Writer’s Log: 2222 People v Plot

After months and months I’m actually back reading a novel. Previously, I’d limited myself to technical treatises on writing and such. It seemed every time I picked up a story (that is: read the Look Inside/Preview on amazon or google play) my internal editor would dismiss the offering.

Audrey Driscoll tenaciously slogged through my noobescent first novel and so I felt obligated to return the favor. Audrey’s The Friendship of Mortals is the story and her writing is levels above mine. I mentioned on her WP blog that I thought she seemed to have channeled Mary Shelley with her Victorian era descriptions and details. The characters are exquisitely developed and knowable. It’s told first person which helps in this regard.

But not much happens. I mean, there is story line, but not like I’m used to. Wham! Bam! Grab it and run!

And yet I’m enjoying it.

Which brings me to mention the quandary I continuously find myself in: I can’t write people. Not well anyway.

Audrey can. I see how she does it. She spends time with her people and they with each other—much more time than I can muster. Which means that somehow, in order to get my stories’ characters to feel more real, I’m going to have to spend time with them. Which is harder than you’d think…

Me: What do you want?
You: Well, there this coffee shop down on the corner which sells the most delicious…
Me: Get to the point.
You: You don’t have to be curt.
Me: Yeah? Hmm. Go away. I’m busy.

You see my problem. Oh, I can exchange written words just fine. But conversation? Reflection? Of/with people? Ugh.


20 thoughts on “Writer’s Log: 2222 People v Plot

  1. I don’t dislike people but I am somewhat self-contained and increasingly awkward. I prefer personal conversations to small talk. I used to just skip steps, dive straight into the juicy, absurd, philosophical, nonsensical years down the road conversations. That’s when I was younger and everything was black and white. I have had some brilliantly intense and weird conversations with total strangers. I tried to learn small talk/follow the norms but I just can’t talk about the weather for very long and certainly not with passion. People are absolutely fascinating underneath their everyday facades, it’s such a shame people can’t or choose not to talk about what matters most to them and opt for “neutral” topics. I myself have become more guarded and bland in time. I just stand there slowly burning to death with my mouth hanging open like a fish choking on air.

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    1. Thanks for commenting in such a thoughtful way.

      If all I could utter was small talk I’d become mute. When I was younger, hell, even today, in parties or meetings my silence and stoic (at the time I had no idea what that meant) demeanor would earn me concern, “is he alright over there?”
      Maybe dislike is not the word. Indifferent might be accurate. I’ve never developed the patience to scrape away at the social etiquette patina to reveal the meaty part of a person’s philosophies.
      The weather? I’d ask. How does it affect your moods? Do you think that rain feels good as we’re all generally a melancholy species? Does extreme weather frighten or invigorate you? Why do you think that is?
      “Nice fellow, you stand in the corner there and look stoic.”

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      1. I find that I am neutral to most people but I wouldn’t say indifferent. Neutral meaning there is an underlying curiosity about human nature/a love of humans generally. Neutral meaning I almost never dislike people but I don’t connect with everyone I meet. I am obsessed with what it means to be human. I am sure it seems that I am indifferent at times though because I am so in my head! My mom says I am a space cadet and I am not really embarrassed to say that I could entertain myself all day with the stories in my head. I don’t have the patience for it either which is why I don’t bother socializing all that much (I am actually very shy). I am fortunate in that people tend to open up to me quite freely/easily so I do get to see behind those masks sometimes. I just can’t seem to be anything other than myself. I can be quiet/subdued but the moment I open my mouth it is quite obvious I am not in this world/of this world. I love walking in the rain. Storms do scare me sometimes. Have you ever heard thunder in a mountain valley? The first time I heard it I went fetal and held my hands over my head. I thought a bomb had exploded! My mind tends to go to the apocalyptic pretty easily. I am optimist and a pessimist. You’d think that would make a realist, that I would be balanced but no I swing both ways.

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        1. If I couldn’t write out all these thoughts, I’d no doubt lose my “sanish” tendencies. Maybe senility is a peaceful end to an overactive, hyper-inquisitive mind.

