What Scoundrels We Fiction Writers Are.

Scoundrels. That’s right. Rogues and villains. Desperadoes. We fiction writers (notice I say we) are all of the above.

Don’t pretend it isn’t true and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Any proper fiction writer can’t help but find themselves in the company of likewise shady characters. Think about it, we lie. We steal. Why, we even commit murder. Sometimes before breakfast and especially when short on coffee. We wage wars and level cities. We do terrible things all in the name of fiction.

Of course I am speaking figuratively (my lawyer told me I had to state this), but we do these things in our writing. We have to do these things in our writing. The very essence of fiction is fabrication. In other words we. are. lying. We create a lie and announce it to the world. We lie and sell those lies. We are paid (if fortunate enough) to lie. It’s storytelling, sure. It’s make-believe, but it all falls into the same basket. Not truth = lying (or insert synonym here if it makes you feel more warm and cuddly). But it’s ok. People want us to lie. They want to hear the falsehoods we create, because they know you’re just spinning a yarn. And for the time they are immersed in our lies, they are entertained; on vacation from the labors of reality.

Lying. That’s the jaywalking of the fiction writer’s world. Let’s move on to bigger fish. We steal. No, I’m not talking about your neighbor’s antique silver flatware, or that sweet corvette you saw in the parking lot. I’m talking about a bigger commodity, a more abstract and invaluable resource. We steal dialogue and names, clothing and hairstyles, memories, experiences, places and events. To be painfully clear, I am not, in any sense talking about the MORTAL SIN of PLAGIARISM. I am talking about observing and recording. Listen to people speak, to their dialect and speech patterns, the topics of conversation and the slang that they use. Write it down, file it away. Sit in a park, the mall, a bus stop, and watch people. Notice that guy checking his watch every 30 seconds? Why? There’s a story. Where’s he going? What or who is he waiting for? Practice studying people and details. You never know when a habit, personality quirk, or article of jewelry or clothing may pop into a story. Write these things down, but also develop your mind to retain these scraps of worldly currency.

I’m always practicing this. I got my haircut the other day, the first time in 90 weeks, and I happened to have the same hairdresser as the last time I was there. I noticed that she had a new tattoo on her wrist and that her nose was pierced. Not that I was stalking her (hadn’t seen her in 90 weeks), but I remembered that she didn’t have those things before. When I commented on her new additions since I’d been in last, she was very surprised that I’d noticed. We are writers. We notice details.

But we don’t stop there, oh no. We murder people on the page. We take unsuspecting characters and BAM. We kill them. That’s just the way it goes. Fiction requires conflict. Conflict often comes at the cost of one or more character’s lives. We make our characters suffer. We make them struggle through seemingly impossible odds to get what they want. We knock them down to their lowest points and then step on their heads. Does this sound like the act of a wholesome creator? No. It sounds like the act of a successful fiction writer.

Point is, don’t deny your true nature. Don’t be afraid to get dirty. Our readers expect it of us. Our craft demands it. And damn it, sometimes it’s just fun. ;]

So get out there, you rogue. You are a card-carrying scoundrel with a license for abstract villainy, all in the name of fiction.

Diabolical laughter is optional but encouraged.

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Writing Can Be a Shard of Wood Under Your Toenail

I’ll preface this by saying that I will never EVER give up writing. Never. Why? Because it’s in my blood. It’s out of my hands. I have no choice.

This qualifies me to call myself a writer AND to be declared certifiably insane. Why? Because writing is NOT easy (usually). Writing is hard work. Sometimes it’s torture. Sometimes it’s a shard of wood shoved deep under your toenail.

I make this statement having experienced both. Last week, while wearing sandals, I drove a shard of wood so far under my toenail that the local torturer’s guild was a bit surprised. So, yes, I am fully aware of the analogy I am making. To say it hurt like hell is like saying that bacon is just kind of good.

Coincidentally, I had a week where the writing was just not even remotely easy. I had to bleed out every sentence, wrestle every single word to the paper. It was torture, it was work. But I didn’t stop. Why? Because I am a writer and sometimes that’s what writing is.

However, like physical wounds, writing wounds heal. You have to give them time and you have to take care of them. So, while the toe healed and the antibiotics fought off infection, I wrote through the agony. I wrote through the “block”, “wall”, “lack of inspiration”, “absent muse”, whatever you want to call it. Sure, word counts were low, but 100 words on the page is better than zero.

I wrote and I struggled and I wrote some more and by the end of the week…I discovered that I had written right through the chapter that was giving me such a hard time. I tell you this to share with new writers, to remind veteran writers, and to shed a light on the craft for those curious about writing.

Writing is hard. Writing is work. Writing can be torture at times. But, writing IS magic and no matter how many shards of wood anyone shoves under my toenails, I’ll never give it up.

Happy writing!!!!!

If you need further proof that writing is difficult, please learn from Don Music and Kermit the Frog..