My friend Lisa writes fiction (under two pseudonyms) and I find the dedication and thought that can go into crafting that kind of book to be fascinating. I also find her ideas to be fascinating. Hope y’all enjoy it as much as I did!
If you read Cracked regularly, you’ve probably read David Wong’s post, “6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person”. If you haven’t, I suggest you give it a chance. It’s definitely harsh, but I’ve found that over the past few months I’ve been drawn back to it several times, and I continue to find new ideas in what seems, initially, to be a fairly straightforward directive to get off your ass, stop making excuses, and create something.
(No, you don’t need to point out the fact that spending time re-reading an article about not doing things is just another way to not have to do things. The irony is not lost on me.)
But back to what I was saying. My most recent re-reading happened to coincide with an editing job where I had to advise an author that there were things she’d written that mattered to HER that just didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the plot of her manuscript and I thought she needed to reconsider including them—not because they weren’t interesting, or well-written, but because they simply didn’t fit in that manuscript. Then, hard on the heels of that conversation, I was talking with my husband about a scene I’d written where I was bemoaning the fact that even though he loved it and my beta loved it, it was screwing with the voice I had in mind for the rest of the story. I had to accept the fact that the scene was important to the characters and to me, but it probably wasn’t necessary for the reader, and that by shoe-horning it into a place where it didn’t belong I was undermining both it and the larger work.
My author friend and I were so wrapped up in our back-stories, in our interesting facts and tidbits that people should know, and would WANT to know, that we were losing the thread of what we were trying to do with our stories.
So stay with me here. David Wong writes:
How many of you are walking around right now saying, “She/he would love me if she/he only knew what an interesting person I am!” Really? How do all of your interesting thoughts and ideas manifest themselves in the world? What do they cause you to do? If your dream girl or guy had a hidden camera that followed you around for a month, would they be impressed with what they saw? Remember, they can’t read your mind — they can only observe. Would they want to be a part of that life?”
While Wong is talking about an individual’s creative and productive life, I think the idea can easily be adapted to other situations. It’s applicable in politics, business… I’d even go so far as to make it a tool for better writing. A reader can’t read a character’s mind—they’re either told what the character is thinking, or they need to see what the character does. A woman sitting around bitterly retelling a story about a boy who said she couldn’t be feminine if she tried isn’t nearly as effective a character illustration as if the author creates a woman with a daily, conscious, almost combative, embracing of feminine gender patterns. Nor does a guy reminiscing over a beer that his single mom worked two shifts a day for fifteen years make a reader understand the effects of a boy having to basically parent himself as effectively as if they read about a businessman who sacrifices profit so he can actively support single mothers in his company in the hopes of making it easier for them to spend more time with their families because he missed out on that as a kid.
People say lots things but, be they politician, polemic, poet or protagonist, their words should reflect their actions, not disguise them. Ask yourself, “What do they do?” A politician who speaks to liberal ideals but who votes conservatively isn’t really a liberal, just as someone who eats a once-a-week Big Mac isn’t really a vegetarian, or a person who repeatedly cheats on their spouse isn’t a good Christian. It doesn’t matter what they say. We are often distracted from the truth by fluffy back-story, and honestly, I think there are a lot of times where we distract ourselves from our own short-comings by with those same types of excuses. It is easier than admitting failure, and much easier than actively pursuing change. However, declaring “I’m a good person,” doesn’t mean you actually are any more than “I’m thinking about doing” something is the same thing as doing it.
Creation and action and awareness are hard, and words—unfortunately—are easy. So… now that you’re thinking about it: who are you and what are you doing today?