Monday, November 5, 2007

You talkin' to me?

Last night I had a speaker-phone chat with a group of readers. One of them asked how I picked the murder victim in my latest book. For a moment, I felt totally baffled. It was really funny. I felt as if I'd been asked, "So, why did you have that particular son?" Uh. well, cause he's the one who showed up?

Sometimes I actually can answer a question like that, because of some conscious choice, but a lot of times it's a funny and fascinating question that I can't even hope to answer, because there's no conscious choice involved at all. So when readers ask me things such as, "Why did character X do that?". . .my answer boils down to, "Because he did." Not very helpful, lol. But when a story feels good, it also feels as if it really must have happened to these people for all the reason things happen to us real people. Sometimes we know why. Sometimes we don't. But things keep happening, nevertheless.

Why did I pick that victim, or any of the other characters?

I kind of think they picked me. "Yo, you. Write about us. Now."

Okay, I say meekly. And listen hard and just type. Or so it seems in hindsight.

Writing is a VERY mysterious way to spend a life. :)


Nancy P said...

It's a mystery to me why I'm still awake. See you in the manana! said...

Oh boy, what a day that was. I REALLY like your thumbnail murder investigation, Far. (BTW, I know who did it ;-)

But what I really enjoyed is this polished example of your technique of coming back to the begining as you end the scene/vignette. Nice touch and most effective.

Into the Wild. I knew Sean Penn would finally get you, Nancy. I think someday in the NEAR future you are going to wake up and say, "Damn, The Pledge really was the best movie that year." LOL.

Off the grid. So many, so many live off the grid. The wanderlust adventurer is a subset, I think. And perhaps the Romantic one. What if this kid, Nancy, hadn't kept a journal?

Whitewater rafting guides, Beth! A friendly little group of American gypsies to be sure.

I worked in an office doing p.r. for ten years out of college. When I quit, I expected the grocery stores to be empty at 10 in the morning. I expected to see no one in the movie theater for the noon shows.

I honestly remember asking msyelf one Thursday morning as I was tooling around town, getting tied up in traffic, trying to find an estate sale, "What are all these people doing not going to work today?"

AndiF said...

Ah but that is such a disappointment to non-writers. We imagine writers as the gods we aren't -- mindfully creating and controlling the universe.

Kimberly Frost said...

Morning, all!

I too am randomly awake.

On the subject of inspiration... one day I was writing along and laughing to myself as yet another silly mishap befell my unprepared protagonist, and I thought where does this stuff come from?

Of course, I still don't have an answer to that question and probably never will. But you know, it's one mystery that I'm not that keen to solve. I rather like that the muse dances in shadows somewhere in the subconscious, providing glimpses now and again of what might be.

Kimberly Frost said...


Your photographs are amazing. Thanks for giving them to Nancy to post so the rest of us can see them.

Kimberly said...

I know so many people who live off the employer-based health-care benefits grid that it seems normal to me. I like the ones who travel best.

When I got into antiques as a way to flip a buck w/o working for a living, I discovered an entire subculture of American gypsies. A lot of con men, and a few crooks.

There is, more or less, a major Antiques flea market every month (not monthly markets, but there are those too) along the likes of Canton Texas and Brimfield Mass.

Everybody sleeps in their cars and vans, their trucks. A few have trailers, some have tents. One show a month eats up a week. The other 3 weeks are buying time. Everyone has a different system of locating and procuring their loot.

One fellow I met was a true dumpster diver. He did okay, btw.

A neighbor of mine sells T-shirts at Nascar and Bush League events.
He told me a story about two little old ladies (his term) who sold pot at these events from a lift-side trailer of otherwise standard souvenir nicknacks. He admired them. The ladies, not the nicknacks.

There are many, many traveling carnivals on the American landscape. Another friend I knew sold aviation books and ephemera at Air Shows, for example.

The fun part of all this is that these events require overnigt stays at the sites. I did Brimfield once and spent three nights sleeping in my car (the seats fold down). The gypsies gather at night. And the theives.

They have their own cowboy stories. It's all stories. Some whiskey, beer and some pot here and there. I enjoyed the evenings best. People like to talk to "their own" whatever their own may be. It was always a good show.

