Monday, September 17, 2007

The fine line between the WRITER and the WRITTEN

...with today's special guest, "Mort Rainey" who makes an appearance here today courtesy of Mr Johnny Depp.

The last two days have been interesting. I've recovered my missing glasses, who were lurking on the floor beside my bed at the farm, I've given my blog address to two friends from church (Hello!!!!) and realized with a jolt that all those notes I scribbled in my manuscript with red ink did not get done inside the computer!! I've been sending a first chapter to agents that still needed editing!!! Gack! Nooooo!

All weekend I've been reminded over and over that writing fiction can be uncomfortable and sometimes frightening.

I'm basically a liar and a thief!

I make stuff up and I want you to believe it, even though it never really happened. I steal things from real life to tell my lies. I might take a conversation I had with you and use it. I'll twist it and mangle it beyond recognition, but I am aware at all times that any of this could end up in a novel. The closer I get to my goal of being an actual author as opposed to a person who writes for nothing, the more frightened I get that somebody will think they see themselves in my words...and feel hurt by it.

It is so difficult to separate the Writer and the Written.

I do it too, y'know. I had such a hard time with A COMPLICATED KINDNESS. Just this past summer I read two Young Adult novels that made me wonder just how much fiction was involved and how much was thinly veiled autobiography. And I'm afraid to read anything by James Frey.

So how do I face this thing I've created, this monster of words that sits here on my desk with poke marks all over it?

Already from my test readers I've gotten The Question. Which one is you?????

None of them are me. I made them up. However...if I am totally truthful...all of them are me.

Just creating them in my head makes them me. I put little bits of myself into each imaginary person- that's how it's done.

This is what makes me cringe. Even though it's fiction, not my life story, it is so deeply personal and so thoughful that I can hardly separate myself from the work. I tell people it's fake, it's not real, none of it really happened, but I must have had glimpses of it in order to write it. Yes I have a very vivid imagination but I must have observed something like this in order to write it. Right?

Let's see...Mennonite teenagers. Late 80s. No internet, no cell phones, no trained grief counselors working for the public school board. Boyfriends with long hair and motorcycle jackets. Long drives down dark country roads. Photos of a tragically deceased friend. Drug abuse. Sex and everybody's attitude about it. Parties gone wrong. Sitting in church wondering what it's all about. Praying to a God who hopefully hears it, praying desperately that everything's gonna be okay. Watching the world change and feeling completely helpless about the whole thing.


I can see why people would make the mistake of thinking it's my life story.

Finally late last night I put it all together and it's not a new revelation. I've known this for awhile but I can articulate it now.

This is not my life story. But it's the story only I can tell.

I fully expect that this story will offend people and I'm already sorry about that. Not sorry enough to abandon it though. Definitely sorry enough that I'll be prohibiting my parents, sister, many close relatives and church family from reading it! WARNING: this book will offend you and cause you to think cruel thoughts about the author! Do not read! Ignore the book and love her anyways!!!

And on that note, Mort and I have work to do. Mort needs to just write something. He needs to put down the slinky, stop stalking his imaginary people, and hit a few keys on his computer. Get busy, Mort. I will be checking up on him later to make sure he's staying at it! As for me...I have to go fight the bear and bring home the bacon...or something...and I have about 355 pages of red pen marks to enter into my computer.

This'll keep me busy for a few days. I need to get this done so I can keep on with my Quest For A Literary Agent. Plus, y'know, I have to be there for poor Mort while he frets over his cheating wife and shakes that writer's block!

I want to hear from you though-- how much do you think of the writer when you're reading something? Do you wonder how much of the story might be based on real life? Do you believe in the power of a writer's imagination? And most important of all, when I finally do get that place in the country, where none of the neighbours are close enough to see me, should I lurk around in a nasty old bathrobe while I write???? Or should I stay in my barn clothes all day?


jules said...

You know Heidi, I can't say that I think of the writer or if it's based on any kind of real life at all. Especially if it's a gripping story line. I just get lost in the book. If it's good, I'll look for other titles from the same author.

And...I vote for barn clothes all day! Yeah!

Heidi the Hick said...

Ok Jules, this is good!

(taking notes...gripping story line...)

Barn clothes all day!!!! Yay!!!!

coffeypot said...

You’re worried that you will offend someone? Well, you have, me.

I’m offended that you can write so well and I can’t.
I’m offended that you look so good and I don’t.
I’m offended that you have a farm to go to and I don’t.
I’m offended that you have horses and I afraid of the Wal Mart horses on the merry-go-round.
I’m offended that you are such a nice person and I’m not.

But just as soon as I get my first cup of coffee this morning I will feel better. So forget what I said. Just don’t read the stuff above, okay?

Biddie said...

I get lost in the story, too. I very seldom wonder whether or not the story is based on his/her real life.
With you, it's different. I will know what's true (or true-ish) and what is made up...I think that I will, anyway.
I vote for the bathrobe, if it's comfy and not stinky. bathrobes rock.

Bonni said...

Hey Heidi, I have to say, I don't usually think of the writer until after I'm done the book. And even that's a recent thing. I think when I was younger, I just read the books, blissfully unaware of the person behind the book. How rude of me. More recently, I find myself checking in to the author, looking for some extra tidbits to tell the kids about because, pathetically, a lot of my reading is to them. At least they're up to wanting to read interesting novels and such now.

Happy editing...

Tod said...

I don't think of the author either. I just get caught up in a good storyline. Of course if I did know the author it would be rude not to second guess wouldn't it?

I vote barn clothes!


Just write it. We'll read it. Nobody worth owt'll get offended.

'Avin a bash meself next year. I'll be pissed of if nobody gets offended!

