NaNoWriMo Starts Today!!!
by Biljana Likic
Allow me to introduce myself. I am….a Writer. You look at me and you see literary brilliance ready to burst out of my fingers like the morning sun. Yes, this is a coffee in my right hand, and yes, that’s a lit cigarette in my left. The amber liquid you saw me sneaking into my cup was, in fact, whiskey, and now that you know, you must pity me and think I’m truly tortured. Just that you see me out of my natural habitat of a cave filled with paper and pens means you’re fortunate indeed, and my speaking to you must mean that I’ve had enough to drink to release my natural inhibitions and shyness.
A part of you wants to leave, that’s how intimidated you are by the phantom conversations going on in my head that I will later write down after I feed my two cats. Another part stays out of kindness; I don’t get out much, you see, and so people speaking to me is a rare occurrence.
Even so, you know that I don’t mind because I am used to it. I have lived my entire life in misunderstood solitude, and no mere mortal will ever be able to compare their knowledge of human truths to mine.
Now excuse me while I walk off holding on to my black beret lest it blow away in the chill wind that only I feel.
Total stereotypes! For the most part, at least. I don’t doubt that there are writers who are very reserved, or have drinking problems, or live secluded lives. Just like there are normal people who are very reserved, have drinking problems, or live secluded lives. What annoys me is when people think that all writers are like this.
This is directly the reason why I hold off mentioning to people that I’m a writer until they have a solid first impression of me. It only happened once that it was one of the first things I said, and the difference in attitude I got from this person was huge. Immediately, she went “Oh…” and I could just see the thoughts going through her mind:
“Damn pretentious writers. Think they’re special. Think they know shit.”
Well yes. I do think I know shit.
But it’s not because I’m an alcoholic, or I smoke, or I own cats, or wear black berets, or because I’m quiet. In fact none of those things can be applied to me.
I know shit because I talk to people. I observe real characters before creating my own.
Which is what I wanted to bring up in this article.
One of a writer’s biggest stereotypes is how secluded they are. I think this is true to a point. I think most writers are secluded because they’re too busy writing. But once in a while, you have to go out. You have to meet a variety of people so you can draw from them consciously or unconsciously. And here’s why.
Say these are some of the only people you have in your life that you see consistently: your mother, your father, your brother, your best friend, and your husband.
Now say you write a book. Say it’s about a woman who’s married, has a brother, living parents, and a best friend.
Guess who those people are going to be based off of.
This is totally fine. Until you get to your next book. Which is perhaps about a woman who has a boyfriend, a best friend, and one parent.
Well the boyfriend is going to be of similar character to the husband in the first one, the best friend is going to become the token girlfriend in all your books, and whenever the one parent mentions their missing counterpart, they’ll probably have a similar personality to the parent in the previous book.
They’re going to become your stock characters. If that’s all you know, that’s all you know. If your husband is reserved, your heroes will be reserved, because in your life those are the only heroes you can understand. You’re at risk of having these stock characters become story constants.
Which is why I implore you. Go out and talk to people. You don’t have to make friends, you just have to make judgments. Approach somebody you think you know because of their appearance and find out if they’ll break the stereotype. And if they do, how do they break it? Store the information somewhere. Start studying people. Because if all you really know is five characters, that’s going to come through. And though you may try breaking the pattern, putting in new things, it’s very possible that the new characters you create will be caricatures; too big or too one-dimensional.
I already know that there will be some of you who don’t agree with anything I’m saying. You will say that I’m wrong because there are so many writers who were secluded and reserved and had fabulous career lives.
Yeah, but a lot of them also went crazy or killed themselves or wrote themselves into depression.
Basically, what I’m saying is, even if you are socially impaired and find it really hard to make friends and meet new people, the outcome has the potential to vastly improve your writing. Not to mention, your life. And you might think it’s easy for me to say this, because I’m not like that, but the thing is I am. I don’t like meeting new people. It makes me feel vulnerable, and I don’t like the feeling of judgment I get when I go up to someone and say hello, even if it’s imagined. Especially when it’s imagined. At least if it’s real I can call them a bitch and move on. But if it’s imagined, I’m left with a feeling of invalidated insecurity that can linger for ages.
Relationships take time to build but it’s something I get over for the sake of a new friendship, connection, or, frankly, a template for a new character.
It wouldn’t kill anybody to try the same.
Biljana Likic is an aspiring author, currently revising her first novel, TIME IS A FUNNY THING. She is in her first year of university, where she can’t wait till she’s out so she’ll finally have all the time in the world to write. You can visit her blog here and follow her on Twitter here.