The buying and selling between dealers was also a hoot to watch. The con among cons, you know?

Family Man said...

Morning Nancy and everyone.

I guess to us non-writers it would appear that you have a grand outline of a story and fill in the spots that need it. Instead we find out it's ebb and flow and free association. So instead of an ordered writing existence, you put mystery into it. In other words, how'd she do that. :) said...

Kimberly, Andif, Family man go back to bed!

Here's a thought about choosing characters: I think sometimes it is like choosing friends.

Friends sometimes choose you.

But, really, our characters are like friends. You reach a certain age and you realize all your friends have monstrous personality flaws. LOL.

And you decide, ala chingada, it doesn't matter. They're your friends. They accept your flaws (like overposting to a friendly blog) in return.

Kimberly, every time a character does or says something I don't understand, I recall that my friends in real life do this once in a while too. Gotta let them.

And, Nancy, wouldn't it be wonderful if we actually did choose the perfect characters for our stories? I've never had the luck.

P.S. The people who die in my stories are the lucky ones. :-) Maybe we should choose the character we like best to be the body. said...

it would appear that you have a grand outline of a story and fill in the spots that need it.

Yes, Family Man, and the grand outline is just like the ones we have for our lives when we get out of school. :-)

Remember that first marriage? LOL. said... day I was writing along and laughing to myself as yet another silly mishap befell my unprepared protagonist...

Kimberly, do you talk when you write? Do you laugh?

Has anyone else heard this about writers?

I was on the phone with a friend who lived with a writer. I asked her to ask her roomie a question (I was going to visit and wanted to know if I needed to bring a sleeping bag). My friend said she couldn't ask her roommate anything right now.

She told me her roomie was writing. I said, "How do you know?"

"Because she's in that room by herself talking her ass off."

The same thing happened to me. The bride said she had something important to ask me one day as I was coming out of my room. Her sister had called and she needed to check dates with me for a sister-and-sister vacation they were planning.

I asked The Lovely why she hadn't checked with me while her sister was on the phone.

She said it was because I was working.

"How did you know?"

"Because you were alone in your room talking your ass off."

P.S. For many writers, that's a lot of talking, btw. :-)

AndiF said...

So, Ghost, you want us all to go back to bed so you can have the place all to yourself? Got a poor grade on willingness to share in grade school, did you? ;P

Kim, thank you. It's really is my pleasure to share the woods I'm so lucky to have at my doorstep. And btw, I meant to say a long while back that it's frelling great that you are a Farscape fan! said...

Got a poor grade on willingness to share in grade school, did you?

Yes! But I got over it eventually.

Now, people who know me tend to wear T-shirts when we visit that say, "Please Stop Sharing."

You know writers? We hand strangers our lives and say Take what you want.

Andif, btw, your photos are ALWAYS a visit to a wonderful place!

Family Man said...

Ghost who had an outline when they got out of school? ;)

BTW don't fill Andi's head too full of compliments. We don't want it to explode. :~)

AndiF said...

You know writers? We hand strangers our lives and say Take what you want.

I never think of it like that because I don't assume that what's happening in a book (excepting memoirs and autobiography) tells me anything about the writer's life. I do think it gives me insight to how s/he thinks but I've never thought that would necessarily grant me a view into that person's life. Blogging on the other hand ...

AndiF said...

Don't worry, FM, I know that the kudos really belong to the sunlight and growing things that do all the work. Most of what I do is just to show up and document what's there.

Rick Bylina said...

Yeah, I talk, laugh, yell, mumble, play-act, get-up, get-down, lay down, trip, fall, scream (each is really different), bang on doors, hit counter-tops, throw things (32 tries before I stuck a knife in a tree), throw books (most end up closed and not to a page with a clue about a murder)...yeah, I do all that while writing to, hopefully, create a better story.

But I've never killed randomly, in novels or in life.


Kelly McCullough said...

Good morning all. I'm up far too early (by my standards).

Nancy, funny story. The why questions are killers, but I can usually answer them for characters and plot. I start to go asea when people ask me whys about world building. For those I can manage the how, but why...oy. BTW I got my student's questions organized and will be emailing them your way a bit later this morning.

