Monday, January 16, 2012

Why Writers Are Off Their Rockers by Emily Casey

Emily Casey is the author of THE FAIRYTALE TRAP, excellent Twitter company, and when of my local writing buddies. Welcome to the blog!

Thanks for letting me write on your blog. I’m really excited to be here! (I love this blog.)

When I tell people I’m a writer, the response I get is usually pretty positive. People think I’m creative and ambitious. I’ve even been called “cerebral” and “literary” before. This is very flattering, but I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut after that. Like George Costanza, I’ve learned to leave on a high note, because it’s all downhill from there.

Because if I open my mouth again, someone’s going to realize the truth: I’m actually insane.

It’s true. By most standards I think many writers are certifiable. Think about it. What do writers do? We sneak off to be alone where we can play in fictional worlds we’ve created. We literally entertain ourselves with figments of our imagination. And that’s not the worst of it.


Have you ever heard a writer talk about their characters? Let me give you an example. The main character in The Fairy Tale Trap is a teenage girl named Ivy. She’s spunky, sarcastic, and I think she’s really funny. But that’s not to say that I’m funny for writing her dialogue. No, no. Ivy came up with that. The words came to my mind as I was writing. I can’t take credit for that.

I’ve talked to my husband about how Ivy has been such a big help to me. “She changed me as a writer,” I’ll say. “I owe her at least a few books. Ivy deserves it.” (My husband, who is very supportive, usually doesn’t reply when I say things like this. Bless him.)

Writers sometimes have conversations WITH their characters, as if they were right there in the room with them. This can be done silently, within the writer’s mind; by writing the conversation out; or yes, even by talking out loud to the non-existent character.

Aside from characters, writers build worlds. Some of us go all-out and develop governments, religions, histories, languages, dialects, new forms of transportation, costumes, and species. Then we try to picture ourselves in these worlds and try to understand what it must be like to live there.

Then there’s plot. This is probably the scariest part of all. Imagine a story where the character gets his way all the time. Everything goes right for him, everything happens exactly as he planned. Sounds boring, right? A good story needs big problems. Cue the craziness.

The first draft of The Fairy Tale Trap, for example, was incredibly dull. During revision, I had a really hard time coming up with ways to shake things up. So I turned to a writer friend of mine. He writes thrillers, so I knew he would know how to bring disaster upon my characters. He gave me an idea that led to a huge problem for Ivy. When I was done, Beast wasn’t friendly any more. He had become a monster inside and out, snarling and snapping and generally trying to kill the other characters. And it was wonderful.

Seriously, if you follow writers on Twitter, you sometimes get some strange tweets. Like:
“I’m killing off a few characters today. It’s a good day.”
or “Let’s see her get out of THIS one.”
or “Dodging bullets, sharks, poison…what am I missing? I know! I’ll take all the oxygen out of the room!”

These are not the tweets of a normal person.

So next time your tempted to have a chat with a writer, consider this: You might not want to dig too deep.



Bonus Giveaway!
Tell us in the comments what fairytale you'd like to be trapped in and one lucky person will get a free copy of THE FAIRYTALE TRAP!

The next stop on Emily's tour is KAT'S BLOG, be sure to stop by!

20 comments:

  1. It was nice reading your comments on writing. Makes one appreciate the fact that they are not the only ones out there that are not understood. It is a real world, however many others are not willing to enter it. Just because they can't or won't does not mean we are wrong in our pursuits. Hope to check out your book..Keep up the good work.

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  2. I'm not sure I'd want to be trapped in any fairy tale. At least not the way I imagine them. They tend to go very dark. But...maybe Snow White as the wicked queen. :D

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  3. I would have to choose Cinderella. We all want to be a princess sometimes. Loved your blog. I have received strange looks from my family when I will say something like, "I can't believe what Charlie did today." Charlie is one of my characters. The family usually just grin and asks what did he do? Yes we are crazy, but crazy people have more fun.

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  4. my friends and family are used to me talking aloud to my characters since i've always talked to myself, but they do have little sympathy when i'm grumpy because my characters are having a row.

    if i had to be trapped in a fairy tale i suppose it wold have to be snegurochka

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  5. Great post. Oh my, I thought everyone had conversations with their characters! *hides* Mine correct me when I get something wrong and talk in different accents. They often look over my shoulder as I write and snort. Let me tell you, that's hard!
    As for fairytales - cause I love them - they're scary as hell! Trap me in Bluebeard and I will run away screaming!

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  6. Thanks, Ric! I appreciate it.

