to be weird? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done. Get your weird on in the comments – and knock yourself out.

Weird Writer Chick crazy puppet head

Internet Truisms

computer head

I’ve been playing in cyberspace for several years now. In fact, if I had to stop playing on the Internet it would make me sad and I’d probably need a 12-step program to help me through it. But in my travels I have observed there seem to be certain truisms on the Internet. The following is my list; raise your hand if you recognize any:

  1. Always post the most flattering pic of yourself for your profile – even if it’s 20 years old. Unlike the real world, this is perfectly acceptable. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who has ever signed up for an online dating service. Yikes.
  2. No matter what term you use for image searches, you will always get at least one naked picture in the search results. Apparently naked goes with everything.
  3. Anybody who says they handle their social media posting in under an hour a day is lying. I don’t care what you say; I don’t believe anyone handles their social media in under an hour. Not if they’re actually participating in social media.
  4. Nothing ever goes away on the Internet – if it was posted it’s out there somewhere. The good news is that we still have hope of finding that funny cat picture that seems to have disappeared.
  5. If you have a web site you’re automatically an expert in something. Unlike the old days when you had to have a brick and mortar store, for very little money and a little bit of skill you can put up your store on the Internet and become an expert. Actually, I’ve even seen marketing ‘experts’ advice people to act like an expert and people will believe it.
  6. You’re nobody if you don’t show up on page one of the search results. Kind of interesting that our self esteem and confidence in our products and services is based on some secret algorithm that we have no way of controlling.
  7. Information is king on the Internet. Ditto with information products. Even if you are selling information about information, are blogging about blogging, or writing about writing – somebody will buy it
  8. Half the trolls on the Internet are 14, live in their parents’ basement and rarely go outside or have contact with other human beings. At the very least, this gives one some perspective, right?
  9. If you say it enough times on the Internet, it’s true. (See #5) This to me is one of the most powerful and yet mystical truths. A person can make the most outrageous statement on the Internet, with absolutely no proof or supporting facts and if they can get it circulating and enough people reading it, suddenly it becomes true. Scary much.

In your Internet travels, what truisms have you stumbled across? So did I miss any Internet truisms? Any you care to add to the list?

Eight signs your story has been taken over by plot bunnies

plot bunnies
Do you know what plot bunnies are? I didn’t – until today. Apparently, plot bunnies are subplots or elements that we love and leave in our stories though they contribute nothing to the story and may even lead us way off the path of the plot. I’m not sure why they’re called plot bunnies but I’m thinking that it’s because they are apparently, warm fuzzy things that you dear writer, hold dear, and just can’t kill. Or maybe it has to do with the speed with which bunnies multiply?

I digress. If you think you may be guilty of populating your stories with plot bunnies, the following may tip you off  or whether or not you’ve lost the plot:

1. You name all your characters after people you know and/or from the list of baby names you’ve had since you were twelve in case you ever have babies.

2. The steamy sex scene between your main character and the UPS man, meant to show the character’s problem with sex addiction, has now become a major plot point. And the story has turned into a Telenovella but without the subtitles.

3. A secondary character you particularly like has more dialogue than your hero/heroine and you just can’t bear to edit it out.

4. Your story is intertwined with stories of things that actually happened to you but aren’t really funny, monumental or even very interesting to anyone other than you and your BFF.

5. You find a way to save a character you should definitely kill off and sacrifice for the good of the story – but you just can’t. Because you love him.

6. You just can’t, can’t, can’t cut out that dialogue because you love it so much and laugh every time you read it. Even though it has jack to with the story, characters, theme or anything germane to the story.

7. You bristle whenever a beta reader makes an unflattering comment about a plot bunny and write a 10 page response, justifying its existence.

8. You threaten bodily harm to any reviewer who spots your plot bunny and gives your story one less star because of it.

I have to go now because I’ve bought ten pounds of carrots to ferret out my plot bunnies. Wish me luck. Where is those wily wabbits?

How about you? Do you protect your plot bunnies to the end, or do you just make rabbit stew?

Writer Chick
Copyright 2015

Ten Signs That You Were Meant to be a Writer

pencil nose

Ever wonder if you were meant to be a writer? If so, the following may help you decide.

1. You’re more comfortable making stuff up than dealing with reality

You can spend the day, imagining strange new worlds, a new language or a new superpower. When you were a kid, the other kids came to you for creative solutions to ditching school. No matter how much trouble you get into, you always manage to talk your way out of it. You’re damn good at making stuff up.

2. You’ve worked in at least five different careers and none of them stuck

You’re a multi-tasker. You seem to be good at everything. But you get bored easily – once you’ve mastered something (or just gotten the hang of it) you tire of it and move onto the next thing. Alternately, you know a little bit about a lot of things. But no matter how nice the office or how pretty the benefits you just can’t get excited about anything that doesn’t involve making stuff up.

3. Rather than looking away, you study people who do weird things in public

Weird people doing weird things, especially in public attracts you like nothing else. You could watch them for hours and never get tired of it. Often you take notes and rush home to tell your significant other about the weird guy who could play Rhapsody in Blue on his lips. Weird is just cool, right?

4. You have an incessant need for people to pay attention to you but you can’t sing, dance or act

You crave attention. You try hard. You could be a perfectionist (which is not to say you’re a clean freak). You want people to notice you – you may try to impress them with your knowledge of rare cracked china teacups, or the proper way to load a musket or other unending sources of trivia that live in your head. Deep in your heart you long to entertain or enlighten others but know you can’t get away with it in person – hence the need to make up characters who can get away with it.

5. You quote yourself on Facebook and Twitter

Nuff said.

