You Know You’re a Writer If…

A friend posted this collection of “You Know You’re a Writer If…” quotes to a writing group site, and I found the statements pretty funny. I’ve never done any of these. At all.

I think my wife has given up reminding me that all my characters are not real. Now she just lets me know if my suggestions for them sound out of character. (That’s true love. She’s awesome.)

Any of them stand out to you?

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Using Pain

From www.quotespedia.info

No image in the blog, no readers of the blog.

The quote isn’t news to anyone, I’m sure. But it is truth that we have to consider when we write. No one’s interested in a story without struggle, a character without conflict, a plot without pain.

If I want to move the reader, I think I ought to have been moved in a similar way in the past. Then I need to take that and pour all of it, unvarnished, unprettified, into the feelings and emotions of the character.

At our writer’s critique group, I’ve been submitting pieces of various stories, testing out how to write different magic systems or mechanics. If the non-fantasy-reader Christian ladies can make sense of what I write, and if they enjoy it, then I think I’m communicating clearly.

Last week I submitted yet another “Chapter 1” involving the outcast in a small village. My fellow writers connected with this character. They got her motivations, her feelings, her concerns. All said it was fantastic, a couple said it was the best they’d seen of my work thus far.

I have to think that’s because I borrowed from my real life experiences to glimpse how this character feels.

About a month ago, I had an evaluation at work, and I screwed up a couple of items. The overall grade was a passing score, but it felt like failure. I had to complete some additional training to get back up to speed before being allowed to work on my own.

When I went to work in the days following that failure, I would see grins on people’s faces and wonder, were they laughing at me? If a conversation stopped abruptly, or started up as soon as I left a room, were they talking about me? How did my friends and close coworkers feel about my grade? They all said nice things, but did they really mean it? After all, I’d seen this happen to other people before. I’ve probably talked about those other people.

Voices whispering, judgmental smirks, expressions of disappointment… these haunted me for days. To some extent, I still hear them by default.

I put all of this into my outcast character’s mind. I transcribed my thoughts in italics in her voice and put words to my fears.

And in doing so, I got the best feedback I’ve had thus far.

An assassin that can bend time, sure, that’s cool. Might be fun to read. A commoner thrust into the military machine because he has the power to hear the voice of the Elements, okay, fine. Seems interesting, maybe.

But everyone knows what it’s like to feel alone in a room full of people, to hear laughter and know that it’s about me. That’s a character readers can relate to and understand.

Using painful experiences lets me lock the reader in on the main character’s heart. Then I can throw in cool powers and technology. Or not.

Either way, the critique story is getting a chapter 2 next time, not another chapter 1.

Character Issues

“We demand an ending! Our story’s worth defending!”

The Halfling chanted and waved a large cardboard sign as he stomped back and forth. His cloak and bandolier of throwing knives betrayed his profession – more than a burglar, darker than a common thief. The cherubic features of his face twisted in rage.

And he was not alone.

A reporter described the scene into the camera. “Creation in Crisis: Discontented characters on strike! This is Jessie Storm reporting live at the scene in the Unfinished Works folder, where several key members of various plotlines have come forward to express their displeasure.”

A warrior marched in full plate armor, the shaft of his sign tucked away under a tower shield that glimmered in the noonday sun. Behind him, an old man in a diner uniform hobbled with a cane, his voice croaking out the protest cry. “Our story’s worth defending!”

A person much like a wild-haired midget trundled along in the line, holding up a sign and staring in silence. His rattle shook with each step, issuing a faint shuuu-Ka. Next came a woman in gleaming armor, her icy blue eyes like scales weighing the hearts of the crowd. A woman in flowing robes trailed behind her, with eyes drooping down between furtive glances at the onlookers. 

A cloaked assassin stood off to the side. Jessie Storm approached and asked, “Miss, do you have any comment?”

“I saw this coming,” the assassin muttered. “And I already know they’re not going to change anything. The joys of seeing the future before it happens… I can identify and avoid lost causes… even the good ones.”

“That’s… depressing,” Jessie fumbled for words.

The assassin’s frustrations burst. “No, what’s depressing is being left trying to escape after a hit, standing in the middle of a busy street just because the Creator is caught up with some other idea at the moment.”

Jessie backed away and turned to the protestors. She knelt down to ask the midget, “And why are you here?”

He paused his march and locked eyes with the reporter. Then the woman in armor spoke. “He never says anything. Just plays that bone-rattle of his. I think he’s not right in the head.”

“Not surprising,” she added, “since – as I hear tell – the Creator left him aware of a source of great power that could satisfy his hunger, but never gave him the chance to take hold of it.”

“I can see how that might be maddening,” Jessie replied.

“No, maddening is being left unconscious in the middle of a fight, not sure if your friends even win the day.”

The shy woman behind her mumbled something, and the warrior woman spun around. “I know you say we were about to win, but I don’t know for sure. Can’t you see how irritating that is?”

Then the halfling spoke up. “At least He didn’t leave off mid-sentence with what happened to you. ‘The hook whip latched onto Ellers and the bloody man yanked with all his might. Ellers flew several feet and crashed into the ground, then slid and.”

Jessie looked at the protestors, all of whom seemed to ignore the halfling. “I’ll bite. And what?”

“That’s it!” he barked. “Then slid and.” The sign waved back and forth as the halfling vented. “He couldn’t even be bothered to finish the sentence. That’s where He left me… sliding across the floor and.

The woman in robes spoke up. “Oh, it’s so hard for you, isn’t it. ‘The Creator didn’t finish my fight scene. Waah!'” She pointed a finger. “I don’t even know if I’m in my right mind, or if the power I’ve discovered is going to help me or kill me.”

Jessie turned back to the camera. “There you have it, folks. A Creator who has abdicated His responsibilities… unfinished scenes, abandoned plotlines. Will these characters ever get the answers they seek? Stay tuned to Channel–”

A voice boomed from the heavens.

“Cease this nonsense. You think you have it bad now…”

In the distance a new folder opened, shedding inviting light onto the crowd. Another appeared from the ether on the other side of town. Letters flashed across the sky. At first, the onlookers stepped forward, but then they recoiled.

The letters on the first read, Game of Thrones-style storytelling with a subtitle Red Wedding.

On the second, Twilight Fan Fiction.

The crowd dispersed, each returning to their own stories and settings.

Sometimes it was better to be forgotten.

A Few Haiku

I’m excited to be done with the blog challenge on my fitness and spirituality blogs. I’m really excited because that means I can return to this one with renewed vigor.

I wrote a couple haiku as I thought about this:

A to Z Challenge /
Fifty two blog posts written /
I could take a break

But the characters /
They keep talking in my head /
They take no days off

Also, it’s snowing. Snow in May? Seriously?

Nature’s mink blanket /
A fluffy white comforter /
Covers all tonight

Snow — cold, soft, lovely / Falls like manna from God, but /
I watch from afar.

It’s well past appropriate and healthy bedtime. So now as I close my computer and schedule this blog post for the morning, I’ll add one more.

Sleep beckons, eyes droop /
Plans unfinished protest, yet /
New mercies await