The Work of Writing Seven: Authenticity

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By William Paxton (http://www.taller54.com/736.htm) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

(Previous Work of Writing posts.)

The recent announcement from a Twitter favorite of mine that she was trans filled me with an unexpected sense of joy. Obviously it has absolutely nothing to do with me, and yet reading about her shopping excursions and seeing her new profile pic with lovely, tasteful makeup made me happy. Not just happy for her, but happy.

So of course I had to poke at it it. To unravel it thread by thread. These emotions are important; these emotions bond us to our readers. How do we evoke them? Why do they happen?

After a bit of reflection and a bit of coffee, the answer came to me. It was the light that comes from someone settling into her authentic self. Someone becoming, completely, the person she is meant to be, without the concern of molding to others’ expectations.

When we start crafting characters (if we craft them; sometimes I feel as though mine live in a parallel dimension) we don’t know everything about them. We might know where they are at the beginning. We might know what they want in that moment. In the words of the incredible Kurt Vonnegut:

Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

Whatever that thing is, it should lead to greater authenticity of your characters. They should be, by story’s end, more of who they are then they were to start. Without this kind of depth, characters are flat. Authenticity is the layer that adds humanity.

And it doesn’t always have to bring the reader joy to see a character become his or her authentic self; the inevitability of some types of authenticity form the basis for tragedy. You know where they’re going. You know who they really are. And this reveal of character will take them there.

Whether you’re currently writing or squirreling away for a writey day, collect these moments. Examine them for clues.When you can pinpoint the source of your emotional twings, you can do the same for your readers.

Check out my recaps of the hit new show “All My Traitors.” Recap of episode 2, “Lock Him Up” is available now!

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Peruse Montraps Publishing.

 

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The Work of Writing Six: Words

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 Hi writing friends, we need to have an uncomfortable heart-to-heart. Grab your hot mug of morning beverage, or your cool bottle of afternoon beverage or your chilled glass of evening beverage, scoot up a seat, and let’s chat.

As writers, we know words matter. I know I’m not alone in ruffling through my old, yellowed thesaurus, squinting into the distance at words that don’t feel quite right. But those words aren’t the words I mean.

We have an obligation as people who trade in words to choose them responsibly. What does this pithy, blanket statement mean? Let me share an example.

Right now, a New York Times opinion piece called “The Happy Hooker Conservatives” is flying of the shelves of Twitter. Effective phrase, right? You know exactly what the writer means by the headline, don’t you?

Except.

Here’s the problem. This headline normalizes and utilizes a demeaning view of women to make its point. The conservatives mentioned are morally tainted, it says. But how does it say that?

By making the assumption that a “Happy Hooker” is morally tainted. We’re not going to get into the views of sex work here, there are entire books on the subject, but isn’t there another way to get the point across without using a negative view of women as the baseline?

Our casual language is packed with words and phrases that originate in insult. Most of the time, we never stop to think about what else a word can mean or how it came to be.

As writers, it’s our job to think. And to choose better words.

For more on my thoughts about Charlottesville and rising bigotry, please read An Open Letter to My Friends of Color.

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Peruse Montraps Publishing.

 

The Work of Writing Five: Ideas

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Scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titania and Bottom. Edwin Henry Landseer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

(Previous Work of Writing posts.)

I’m not feeling very idea-y today. Some days they come like a cloud of fireflies in early summer, too many to catch, not that you should catch fireflies because it’s cruel even though every child does it.

So much for that metaphor.

Some days, like today, you get cold winter air, empty of anything, biting, foreboding. Well, maybe not foreboding, but not exactly encouraging.

Well guess what? I bet you know what’s coming, hypothetical reader. Yup. You got it.

You still have to sit down and face the cursor. Writing isn’t about the inspiration, about the romantic idea of art pouring forth from your fingers like a tide of genius or even a series of tortured similes and metaphors, it’s about the work.

The work.

Of course we all have those glorious moments where we sit down, thought fully formed inside head, and sculpt it on the page, but come on, we all know that’s the drug. That’s the thing that keeps us coming back to the keyboard.

That’s the bubble.

The bubble doesn’t always let us in.The bubble doesn’t always have a shiny fairy door covered in tiny roses (note: that may constitute an idea). The bubble doesn’t always form.

You know what’s always there?

Your preferred tools for writing. So get you big mug of hot liquid of preference (yesterday’s readers, you get it) and let’s go. No mystical inspiration required.

For more on my thoughts about Charlottesville and rising bigotry, please read An Open Letter to My Friends of Color.

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Peruse Montraps Publishing.

 

The Work of Writing Four: Rituals

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(More Work of Writing posts.)

 

So I’ve been fielding question after imaginary question from you, hypothetical reader, about how things are going with my coffee machine. No need to be on the edge of your fancy seat made of air; my new coffeemaker and I have reached an understanding.

We both ignore the built-in coffee grinder, politely pretending it doesn’t exist, and voila, coffee is made.

Confession time: I originally wrote “viola.” Whether I think that’s your name, hypothetical reader, or I was addressing the instrument, I couldn’t tell you.

So on we go, intrepid hypothetical reader, coffee in hand, into realms imagined. Or not quite imagined yet. Somewhere in the process of imagining.

Something like that.

Because admit it or not, we all have our writing rituals.Mine can change depending on the time of year or what I’m writing; as the weather chills, I need big mugs of hot liquid, steam curling in the light of the window. Even if I get so wrapped up in what I’m writing I forget to drink that big mug of hot liquid until it becomes a big mug of tepid liquid, but we all have our issues.

And our days to get on with. So here we go.

Just one more sip of coffee first.

For more on my thoughts about Charlottesville and rising bigotry, please read An Open Letter to My Friends of Color.

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Peruse Montraps Publishing.

The Work of Writing Three: Tuesday

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(More Work of Writing posts.)

 

Not really spring and not quite summer, my allergies have me sneezing up a storm. Hmm. That would be a very interesting superpower.

Pretty inconvenient, I would say.

Oops. Sorry. Lost me for a second, thinking of sneeze-storm contingencies. It probably goes without saying I’d always need an umbrella, and my signature superhero outfit would involve a yellow rain slicker.

But I digress.

There’s a spider inside my window, and I’ve decided we can try to peacefully coexist. I’m pretty sure it’s not poisonous.

Pretty sure.

In other words, it’s Tuesday, and my list is laid out before me, step-by-step, cross-out-line by cross-out-line. It’s a mechanical day of writing.

I don’t mean rote (wrote?! You know I can’t resist a pun), but I mean nitty-gritty. I mean swaths of microscopic editing, pondering a comma, trying on synonyms like outfits for a hot date.

Some writing is done in a glowing haze of inspiration, a place I like to call Inside the Bubble, where you disappear through a door in your mind and suddenly discover yourself hundreds of words down the road. But that’s only some writing.

The shape, the structure, the weight and meaning come from the Tick-Tock Days, the days of filing down the gears until they all groove together. Inside the Bubble is the romance.

Tick-Tock Days are the marriage.

Hey, did you see a real-life scientist scienced Aunty Ida?

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Peruse Montraps Publishing.