          Thanks for sharing what are thought provoking notions our world.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I write in order to translate my feelings/to understand the world. Writing is essential to who I am, couldn’t live without it. My grandmother suffered Dementia and she seemed to find a sort of peace in forgetting. Generally I believe it is the opposite but she had a lot of demons/a lot of trauma that she wasn’t able to heal in her lifetime. She was a much kinder person in the final years of her life, she seemed almost free at times (also unusual). She never forgot me or her daughter but she did seem to forget much of her past. It is my pleasure =)

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  2. I am so right there with you.
    What I say and do reflects what I would expect others to say and do (which often gets me in trouble and bring me sorrow). The same with writing – I write what I would want to read. It’s a bit selfish, but why would I try to write something that I didn’t think anyone might like? The reason why I read books is PLOT. Characters are fun, but not the main criteria. Hence, I write a story. Characters are there just to support it and make it happen. But I do see it as room for improvement.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s funny that you’re so self-critical because anything I’ve read by you I’ve really enjoyed, and I thought you developed characters and wrote people really well. Apocalyptic Scenario 5C particularly comes to mind–I thought it was fantastic.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I feel exactly the same half the time!

    It terrorizes me when an acquaintance suggests ‘we should meet over lunch! Or coffee’! I immediately picture? Prison. Where I’m being tied to an chair with some invisible itchy and tight tight rope..I cannot escape..And..and the proximity to the person facing me? Oh ever so close! Too close I can’t help state at the mole on top of their ..nose! It’s incredibly distracting…What did they just ask me? Did they just say ‘how’s life?’…I mean how does one answer that question!? Does ANYONE ever know..how to answer that question…

    And it spirals from there…

    Writing is so much easier

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for the mention! It’s great to know my characters live in your imagination like (or sort of like) they did in mine. I think it would be hard to write a character you really dislike. I do have a problem with villains. Either they remain cardboard cutouts or turn into anti-villains.

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  6. I don’t think you can create people from thin air. My characters are all based on someone I knew which isn’t always the most comfortable thing to do. Some are composites. People rarely speak in complete sentences and they often interrupt each other or speak with their hands or their eyes. It’s hard to work those things in naturally.

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  7. I suspect part of your struggle with characters has to do with the fact that you tackle far more ambitious scenarios than I ever would (or could). That is to say, I intentionally avoid fantasy, sci-fi, epic stories and historical fiction set before the 20th century. Why? Because I don’t know how people in those eras and/or environments talkk. I don’t know what they care about. I don’t know their pop culture or their slang. Whenever I watch some epic movie like Spartacus, I mentally mock the characters for speaking in such a perpetually self-important manner…but then, it’s very possible that this reflects the real style of speech of the times. Thus, all things considered, I think you do a much better job of developing characters in your dystopian fiction than you seem to believe.

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    1. Thanks. I will say that you’re in good company with suggesting I focus on character development as a skill. Often, in the past, people in my stories were just there as vehicles to portray the fantastical aspects of the worlds I developed, the machinery, the physics, the flora and fauna.
      “You, whatever your name is, hold on to this ivory handle and pull it back until you see the gates crack open…”
      Just gonna have to resign myself to the task.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. You have mentioned that you don’t like people. So write people you don’t like. Hammett comes to mind. Everything is to the point in his Continental Op works. Back and forth, that’s it. In the Thin Man and others there are people. A few quick descripts, judgement calls. He doesn’t hang out with them. Write what you like, skip the people, do the adventure thing. Cardboard stereotypes having cardboard conversations against a backdrop of (insert action here). Open a Baldacci. Lifetime script dialog with spies. Go the man against the cosmos route where other characters don’t matter. Don’t beat yourself to adopt a writerly position that’s ultimately, personally, untenable. Or invent characters you DO want to hang out with, if there are such creatures. A tallish, impatient, smart brunette with less time than you for your bullshit. A guy you’d be if that were the case. Escapism is your greatest tool. Don’t go where you are, go where you’d like to be. A dog sledder, a boy with a boat, a spider with a dream, an ornery farmer sitting on a buried spaceship…a guitar playing stoner with the formula for…

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    1. I hear you and thank you for supporting whatever path I might take.
      I think I mention holes that exist in my writing in the attempt to expose them as lessons I, myself, know I should tackle. Perhaps even thinking I present the flail with which I’d like to be flogged.
      It would be nice, don’t you think, if I could get in tune with a few characters, flesh them out so that they breathe, cry, fuck and fail more honestly than they currently do.
      Until I picked up and started reading Audrey’s book, I never really examined the two styles of story telling. I knew my own was action/plot driven. But, what exactly is a character driven book? I think I know now.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There are so many variations of character driven or character dragged. My least favorite is the Moby Dick variety wherein the second book inserted into the main body is preachy agenda/how to/history/I have a great research assistant shit. Bear down on the meat, ease up on the potato salad. Don’t write romance novels.

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