Tuesday, October 14, 2014

You Might Be A Writer If...

Hello again, fellow digressors! Well, today was another singularly unproductive day for me, at least until the evening. I pounded out another 961 words (and counting) in my synopsis that I'm writing for this book proposal of mine. Yes, I'm still working on it. Yes, I'm slow. But I'll get there eventually.

I did, however, find out that the 'How To Train Your Dragon 2' soundtrack is excellent writing music. It has the same fun, but epic feel as the first, yet it is unique, and very inspiring. I should probably avoid listening to it at night, though, because it makes me want to do productive things. Sleep? Pah. Sleep is for the weak.

Anyways, as I said, the only really productive thing I did today was write in my synopsis for 'The Merchant's Son' (well, I also responded to some messages, but those didn't really count). Thanks to a creepy ad that played twice last night when I was listening to music (thanks, Spotify), I didn't get a whole lot of sleep. Instead, I spent much of the night either bolstering things against my door (because no-one can get in if I block the door with a big, heavy pillow, right?), or doing a "character chat" with a friend.

Wait, wait -- what's a character chat? Well, it's sort of like a game that writers play with one another, wherein we push our characters into a room (or forest, or wherever) together and force them to interact. A brief excerpt might go something like this:

(Joanna: *walks into the room, looks around and grimaces* Yikes. Who did the decorating in here?)

(Titus: *is sitting on the couch; rolls his eyes* Elvis. Who else?)

(Joanna: *crosses her arms* Elvis, huh? You know him?)

(Titus: I know he's a terrible decorator. *stands, offers his hand* I'm Titus.)

(Joanna: *eyes him, then takes his hand and shakes it stiffly* Joanna. I don't like you.)

(Titus: *chuckles* I can live with that.)

See how it works? It's like a collaborative, improvisational short story. It is so muchly much fun, and actually helps a lot with character development. Think about it -- you're throwing your character into an entirely new situation, and they'll have to explain themselves (or maybe, in Joanna's case, refuse to explain verbally) to these new people, so you'll have to really think about their personality, backstory, motivation, etc. and navigate this uncharted world in a way that is internally consistent with who you've made them to be. In some cases, you might even decide that you don't like how they interact with others and change that. It's just a really great tool. Or at least that's what I tell myself to excuse the inordinate amount of time I spend CCing with friends.

And it's also what I tell myself when characters from different stories end up falling in love, the other author and I "ship" them, and our conversations for the next few months are filled with shrieks and exclamations at how adorable these characters are together.

...Ahem. Yes, I know that's really weird. But it happens, and it's fun. If a bit confusing when trying to talk to non-CCers about the growing list of differences between the book-versions and CC-versions of your characters.

In any case, it's become another one of my weird writerly activities that normal people don't always understand. Or maybe they understand how it works, and just don't find it appealing. That's up to them, of course, but it's one of my favorite things to do in my spare time (of which I have entirely too much). If it sounds interesting to you, there is a group on Facebook that's dedicated to it. Check it out here, if you like.

But besides CCing, there are so many odd things that we writers do sometimes, and those things tend to set us apart from most other people. I can't tell you whether that's good or bad. I guess it's just proof that God made everyone different, so I'm going to assume that our common (or uncommon) quirks are not entirely bad.

So, without further ado, I shall present to you my own version of You Might Be A Writer If...

You might be a writer if...

...Everything with blank space on it is fair game for a note on your latest story. Everything. Notebook, church bulletin, napkin at a restaurant (although please, don't use a cloth napkin)... If it's available and you won't get in trouble for marring it, it's perfect.

...Unusual/unpleasant experiences are not just new stories to tell to your kids someday -- they're writing research. I know not every writer does this, but I've known many who could break a bone, pass out, get their wisdom teeth removed, etc., and among the many thoughts rushing through their head would be, "I have to write down how this feels so I can use it later." (I've done this, too; there is no shame in it.)

...You can't read a book anymore without thinking such things as, "I wish I had written that line." "Wait, was this thing edited?" "Ooo, awesome plot twist. That was very evil. I love it." "I could write better than this." "Oh, no, wait -- I couldn't." "ONE DAY I WILL WRITE BOOKS LIKE THIS. ONLY BETTER."

...You may or may not be an artist, but you have at some point either tried or wanted to try drawing your characters, because seriously -- Pinterest has all these great pictures, but they can't come up with ONE perfect picture of your protagonist? Sheesh. Come on, internet elves -- do your job. 

...The idea of going anywhere without either your laptop or your pencils and trusty notebook terrifies you. 

...You do pay attention in church, and you get a lot out of the sermons. It's just that half of what you "get out of it" is stuff that applies to your story and the issues your characters are dealing with. You might even find yourself pulling out your notebook to jot down a quick note mid-sermon. (It's okay; I do this, too. And hey, C. S. Lewis got the idea for 'The Screwtape Letters' in the middle of a sermon. Not that you should be writing the whole time without paying attention, of course. But I don't see anything wrong with applying what you've learned to your writing. Writing is a means of expression, right? Of teaching? So it makes perfect sense.)

...You're afraid that if the government gets a good look at your internet history, they'll arrest you under suspicion of being a terrorist. Or a serial killer. Or maybe you're just afraid that your parents will think you're hiding something because you've visited, like, a dozen baby name sites in the past hour. ("No, Mom, I'm not pregnant -- I just can't figure out what I want to name this new character!")

