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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Embarrassing Writer Moments: Caught in the Act (of Creating a Character)


The recent conference I went to featured a wonderful and many-times-published author as a speaker who made a point to let us know that:

Everyone in this room has something in common, which is why we love to gather together like this. We are drawn to each other because of…

We all waited for her to say something like, “our creativity!” or “our passion for words!”

Instead, she said,

we are drawn to each other because of the fact that WE ARE NOT NORMAL. Normal people do not contemplate how best to kill someone while eating breakfast (she's a crime/mystery writer). Normal people get stressed over their own problems—they do not get stressed over the problems of the imaginary people they create.”

She got a hearty laugh from us all. Maybe she’s right, but I was definitely sitting with the right group of people.

A few days ago, I was taking a long walk with my kiddo. We took our time along the hilly roads of my town, and my mind wandered a bit. It wandered to a character who’s been nagging me for two years or so. He’s a little boy of Irish heritage who wants more than anything to be an Italian chef because he believes that a killer meat sauce has the ability to cure nearly every wrong in the world, his personal problems included.

When bits of dialogue for my very loose storyline pop into my mind, he has an accent eerily similar to the one I heard in my head while reading Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis.

Anyway, like the “not normal” person I am, I found myself chuckling at a response this fictional boy might make after being told to stick with cooking potatoes, and I said it out loud.

In a very bad Irish accent.

I said it a couple of times, trying it out. My little girl giggled, so I said it louder. And then I added some silly, indignant hand motions. And then I noticed a man standing against his front porch railing, staring at me. He wasn’t open-mouthed or looking disgusted or anything, but I could tell he thought I was…"not normal.”

So I got very embarrassed and hurried my daughter down the road, not speaking until we turned the corner, at which point my wee one and I began singing “Sister Suffragette” from Mary Poppins. I have a quick recovery time when it comes to embarrassment.

Have you ever had an embarrassing moment related to writing or creating a character? (please say yes)

36 comments:

  1. Ha! This is so great.

    I'm sure I've had such a moment, but I'll have to think about it to remember. But I do love that speaker's comment. The amount of brainspace I have devoted to my characters' problems probably would be shocking to a "normal" person. Some of my characters even showed up in one of my dreams last night, which was a first, I think. But maybe this helps us obsess less about our own problems? There must be some upside to it... =)

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    1. I've never had a character show up i nmy dreams~ that's pretty cool!

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  2. I can't think of an embarrassing moment right now, but I do love this post. One, I can't wait to read the story about the little Irish boy who wants to be an Italian chef. Two, I just finished reading a fabulous book and wondered what I would read next. I had forgotten I bought Angela's Ashes a few weeks ago. So thanks for the reminder. Now I know what I'll read next. :)

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    1. Oh, good! Angela's Ashes is a great read :)

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    1. Nothing?? Nothing?? Dang it. Think hard, Andrew! There MUST be a moment where your family thought maybe you'd slipped too far into the realm of fiction! :)

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    2. Well, yeah, but that had nothing to do with writing. :P My mom used to say that about me all the time, but that was because I spent so much time reading.

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  4. I do! I did the same exact thing, only my accent came out as a very bad word. I laughed until I cried while my family looked on with blank stares. "Mom said a bad word? Why?" and what's with the weird accent, mom?"

    Ha! Thanks for such a fun post:)
    Talynn

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    1. Ha! That's a good one ("what's with the weird accent, mom?" LOVE it)! Thanks for the confession :)

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  5. I can't think of one off hand, but I think it's great that your characters show up with Irish accents. I'd love that!

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    1. I probably have an unhealthy love for accents. That's why a lot of my characters end up being either British or Southern :)

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  6. Yes LOL! My hubby caught me rifling through his hunting bag for a "gut knife" so I could examine it for the first book I ever co-authored. Yeah, that one was tricky to explain:)

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    1. Oh, Lindsay!! Of COURSE you were looking for a "gut knife." At least you weren't just dating at the time :)

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  7. Funny! Nothing related to books, but I used to sing and act silly with my kids in public when they were little. (If I did that now, they'd be way more embarrassed than me!)

