Monday, October 14, 2013

"It's Called (Writing)"



I love it when I see interviews of film and TV stars and the interviewer is really fixated on how the actor's latest role is nothing like their last one. Or perhaps the talk show host knows the actor well enough to say that the role is so disturbingly unlike their "real" personality.

The actor will usually try to explain something that they drew on (inside themselves, or by observation) to convincingly play a crazed serial killer, but when pressed, they're eventually reduced to some form of "It's called acting." (Even Elmo has used that explananation; see the video at the bottom of the post)

This cracks me up, because as writers we fall under the same kind of scrutiny. If we include a matricidal villain, we get questions (and assumptions) about how we feel about mothers. If we include poisons or bioweapons in our spy thriller, people stop accepting invitations to dinner parties at our homes (although, the NSA or FBI may occasionally arrive without an invitation).

It's as if people think that the phrase "write what you know" is more of a natural law than fairly impractical advice. After all, if we were all writing only what we ourselves had experienced, fiction would be a much narrower field.

There could be no works with characters of the opposite gender, no stories featuring characters beyond the people we meet in our daily lives, no re-imaginations of historical events. No fantastical creatures from the "here there be dragons" portions of the map, rather than the real-life ones on display in zoos or sleeping on our sofas.

So here's to imagining worlds and experiences beyond our own little spheres--and writing them so well that we can know them ourselves. And bringing readers along on that journey too.




8 comments:

  1. Well, I'm not sure it's so much people thinking 'write what you know,' as I guess most non-writers don't really know of that 'rule', it's really a problem of separating the art from the artist. People have a really hard time with that one (and I admit I've fallen into that thought process myself on occasion).

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    1. In my experience, it seems to be the only rule non-writers know! ;)

      It is difficult to separate actors when they can so thoroughly occupy a character, but I don't have as much trouble with writers.

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  2. I know I had a tickled moment explaining some sex scenes in a story, mainly letting the eyebrow wigglers know that I hadn't "done" those things I wrote about, that it was imagination and storytelling.

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    1. Yes, Angela, those sex scenes can be awkward to explain away. Maybe I should be glad that my grandmothers are no longer around to read my tawdry stories!

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  3. I once had someone say, "Wow, I feel like I know you so much better now!" after reading an early draft of Descendant.

    All I said at the time was, "You know this is fiction, right?" But what fun it would have been to play along! LOL

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    1. One friend jokingly started calling me by the name of the MC in my first book--I guess they saw some similarities. I kind of threw her when I said I actually thought the LI in that book was more like me. But of course, they all come from my imagination, so there's bound to be some overlap!

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  5. When I was in a poetry class in college. I kept writing "happy" poems because I'm a "happy and overly trusting" person. They weren't working. So I drew upon some difficult moments in my life and wrote sad poems. They were better. Finally, I decided to write a creepy poem. And it was actually good! (I mean, I'm no poet, really. But it was one of my best.) My husband was a bit freaked out that I could write so accurately from the perspective of a stalker.

    In writing, we get to create and experience things we wouldn't even THINK about doing in real life. Sometimes that's part of the fun.

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