Ghost, Ren Faires are another of those off the grid places. I did enough of a couple of seasons hitting the circuit to both envy the real circuit riders and decide not to become one of them.

Andi, did you just use writers and gods in the same sentence? Cool, I'm gonna have to get me some worshippers;-)

AndiF said...

Hey Kelly, that's what readers are -- worshippers at the alter of words. And just like all true believers, we think we ought to be able to make you over into our image.

Beth said...

Boy, I'm REALLY late! Morning, all!

I finished WebMage last night, Kelly, and am awed at your world-building. (Not to mention enjoying the story and the characters!) I have enough trouble keeping track of my characters as they stumble through the real world, let alone making up a world AND a story AND characters AND AND AND... I start Cybermancy tonight. And am very excited!

I talk to myself too, but since I live alone, no one else knows. Well, except you, now! I pace and put my head in my hands and curse and laugh and ask myself questions, then get something to eat and sit down and start again. It IS magic, but it takes patience and faith to wait for it to work.

And ditto re andi's pix!

FARfetched said...

I don't usually talk to myself when I'm writing (at least that I'm aware of), except an occasional "What the hell?" when the story makes a sudden swerve onto a two-track woods "road" that I didn't even see until I was careening down it. When that happens, all you can do is hang on and hope you (and the story) are intact when you reach the other end.

But I don't mind the sidetracks too much: even if the bulk of the sidetrack gets whacked in the second draft, they add a depth to the story world that I think carries into the reader's perception. Besides, it might spawn something new later.

Hey Ghost, can you tell me who did the deed? I don't think it was his ex-girlfriend: she lives in Gainesville GA and he drifted north to Michigan after they broke up. (Sometimes, I end up writing a story because *I* want to know how it ends!!!) said...

...we think we ought to be able to make you over into our image.

What a great idea, Andif! Mirrors on the back covers of books instead of author photos.

FARfetched said...

Oh, and Ghost, thanks for the compliment. I didn't even realize that was what I was doing; but there it is, plain as day once someone else points it out. :-D said...

Hey Ghost, can you tell me who did the deed?

No. Just kidding. :-) Sorry. said...

P.S. Far, it's the touch of a master. I am enraptured by writers who bring me back to initial ideas, statements, metaphors. I just like the package done up in a bow, I guess.

I also love refrains in books and for some reason writer's use them far too sparingly. Oh my dear, oh my dear.

boran2 said...

Am I late or early? Gotta go out with the b2 boy and vote on this much needed rainy day in the Hudson Valley, and send the Repugs packing. See y'all later.

katiebird said...

Good Morning, I've been admiring the discussion from afar. I've got some sort of brain-lock and can't think of anything of significance to contribute (except: "WOW, you guys wake up smart!")

But then I realized that I can't get email updates without saying SOMETHING. So, here I am in all my tongue-tied splendor.

Jen said...

that's what readers are -- worshippers at the alter of words

Brilliant. Typo or intentional?

Beth said...

LOL, Jen. Good catch!

Nancy P said...

It WAS a day, Ghost! I loved it. And you guys are going strong already this morning. "Already?" Okay, so I'm moving slow. :)

I remember how weird day-life felt, too, ghost, when I started freelancing. At that time, it was almost entirely a world of women.

Got to read more. See you after reading more comments w/coffee.


Nancy P said...

Ghost, yeah, and more so all the time. About friends/characters. On this book I"m working on, probably the most stubborn problem is that I originally wrote a really shocking and violent scene that was to be the heart of it. My editor and all of her editors loved it. My friend who read it (Sally) can't forget it (for better or worse.) It's really good IIDSSM.

And. . .I can't stand to spend months of my life with people who would do things like what happens in it! Joke's on me! It's fine for a short story or a scene, but not in a book where it affects the whole dark tone. It's why I wrote Virgin and didn't continue my crime writer series--I just want to spend the bulk of my time with nice people. Even in my writing, apparently. Nice is supposed to be boring, but nice is. . .really nice.

Nancy P said...

Randy. . .a book or even a series of books about Off the Grid people, like the ones you describe? I'd read that. It could be entertaining and practical--how they do it, what the struggles are, what the amusements are.

Nancy P said...

"WOW, you guys wake up smart!")

Lol, Kb! They really do!