    Sonia: she did seem to live comfortably until she went a little over the edge. :) If I were put in her situation, I think I could be happy without going off the deep end.

    Juanita: Yeah, I don't think non-writers understand that we can surprise ourselves with our own writing.

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  7. iasa: Interesting choice. I'll have to look that one up.

    Chrystalla: Your characters sound pushy! I bet it's great for editing, though.

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  8. iasa: I just looked up snegurochka. It's beautiful, but so sad!

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  9. it is sad story. my grandfather used to tell it to me when i was very young. oddly he was not russian but cherokee, so i don't know where he heard it but i remember he always spoke softly when he told it, as if it was a story for him alone.

    sorry didn't mean to drag you down my memory lane!

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  10. Haha, you didn't. I always like to hear about new fairy tales. You never know which one I'll throw Ivy into next. It would be a challenge for her to save the girl's life, but still be able to love. (I'm not sure if I can pull it off, though.)

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  11. You describe writing so well. S'pose that means I'm nuts too :D
    I just love it when a character takes off and does things all by themselves. Gives me tingles!

    Ivy is a great character and I'm really pleased to see her out there where she gets the recognition she deserves. And you too! :)

    Oh yes. I'd choose to be Gretel in 'Hansel and Gretel' and then I'd get to eat gingerbread and sweets. Mmmmmmmm.

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  12. Sorry, Prue. You're as crazy as the rest of us. Good choice! That fariy tale always triggers my sweet tooth. :)

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  13. Ha! Awesome post! Loved it. Reminds me of one of my favorite anecdotes (you know, crazy writers, and all):

    Doctor: Alright. Everything looks good. Talk to Maureen on your way out and she'll set you up for another checkup in a couple of months.

    Patient: Good, good. Sounds great. Hey, Doc, since I'm here, I was wondering... If I were to take a knife that was, say, serrated along one edge with a hook on the tip that sort of curved toward the other edge, and plunge it into this guy's gut, tearing up to the bottom of his rib-cage, what exactly would it do to the guy? Would his death be quick, or long and painful? Also, would the blood splatter at all, or would it just sort of gush out of him?

    Doctor: *blinks*

    Patient: See, I'm writing a book, and I want to make this scene seem real, you know?

    ANYWAY, if had to choose a fairy tale to be trapped in...I don't know. I did just finish the latest episode of Once Upon a Time, which is one of my newer obsessions, and they're all kind of trapped, themselves. I think it would be cool to be a part of it, but that might be cheating, therefore...

    I've always had a strange love for Grimms' The Princess in Disguise, so I think I'll have to pic that one as my choice, as weird and awkward as that may be.

    Whoops! He-he. Sorry 'bout the babbling.

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  14. Haha, this is definitely how my mind works. Especially the part about bringing trouble down upon my characters. In this one story I'm planning out, I have a dude start falling in love with this girl that he's pretty sure he's going to have to kill in order to cure his mother of a nasty disease. It's wonderful and conflict laden! And then I told my sister about it, and her reaction made me realize for the first time what a horrible person I am to my characters. Heh.

    (not entering the contest because I already have the book :D)

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  15. Kira: I have had conversations like this with a doctor. We were designing the perfect zombie.

    Thea: That's a good sign! Cringe-worthy conflict = win!

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  16. Although you are on the other end of the spectrum, genre-wise, I can definitely relate to the "being nuts" thing. When I had my print book launch a few years ago, I talked about writers being controlled schizophrenics. When interviewed on a radio show, I was asked how i developed my story. I told her I let the characters tell me what to write. I'm not sure she understood, but most writers would. Great post, btw.

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  17. This was great and so true! I remember my first NaNo....the heroine drove me up the wall! But I totally fell in love with the hero. I've had a friend ask me in previous years if I liked anyone, and before I could respond, she added "And no, it cannot be someone from your stories ;D

    Anyway, for me....I'd probably want to get stuck in Bluebeard, or maybe Rumpelstiltskin. Bluebeard would freak me out, but I think my desperation in wanting to get away would keep me going. Rumpelstiltskin would be like being in a mystery novel, which would be awesome!

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  18. Thanks, Dave! Yeah... I've gotten some strange looks.

    Elly, that's awesome. :) It's good to have friends that know us, even if they don't understand. Rumplestiltskin is a good one. I'd freak out if I were the queen, but it all ended well.

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  19. We're all a little crazy when we come down to it. I'm the kind of person who misses characters- and how can you miss someone who never existed? I follow enough author blogs to know they are utterly insane sometimes, but don't they say there is a fine line between insanity and genius?

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