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    1. I am SO guilty about doing that with my little one. I will be incredibly sad when her giggles turn to mommy shame :)

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  8. I pace aggressively and act out scenes through mumbling sometimes when I'm thinking about my stories and I've had people catch me that I'm related to and also the person I am dating right now caught me and they ask me what in the world I was doing, lol. I just shrugged because I didn't know how to explain it and felt extremely humiliated.

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    1. Ha! Thank you for sharing that :) My daughter catches me doing that all the time, but she's only three, so I usually just say, "Hey, you've got your imaginary friends and Mama's got hers, too."

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  9. I don't know if it is something I should get embarrassed about, but I do. My daughter will catch me looking off into nowhere and think I've gotten upset about something, when in truth, I have a few characters battling it out in my head about who's story I'm going to give my attention to lol!

    Also, my friends no how to distract me. They'll ask about a book and off I zip, discussing a certain book that I've finished the first draft on and a story idea that's been working the fringes of my mind. Then they snicker and I realize what I've done, gotten all caught up behind people and places that don't exist lol!!!

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    1. Okay, please pardon the lack of spelling. I got to typing and realized I put "no" instead of "know". Sorry about that.

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  10. Oh, that's awesome Jess.

    *sings*

    We're clearly soldiers in petticoats! Dauntless crusaders for women's votes. Although we adore men individually, we agree that as a group they're raaaatttthhherr stupid."

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    1. It's too cute to hear her sing it. She's been told that "stupid" is a bad word, but I allow it in certain songs. Okay, pretty much just in this song. There's something hilarious about hearing that last sentence from a 3-year-old girl :)

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  11. This story made my day. I've had many moments like that. I tend to imagine myself like the character in Stranger than Fiction when she's standing on her table, imagining standing on the ledge of a building, because I do stuff like that. For research for After Elizabeth, I smoked a cigarette and went running...and thought I was going to die. Another time, I pretended to be my character for a day...

    Normalcy is for chumps :)

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    1. Excellent researching skills! And I loved Stranger than Fiction. I think my favorite part was when he brought the baker a bunch of flours for their date.

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  12. Ha! I wish I had see it. I'm sure it was well worth a laugh.

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    1. Afterwards, yes :) At least to me. I'm sure the man thought otherwise and placed me firmly in the category of "too bizarre to laugh about."

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  13. We really aren't normal, are we? :o) I smirk and giggle to myself quite a bit. Sometimes I start relaying something that has happened to someone then get embarrassed when I realize the "something that happened was in a book I was writing". They just begin to feel so real sometimes...

    I'm glad you have a good embarrassment recovery time. That's important!

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    1. "Sometimes I start relaying something that has happened to someone then get embarrassed when I realize the something that happened was in a book I was writing." HA! That's awesome.

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  14. I totally agree that we are not normal - and I am forever talking aloud as if I'm talking to my characters, or as if I am my characters talking. ;) I even blogged about it once.

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    1. I do that, too. I try to limit it to times that I'm in the car, but it slips out sometimes :)

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  15. At least you had your little girl with you - it would have looked much worse if you'd been alone. I've been caught once or twice talking to myself in public. I cough and pretend to clear my throat, but still get the hairy eyeball from bystanders... What's a weirdo to do?

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    1. Ha! True~ you can get away with a lot more talking-to-yourself when you've got a kid with you :)

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  16. That's really cute! I, too, have thought about how much time I've spent trying to solve problems I created on purpose. Who creates conflict on purpose?!

    I usually write at home, but sometimes I write in coffeehouses--and worry I'm making weird facial expressions as I get into my characters' heads.

    Have a great weekend! :)

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    1. I definitely have read bits of dialogue to myself before in public places, but I tend to stay home for the most part :)

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  17. Ha ha! At least you had your daughter with you as an excuse to talk out loud. This time, at least. :-D

    Yes, I've definitely had embarrassing moments like that. The worst is when I'm writing in public - the library or a coffee shop and I realize I'm either muttering dialogue out loud so I can get it just right, or making facial expressions so I know just how to describe them on the page. Believe me, when you start grimacing over a bowl of soup, then frantically typing away on your computer, it gets some weird looks.

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    1. The facial expressions~ I know exactly what you mean! Too funny :)

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