Hi, Rick, Andi, Family Man, Kim, Jen, Beth, Far, Kelly, I love you guys. It's mornings like this (and days like yesterday) when I want to be sitting at that corner table with you, in person, gabbing and laughing and interrupting and philosophizing, and exclaiming, and. . .

AndiF said...


My subconscious is wickedly witty and knew that the ambiguity would be appreciated. ;P

FARfetched said...

I guess y'all have seen the Writers Guild of America has gone on strike in Hollywood. Those guys and gals pretty much live on residuals; as DVD sales make up a bigger piece of the pie, they're asking for (among other things) a royalty increase from 4 cents to 8 cents per DVD. The studios are flat refusing to budge on the DVD issue though.

It occurs to me that, as writers, we can support our cousins in Hollywood (and elsewhere) by turning off our TVs until the strike is settled. I know that's difficult for a lot of people, and I rarely watch TV anyway, but doing it (and letting the AMPTP know about it) might help — if studios lose their audience, they're toast.

Let 'em know:

Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers
15503 Ventura Boulevard
Encino, CA 91436


Contact form

If we could get them 1000 letters, they will interpret that as a million lost viewers and I think there will be some rapid action. Despite the rhetoric of the AMPTP about "wealthy writers," the vast majority of WGA members earn less per year than I do as a technical writer.

Spread the word around. I'm going to.

Beth said...

I think we'd have so much fun they'd kick us out of the restaurant out of extreme jealousy, Nancy!

Boy, hard place to be re living that long with people you don't really like. I struggle to make characters sinister, because I want everyone to be happy and nice to each other...but I know that doesn't make for good fiction. How about putting the faces of people you don't like in the real world on them, then you'll feel better about killing them off, or whatever!? :-)

Nancy P said...

Beth, that's a lovely idea, lol! I know just who. . . .

And Far, I think that's a terrific idea. Writer Solidarity. But can I read about who gets kicked off Dancing With the Stars tonight? :)

Nancy P said...

Far, okay if I frontpage your suggestion tomorrow?

Nancy P said...

I just sent in my comment on that form, Far. I kept it simple, "I'm turnin off my tv while the strike is on, in support of the writers." And then--since it's a form for asking for contact from them, I said, "No need to contact me."

Thanks a lot for this idea. I was wondering if I should put down my pen in support, but why should they care if I do that? Turning off my tv--and I DO watch a lot of tv--goes for their pocketbook.

FARfetched said...

Nancy (and everyone else) by all means frontpage it! I'm going to put it on my tech writing rants blog on Yahoo and point my Techcomm buddies to it as well.

Mrs. Fetched pointed out that not buying DVDs is also important.

Nancy P said...

I was just thinking about DVDs, far. That's no sacrifice for me, though, because I can't even remember the last time I watched one. But I really do like teevee, so I'll feel a wee pinch when I can't watch my favs--which is nothing like the hit the teevee writers are going to be feeling if this goes on for very long. I hope your idea spreads to the Big Boy Blogs and the Big Girl Blogs.

Kelly McCullough said...

Far, ghost, I love that circle structure in storytelling. The prevalence of it in Western is one of the few things that I enjoy about them. The young-gunslinger confronting the old and then moving through time and space to become the old himself in turn confronted by the young can be surprisingly moving.

Beth, glad you enjoyed WebMage so much. It was great fun to write, and I love it when others get some of that fun back out of the end product.

Andi, I'll give you worshippers of words, but I think that probably makes writers more like priests than gods, in that we make a living by selling the masses on words rearranged in our own way.

Jen, great catch on alter. Love the typo and the notice of it.

Far, I'll try to get a letter written, though I'll have to finesse it since our TV's been off since 1997 or so.

I love hanging out with smart people. It's always such a joy. Gotta go chip away at the book for a while. Hope everyone has a wonderful day. said...

Sent to AMPF.... etc

"Message re: DVD Rental / Writers Strike

I will neither rent nor buy another DVD until the writers strike is settled. I will avoid Cable on Demand Movies as well."

Nancy P said...

I love the circle structure, too. It's so satisfying both to read and to write.