6. Your only use for reality is research

Reality is boring unless it somehow feeds into or validates a storyline, character arc, or fictional scientific breakthrough. You’d rather live in any of the worlds where you make stuff up.

7. Your idea of aerobics is meeting your daily word count

Gyms, leotards and yoga do nothing for you. But trying to meet your totally unrealistic daily word count makes you break into a sweat that requires three showers and five clothes changes a day.

8. You can successfully carry on both sides of a conversation

You don’t need friends. You know how to be the good guy and the bad guy. You can speak in accents. You can pull off any personality affectation known to man. You can spend the day having conversations with your many selves and feel complete content.

9. You’re attracted to all things strange and weird – people, places, buildings, pets, foods, movies, you name it – if it’s weird it fascinates you

Accidents, acts of nature, strange food, weird bugs, the homeless guy in the park who talks to the mirror glued to his hand all fascinate you. You never tire of anything that is odd, unusual, strangely attractive and magically menacing.

10. People describe you as quirky, different, unique, or interesting

Reliable, responsible, stable, grounded are not typically the words people use to describe you. You’re quirky, unusual, weird, a laugh riot, even ca-razy but never normal.

So what about you? When did you know you were a writer?

Writer Chick
Copyright 2015

Talking Dirty (Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge)

Chuck Wendig’s Fiction Challenge this week: So, given all the hullaballoo with Clean Reader (“read books, not profanity”) this week, I thought a flash fiction challenge in pure defiance had some meaning.

Thus: I want you to be inspired by that debacle. I want you to write filthily.
Or write about filth. Sex, profanity, perversion. Fiction or meta-fiction. Any genre.

In some way, take something from the discussion about censorship and profanity and vulgarity and sex and — well, throw all that stuff into a blender, whip it up, and see what foamy frappe belches out into your story.
Censorship

“So Chuck wants me to write something dirty.”

“Chuck who?”

“You know Chuck? Terrible Minds?”

“Well if he has a terrible mind, no wonder he wants you to write something dirty.”

“No! I didn’t say he had a terrible mind – Terrible Minds, that’s the name of his blog?”

“Why would anybody name their blog that? Terrible Minds..well gee, wouldn’t that make people think there were terrible things happening over there?”

“You’re digressing.”

Blank stare. “What was the question?””

“Well, uh, should I? Write something dirty? Well not dirty exactly – profane – er, ah, stuff with swear words in it. Y’know?”

“Sounds like a terrible mind at work to me…”

“No man, it’s about censorship.”

Rolls eyes, sighs and taps foot.

“What?”

“You writers are always so worried about being censored. I mean, what the hell’s your problem? You think people are lying awake at night just devising methods to squelch you?”

“It’s been known to happen.”

Smirks. “Right.”

“You never heard of book burning? You never heard of book banning? What about the Salem witch trials?”

Yawns. “People say all kinds of things on the Internet, doesn’t mean they’re true.”

Pulling hair. “You’re really not helping.”

“It gets weary you know, being your enabler all the time.”

“Enabler? You? The only thing you enable me to do is beat my head against the wall.”

Stares curiously at a hangnail. “Then why do you keep coming back and asking for help?”

Grits teeth. “You kind of owe me.”

“How the fuck do you figure?”

Shaking fists. “I give you life.”

“Says you!”

Smirk. “You think anybody else hears your squeaky little voice yammering in their ear? Ah—no!” Whining. “Come on! Help me!”

Sighs. Sighs harder still. Throws up hands. “Fine. Sure, do it.”

“Really?”

“What’s the matter, yes not a good enough answer for you?”

Frowning and scratching head. “What should I write?”

“How the fuck should I know? You’re the writer. I’m just the lowly editor. I’m just the voice of reason when you’re totally out of control, which by the way, you are most of the time. I really don’t even know why I talk to you at all.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yes.”

“What if people get upset?”

“Fuck ‘em!”

“What if people don’t like me anymore?”

“Let’s be honest, how many people really like you anyway?”

“Good point.” Thinking. “Okay…once upon a time there was a fucking…”

“Maybe you should use fornicating.”

Frowns. “Okay, once upon a time there was a mother fornicating…”

“No, don’t use mother, you could offend mothers and mothers shouldn’t be offended.”

Heaves a sigh. “Okay, once upon a time there was a non-gender-specific fornicator who…”

“Wait!”

Looking up and frowning. “Now what?”

“I think there’s this app you should download…”

Writer Chick

copyright 2015

12 Things about me that you didn’t know

facts

  1. I was born on St Patrick’s Day and I’m half-Irish but my mother named me after German Actress Anita Eckberg
  2. I worked in the food industry for 20 years and that’s where I learned restaurant Spanish (Mas platos, por favor?). That experience gave birth to the characters in the mystery series I’m writing.
  3. I have my father’s nose (thanks, Dad).
  4. I have a smidge of Cherokee Indian blood
  5. I believed in Santa until I was ten – then my cousin ruined it by showing me where my mom hid the presents.
  6. I never believed in the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny but I like money and chocolate so I kept my mouth shut.
  7. I became intrigued with film noir when I was eight. They reran the old films like crazy on television when I was a kid. Couldn’t get enough of them. I believe I got my love of mysteries from these old movies.
  8. I started reading when I was three or four. No one knows how or why.
  9. I never liked dolls or toys when I was a kid – but books were another matter.
  10. I wouldn’t know Iambic pentameter if it bit me in the behind
  11. I once helped get an embezzler arrested (she took a deal unfortunately so didn’t go to jail.)
  12. I make the best beef veggie soup on the planet.

Okay, so what about you? Any interesting factoids you’d like to share? I’m listening. 😀

Writer Chick

copyright 2015