Could We All Just Get A Grip Already?

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeInsecure Writer’s Support Group

Originally, I intended to lampoon the Dr. Seuss kerfuffle, in support of one of the greatest children’s writers of all time. But the desire to pen witty or clever repartee evaporated with the lunacy of Las Vegas. This succinctly sums up my thoughts:

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

So much for old, tired clichés.

On to the business of the First Wednesday IWSG Blog Hop. Captain Ninja Alex has posed the following pithy question for our consideration:

Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

Yes and yes.

On the intentional front, my protagonist is a lawyer and a runner (what? me too!). She also has some difficult family relationships (don’t we all). Some of her thoughts and reactions mirror my own. But sometimes she says and does things I wish I had said or done. A Freudian attempt to rewrite history, perhaps? I give the MC traits that don’t require an extraordinary amount of research, and still allow her to develop an individual persona.

Personal information is more likely to make its way ineffectively into other characters unintentionally, particularly when I attempt to comprehend motivation. For example, my antagonist is a serial killer. I will end the suspense to the burning question many people have asked and confess:  No, I was not the inspiration for Serial Mom (but seriously, Beverly was right: NO white shoes after Labor Day!). I don’t understand the mental state of a person who repeatedly kills. I have trouble divorcing myself from the pesky moral conscience that keeps most of us from engaging in and enjoying this behavior.

I populate my antagonist with unique personal information (meaning, not mine), gathered through industry research, such as Into the Minds of Madmen and craft books like The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits and Thesaurus series. I also have a well-worn copy of The Sociopath Next Door on my bookshelf (which, IMHO, should be required reading from about the third grade on) to get psyche details correct.

That said, I suspect, and perhaps hope, that all my characters possess a bit of my humanity, however dark, in their souls. The God complex – yet another task for Freud. Or a glass of Pinot Noir. One of those.

Many thanks to our awesome co-hosts:

Olga Godim
Chemist Ken
Jennifer Hawes
Tamara Narayan

and the rest of our krew is here!

This entry was posted in I'm Not Sure What is Going On Here, IWSG, Killer Reads, The Road to Hell . . .. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Could We All Just Get A Grip Already?

  1. I like the idea of giving our characters the words we wished we had said – oh, that wonderful retort we thought of hours after the fact! – and the things we wished we had done – turning our backs, holding our heads high and walking away all classy-like. 🙂

    • Lee says:

      Exactly Madeline! I especially wish I could perfect the walking away all classy-like technique. I also wish I didn’t break out in angry red blotches when I’m pissed off. Hence, my love of scarves and turtlenecks.

  2. Yup, wish fulfillment, or “woulda, coulda, shoulda” is a huge element of fiction writing for me.

  3. I have plenty of times when my characters say things I wish I had the courage to say.

    • Lee says:

      Spot on! I actually have a reputation for “speaking my mind” but believe me, there is so much self-editing before I open my mouth. People are so quick to get on the offended bandwagon over every little thing. (like Dr. Seuss books. Just kill me now).

  4. emaginette says:

    The old saying, guns don’t kill people–etc, is getting very, very old to me. I hope the people chanting are realizing they are partly responsible.

    Anna from elements of emaginette

    • Lee says:

      I was a bit gobsmacked by the (former) CBS VP/attorney who said said she was “not even sympathetic” to victims of the Las Vegas shooting because “country music fans often are Republican gun toters.” WTF? My mother is a huge fan of Hillary and she loves country music.

  5. Stephanie Scott says:

    I want my characters to do the things I’ve been scared to. It can be intimidating writing that way! But I think it makes for the best stories.

    • Lee says:

      I agree Stephanie. In fact, it is a great way to make those things less scary. I think writers possess an incredible amount of inner strength from facing those demons internally.

  6. Nancy Gideon says:

    The Sociopath Next Door . . . Must read. Write what you know, then elaborate as to how you wish it could be. I love the research but sometimes I’m lazy and use the resources at hand – places I’ve been, jobs I’ve worked. I used to write western historicals and readers would ask me how long I’d lived in the west since my descriptions were so vivid and I’d have to admit I’d never been on the other side of the Mississippi. Creation is half experience, half desires. Happy IWSG Day!

    • Lee says:

      Being able to write convincingly about a place you have never been is the mark of a real pro – kudos to you! The Sociopath Next Door was recommended to me during a difficult time and it is amazing. I have given it as a gift to several friends when crisis arises. It should be sold as a boxed set with The Art of War.

  7. Olga Godim says:

    Our characters are often the better versions of ourselves: smarter, stronger, kinder. They show what we wish we were, if life didn’t come between the ideals and the reality.

    • Lee says:

      Exactly, Olga. Life is always the fly in the oinment between ideals and reality. The ideals are what keep us plugging along when reality isn’t doing its part.

  8. The Sociopath Next Door is definitely a good resource. I’ll have to look at the other books you recommended.

    • Lee says:

      SND is a good primer for everyone to learn how to recognize manipulative behavior. I have a shelf full of resource books donated by a friend who spent his career as a corrections investigator. The criminal mind is a fascinating subject.

  9. Angela Wooldridge says:

    I must check out The Sociopath Next Door. (Maybe I should put it on my christmas list?)

    • Lee says:

      I highly recommend it. It’s a real eye-opener into human behavior and not at all what you might expect. And Christmas is right around the corner!

  10. The Sociopath Next Door? Now I’m intrigued…
    It sounds like the stuff nightmares are made of…would probably scar the impressionable mind of a third grader. LOL

    • Lee says:

      Despite the intriguing title, it’s more of a DSM-VI for every day people. The scary part is realizing how other people are playing you.

  11. I also have some characters with similar skills and interest as my own!

    • Lee says:

      IMHO, that’s how we pass the “write what you know” test while just making up the rest. Thanks for stopping by.

  12. jmh says:

    Love this post, Lee. Since my characters seem to come to me, rather than me making them up, it’s interesting when I see some of my own viewpoints or feelings have snuck in there. I guess it makes sense that, independent people or no, they’d have some things in common…otherwise, why would they hang out with me?

    I find it amusing and sometimes frustrating that people assume I’m writing about myself, especially when the protagonist is female and it’s first person. Someone read Monsters in Our Wake, my sea creature novel, and called me “Flora”…the name of the female scientist, who is NOTHING like me. I told him that if he wanted to find out who I really am, look at the sea creature. 🙂

    • Lee says:

      Characters definitely create themselves if we stay out of the way. While my MC is a lawyer, she most definitely is not me. But we could be friends because, as you point out, we have some things in common. I’m intrigued to check out the sea creatures in Monsters in Our Wake. 🙂