Hey, y'all. Check out Kimberly's blog. She has gone to the considerable effort of posting a wonderful set of book recommendations for holiday giving and reading. And I'm not just mentioning this because Virgin is one of them. :)

Kimberly Frost said...


Thanks for sharing the address on where to write to support the Hollywood writers. I was just watching some video of them last night and wondering where I could send a letter.

I don't normally talk (or laugh out loud) when I write, but every once in a while...

I'll tell you guys who talks to himself all the time is John "Jano" Getze. A group of us were together at a writing retreat and I was up early and I could hear him talking to himself/narrating. It's was frelling hilarious.

Nancy P said...

Costco is calling to me. Naaanncccyyyy, Naaannnccyyy. . .

See you later, agitators.

Kelly McCullough said...

Nancy, just a quick stop by to let you know I sent two more questions your way--writer procrastinators...there's a surprise. Do with them what you will.

FARfetched said...

Oh... you might want to also email supportive messages to -- I did.

Nancy P said...

Excellent idea, far. Will do. I'll post the whole thing tomorrow.

Back from Costco, off to library.

Everybody else working hard? Except you, Family Man? You do know that we're on to you and how you hide an awful lot of actual labor behind the claim of slacking. :)

Beth said...

Back to my word count - 504 and counting! Having a hard time getting back into the real world, although it's great to be writing again. Seems to have improved my mood. Or maybe that was the chocolate... :-)

Enjoy the library, Nancy! I have Costco envy - let my membership expire since the nearest one's an hour away. I'll rejoin when I get to Denver. Til then, I'll do vicarious Costco trips through you!

Family Man said...

Costco? Did I hear someone say Costco? Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! I want to go!

OK Nancy what did you get? Anymore of those mouthful morsels you were talking about?

Slacking - Of course I slack a lot. I have an image to keep up. ;)

Its been a busy day here on the blog today. I love it too when everyone is dropping in.

Nancy P said...

We Heart Costco around here, lol.

Okay, I'll say what I got, but this is pretty exciting so you all may want to grab your heart medicine first:

Trash bags
Hearing aid batteries for mom
Tiny iced pumpkin cakes for mom to take to an event tomorrow.
And, ta da!, frozen edame pods for snacking.

Beth said...

Edamame, yum!! Okay, the pumpkin cakes are definitely yum, too, but in the spirit of trying to be diet-conscious, I'm focusing on the protein-rich choice.

But secretly wishing I was going to Mom's event! :-)

Nancy P said...

I'll report back on the pumpkin cakes, if she comes back with any. Hope hope hope. They're actually not so much iced as they are infused with cream cheese in the center.

I should tell my mom we need to test them. Wouldn't want her to be embarrassed by taking bad food, right?

Family Man said...

Pumpkin cakes with cream cheese! You've got to try them and report back. I would say 6 or 12 would be a good number to test. You've got to be through on these things.

katiebird said...


Do I ACTUALLY have to give up TV?

(hanging head)

I can't.

For one thing, Amazing Race just started.

I could lie though.

Beth said...

It'd be one of those white lies for a good cause, katiebird. And we won't tell on you! :-)

Family Man said...

KB I was thinking about you today. I hope the dental appointment went well.

As far as the TV -- what Beth said. :)

Beth said...

Holy cow - this must be a record - 57 comments! (Soon to be 58.)

How DID the dentist go, kb?? I hope he fixed what he broke the first time...

katiebird said...

Hi Beth and FamilyMan,

Thanks for the forgiveness for my TV addiction.

AND Oh. The Dentist.

I had the last half of my root canal today. And it hurts. But, it's supposedly done.

I guess everything is fixed.

I'm hoping it really is. As I was lying around this afternoon, I realized that beginning exactly a year ago, I got a sinus infection that lasted 3 months. And almost as soon as that cleared up, 3 fillings broke in my mouth.

So for a solid year, I've been sick.

Maybe that's why it's hard for me to believe it's all fixed.

Beth said...

No kidding, kb! I hope it's finally done. What a year you've had. Hopefully the coming one is a lot better, both health-wise and everything else-wise. Hugs.

katiebird said...

Hugs back, Beth.

I'm really hoping that once I'm over this R-C, I can REALLY get into blogging.

I've done way too much lurking lately.

(60 comments and so few from me!)