Heidi the Hick said...

Coffeypot- read what stuff?

Biddie- if I fool you then I will feel like a genius. I don't think I'll be able to fool YOU though...

Tod has permission to second guess.

4 dinners...maybe I should go in with some of your attitude! Not all though. I can't pull off all your attitude!

millhousethecat said...

I always think about the writer, but then, I'm a writer. I like to try to imagine their motivation. And if there is a jacket photo, I try to picture them as a writer. And I always think that the characters are at least loosely based on the people we know or knew. All of mine are in some way...

So I say, stick with barn clothes so I can better see you when I read your first book.

Balloon Pirate said...

Do you mean do I wonder which of the characters are really the author in disguise? Hardly ever. Of course, that may be due in part to what I tend to read, which is speculative fiction and fantasy.

I don't really wonder which of Anansi's two sons is most like Neil Gaiman.

I don't care if Terry Pratchett is more like Sam Vimes, Rincewind, or the Librarian (ook).

I never consider how much of Larry Niven is in Louis Wu or Gil Hamilton.

When I'm reading--actually letting the words seep from the page into my brain--I don't think of the writer at all.

That is, if the writer's done a good job, I don't. If not, I wonder how much the writer got paid to slap out this dreck.

However, I just finished a novel by Larry Doyle, called "I love you Beth Cooper!" and I've mused a bit over which of the protagonists might be more like the Author.

I reccomend the book by the way.


Balloon Pirate said...

Oh, and you should always write in a diaphenous peignoir while wearing combat boots.

It's what I do.


Heidi the Hick said...

Yeah, Pirate, thanks for the visual and the snicker!

I don't have Combat boots though, being a pacifist anabaptist and all. Can I swap for barn boots?

Sherry the Millhousecat- I agree, it must be a writer thing to imagine the author too much. I guess we can't turn it off.

The general idea so far is...if it's really good writing, you know, cuz you can write real good and stuff, then the reader is transported and doesn't think of who wrote it.

That's what I want to be...

IndieFaith said...

Hey Heidi, great space you have here. What really struck me from our conversation was that I do not have characters and story lines running around in my head. So I thought a little, sat down and wrote some stuff that kind of sounded similar to what you said here. Maybe I'll post it over at my blog so you can come visit me too!

I also have increasing fears of eventually publishing stories that flow at least in part from experience (I don't think my current line of work will help the matter:))

Bucky said...

Hi David! I'm on my way over!

(I think this will be a conversation that keeps on going...!)

Heidi the Hick said...

hahaha! OOps!!

That was me up there! Somebody forgot to sign out when he checked his gmail!

Dern kids!

rain said...

I'm in agreement - don't wanna think about the writer, because then the characters become les "themselves". And I vote for the robe - over the barn clothes. Don't want you to catch a chill.

LadyBronco said...

If the story makes me get lost in it, I don't give a fig whether it's based on the writer's life, loosely or otherwise.

And you must stick with barn clothes. You will be happier in them. :0)

Elmo said...

Forgive me. But I had to give you my work...

Y'all Chickenhawks to Me - by Elmo (MP3)

(If you have trouble with the link, right click and "save target as")

her indoors said...

I dont think of the wirter, although i always read about the author in the inside cover, i just read and enjoy, usually read a lot of books by the same writer so hope you going to get lots published, and i vote for barn clothes

Heidi the Hick said...

It looks like, so far, readers are all saying that it's the story that matters.

Except for us writer types who can't get away from it.

Even for fellow writers though, it's the story that matters. A writer's job then, is to make our readers forget us!

Good to know...good to know...

Simply Amethyst said...

If its a realy good book, with an amazing plot, I always am amazed how this could come out of someone's head... I am in awe of great writers!

Kari said...

I vote to go wireless and write IN. THE. BARN. How awesome would that be? Totally, I'd say.

BTW, I miss the heck outta you. I still don't have the net just using my sister's. So, I'll just pop in from time to time.

The Adult in Question said...

I never really wonder about the author and where they get their ideas from. If I liked it I will talk about it for a while and I will read other books by that author, but I have never put much thought into it. I read your book and I never thought to ask which one was you, I guess because I saw shades of you in each character. There isn't onw distinct person that matches you exactly.

Heidi the Hick said...

Well Amethyst, I'm kind of amazed that anything coherent comes out of my head. It's pretty crowded in there...

Kari, I fully intend to WRITE IN THE BARN!! Especially my next project! I don't know if you'll come back to read this but I miss you too and hope you and the family and horses are all well and happy!!!!

KC I'm really glad you made a comment today! You're the only person here who has read it, and only one of three people commenting who knows me in real life! (four including Jethro.) I love it that you saw shades of me in each character. Makes me feel like I accomplished one of my goals.

Ok. More editing! I'm a third of the way through!

Also it's looking like it'll be barn clothes with bathrobe over top. Maybe I should have special barn pajamas in the future.

DINK said...

I`M DONE BLOGGING FOR GOOD MY EMAIL ADDY IS creature-features@hotmail.com

terry said...

i don't think of the writer much, either... unless it's billed as a memoir.

that's not entirely true. i don't think about where the story came from. if it's a good story, i marvel at how it was created, but i don't really worry about whether it was true or not.

unless it's billed as a memoir.

and even then, i don't care much. i just enjoy a good read.

which is why i'm here.

captain corky said...

I love being offended. Hit me with your best shot. I don't think of the author either unless the stuff I'm reading is pure genius.

Heidi the Hick said...

Today I am going to go over the first two chapters to make sure they are awesome as opposed to adequate. Then look out secret agents!

I really appreciate everybody's comments- this is so interesting!