...You have a deep appreciation for movie soundtracks, The Piano Guys, classical music, or really any other music that inspires you to write. Billboard Top 100? Meh. Has James Newton Howard released any new soundtracks recently?

...You have checked out the soundtracks from movies, TV shows, or games that you haven't even seen or played. You just heard from a friend that the soundtrack was amazing (or the name 'Hans Zimmer' appeared on the cover), and you just had to try it out.

...If you have a Pinterest account, it is probably filled with storyboards, character profiles, pictures of celebrities who look like your characters, and random boards about books and writing. (Incidentally, if anyone wants to follow me on Pinterest, my profile is here.)

...A trip to the library is a perfectly acceptable excuse for having forgotten to text your best friend back for an hour. (I have done this, and I have had it done to me in return. It is completely understandable.)

...You have your library card number memorized.

...Your stack of books to check out at the library is so tall that the security guard walks over to you to tell you about the upcoming library book sale. (This has actually happened to me.)

...Whenever you get some extra money to throw around, you run to the nearest bookstore and spend it all on those books you've been drooling over for months. (Though I hope you weren't literally drooling on them. Respect the books, please.)

...You half dread, half hope that someone will bring up writing in normal conversation, because you know you'll be talking non-stop about books, writing, plotting, editing, etc., for the next half hour. (Or until someone whacks you in the face with a chair. Whichever comes first.)

...It doesn't matter how socially awkward you are. If you find out the person you just met is another writer, you will automatically have things to talk about all day long. And you just might talk all day long, if people let you. Because hey, this person gets you! They're like you! This means you're not crazy! Or, er... at least you're not the only crazy one.

...You have at least considered writing someone you don't like into your story and torturing their fictional selves.

...You have based a character off of yourself, with some "improvements" (e.g., less clumsy, has a superpower, has great hair, always knows what to say).

...You played make-believe as a kid, but there had to be an actual storyline, and things had to make sense and be interesting. (I got into fights with my little brother because I wanted some secondary characters to die at this particularly foreboding place in our fantasy world. "But if nobody dies, there won't be any reason to be afraid of coming here! That wouldn't be any fun!")

...You want a typewriter. Or at least to use one. You might even own one. (If you do, may I borrow it? Pretty please?)

...You like grey, rainy days, because they mean you get to hole up in your room and either read or pound away at the keyboard. Thunder makes surprisingly good background noise sometimes.

...You possess a vocabulary noticeably more extensive than that of your peers, or if not, you at the very least tend to use antiquated or unnecessarily lengthy words in normal conversation. (Because "if you have big ideas, you have to use big words to express them, haven't you?")

...You know what it's like to adore your antagonist, to hop up and down with glee over the horrible things you're doing to your protagonist, and to smile when family and friends threaten your life because of that dreadful plot twist you showed them.

...You could swear sometimes that your characters are actually alive and that they're really writing this story, not you.

...You are tempted to take pictures of random strangers because OH MY GOODNESS THEY LOOK EXACTLY LIKE YOUR CHARACTER. And it makes you feel like such a creeper, but what's a writer to do? (And anyways, maybe that really is your character, come into the real world to seek his revenge. If so, you'll need documentation so that the police know who's responsible for your untimely demise.)

...You own enough notebooks to build a life-sized replica of the Empire State Building. And at least half of them are full.

...You can't remember a time when you weren't making up stories.

...The idea of anyone hating to read baffles and horrifies you.

...You have a strong opinion on which is better -- paperback, hardback, or eBook. Also an opinion on serif versus sans serif fonts. And possibly of the usage/relevance of the Oxford Comma.

...Discovering a typo in your newest status update triggers a small panic attack and a frantic rush to either delete the post or edit it before anyone finds it.

...You have playlists made up of songs relevant to your characters and/or stories.

...You know what NaNoWriMo is. You know that it is starting in about two and a half weeks, and you are in a frenzy trying to get everything ready before it starts. You are probably equal parts excited and terrified, and wondering how you're going to make time to write all those words in one month. (If you don't know what it is, go and check it out here. And if you decide to join, add tellingHISstory94 to your buddy list; that's me.)

...You go to Google, Bing, or your other preferred search engine, and search for things like 'You Might Be A Writer If'. Or even make your own list. Now, there's an idea.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. And now I must be off. I have a synopsis and two novels to write, lines to rehearse, supplements to take, and a bed to occupy. Goodnight, fellow digressors, and God bless. And please comment below with your own writerly moments; I'd love to hear them. Maybe even share your favorite soundtrack or composer with me. I'm always on the lookout for more awesome writing music. Incidentally, some of my favorite artists are Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard, Harry Gregson-Williams, John Powell, Audiomachine, and Two Steps From Hell (I promise, that last one is not nearly is bad as it sounds; it's more soundtrack-type music, though I'm not in love with every single track). Audiomachine and TSFH have a few tracks that are a little too loud/pounding/screechy for my tastes, but most of their tracks are orchestral and make for excellent, inspiring writing music. And I'm not entirely sure you can go wrong with the others composers I mentioned. They're amazingly talented composers. Their work makes every writing session just that much more productive and awesome.

But, of course... I digress.


  1. YESSS So true.....

    and as for the HTTYD 2 Soundtrack? Yeah I love it! It's so great!! :)


  2. Everything is so true (except I've never really felt that my characters are the ones writing the story, since i"m a planner and very domineering when it comes to character management). But otherwise. . . THIS COULD NOT BE MORE TRUE.