Beth said...

We can trade places - I need to lurk more and comment less! There's a reason they called me Mouth in high school - though luckily I've gotten quieter in recent years. And now my nicknames are a lot nicer! :-)

Nancy P said...

lol, kb! You have to keep watching so I'll know what happens on AR. Damn!

I hope you have a MUCH healthier year in '08!

Nancy P said...

I just rewrote my 4th. . .can you believe that?. . .4th short story of the past two weeks.

A friend gave me this idea for the start of a story: "When she stopped watching television, she noticed that. . . "

She noticed she was married? She had kids? lol.

Beth said...

WOW! I've been discussing short stories recently with other writers. Never have written them, but am wondering if I should play with them a little, to learn how to be concise. I just have a hard time shifting gears...

Congrats, Nancy! Interesting timing, with today's discussion of the strike.

katiebird said...

We even TAPPED it so I can watch that first episode again!

NANCY!! 4 stories in 2 weeks!! Is that a record? I think it's wonderful.

I like that idea, but it would never happen to me. :)

Nancy P said...

I just noticed that Blogger has a scheduled outage at 11 p.m. est tonight. For maintenance, I guess. So if you have trouble getting on this or other blogs, that will be the reason, probably. They'll be quick as they can be, I'd think.

Nancy P said...

Yeah, I think it must be a record for me. Hey, I'm desperate to avoid thinking about my novel, lol.

It's only 7 p.m.??

I could go to sleep right now.

Beth said...

I'm getting ready to write a scene where a father kills his daughter. Maybe NOW would be a good time for me to start writing short stories too! Argh.

FARfetched said...

{{{KB}}} Hey, the year hasn't been a complete bust… even with all the stuff you've gone through, you've lost a bunch of weight, right? You'll be healthier next year and in position to reach your goal weight! (If you turned off the TV you'd have more time to walk, nyuk nyuk!!!)

Beth, I thought *I* was the mouth here! Father killing daughter? Sucks to write stuff like that, I'll bet. Short stories have a lot to offer — like you said, being concise is a good skill to have, even for a novelist. Sometimes, a short story will lead to a novel, or vice versa. I've never knocked out 4 shorts in 2 weeks though, unless FAR Future episodes count.

…speaking of which, Episode 13 is waiting. :-)

I'm hoping my bud Carnacki shows up here tomorrow; his muse needs a nudge and I think you guys are the bunch to do the nudging.

Nancy P said...

I don't envy you having to write that, Beth, except that it sounds like a great stretch for a writer.

Good look with 13, far.

Ghost, if you're still around, I laughed at your mention of The Pledge. Lol, indeed!

Nancy P said...

p.s. far, it would be great to have Carnacki drop by. He's one talented fellow, even if he may not be feeling so right now.

My muse seems only to want to write short. I sure wish she (?) would get interested in a certain novel again.

G'night, all. It's been another great day. Keep talking as long as you want to, but I'm bound for a book and for bed.

katiebird said...

Oh, FAR -- yes in many, many ways it's been a very good year. For all the reasons you said.

PLUS the burst of Friendship-Fellowship on all our blogs.

It was very different a year ago. I think Nancy's blog changed everything. said...


A friend gave me this idea for the start of a story: When she stopped watching television, she noticed that. . . "

She noticed she was married?

Perfect. & too fun too, Nancita!

I also like the converse of this one. (Nancy's brain played backwards:) "She noticed she wasn't married." said...

OMG, Beth!

A father killing his daughter.

You make it sound intentional. Is that the case?

Beth said...

Yes it is, ghost. Although I don't know why he's done it yet. He has secrets he's been keeping from me, too. said...

He has secrets he's been keeping from me, too.

Beth, bring out the thumb screws and make that fkr talk!

Beth said...

Can I borrow your thumbscrews, ghost? There are a few people hiding secrets, and they REFUSE to tell me what they are. I'm 3/4 of the way through the mss, and still don't have a clue what they're hiding. Maybe I'm being too nice...whips and chains ready!

FARfetched said...

Whoa Beth, it sounds like you're building toward one intense ending with that one!

Beth said...

I sure hope so!! As soon as I figure out what it is, I'll let you know. :-) Darn organic writers...