Thursday, October 11, 2007

Things You Shouldn't Do Near Writers, Part the Many

While it might decrease the fodder for our novels, I'm beginning to think writers should wear some sort of identifying mark on their foreheads to keep people from acting in ways that are just begging to be put into their next novel. Lots of folks don't like finding themselves doing something stupid in print, even if the names have been changed to protect the idiotic.

For example, my mother was recently in the hospital (she's out now; fun with ulcers!), and I had to take her something outside of visiting hours. I went through the emergency entrance, and was promptly required to sign in (I'm pretty sure she checked my ID, but can't remember). I got a badge that said "VISITOR" and the day's date, but, while there was a space for it and the lady knew exactly where I was going because I had told her, not my destination. I then proceeded to wander through the guts of the ER nurses station, trying to navigate my way into the main hospital and patient rooms. A kind nurse pointed me in the right direction. I passed another nurse on my way through the halls, and then walked right by two more nurses at a station in the patient area who didn't appear busy. I passed one more nurse deep in the patient hall before arriving at my mother's room. I smiled pleasantly at everyone and looked them in the eye, giving each one of them a chance to stop and confirm what I was doing there where I wasn't supposed to be. I'm not a mystery or thriller writer, but even I couldn't help but think of all the ways such a system could be manipulated for an antagonist's nefarious purposes.

My next example is much more bold as the person in question knew for a certainty that I was a writer. But it's also a trickier situation. I'm pretty sure he tried to proposition me for an affair. Why am I not certain? Well, I'm seven years removed from the meat market, so I could be rusty on interpreting "interested male" signals that aren't coming from Mark. And it's not like he said anything conclusive. But he did go out of his way to engage me in a conversation (we were in a large group setting and he had no reason to chat with me in particular over the several folks around him). Also, when I shook his hand in greeting, he slid his index finger up to the pulsepoint of my wrist. He also had that lean-in-close, keep eye contact, and smile with 1000 watts thing going throughout our conversation, which I kept centered on our respective families, just in case I was being hit on.

Let's say he was trying to start something. This just makes the writer in me go friggin' nuts, all because of one question: why? What sort of married person solicits another for an affair? Is he from an open marriage? Is he a compulsive adulterer? Was he bored? It was a convention-type setting were most folks were from out of town, so maybe he just didn't want to be lonely in the hotel that night? Maybe it was a sting operation, and I would've ended up on some warped Dateline special with my face all blurred and my voice distorted as part of an expose on the state of marriage in the US.

Going in the Mary Sue/Glittery HooHa direction, maybe I'm just that hot and fascinating that he couldn't resist. Or maybe we knew each other back in high school or something and I never noticed him then and he's always had a crush on me.

OK, I can't stop laughing at those last two. I stopped writing wish fulfillment stories in college. Hell, when it didn't take long to recognize that Denise in HD was quite clearly me, I tried to kill her off right away. Tried, but she separated herself enough from me and got very insistent that the story needed her. I don't quite believer her, which is yet another reason why I've set that novel aside in a nice deep, dark drawer.

Anyway, people, you've got to be aware how much a writer will put you under a microscope to figure out what makes you tick, why you did something. We'll engage in armchair psychoanalysis before you can blink. We'll also scrutinize just about any venue and event for a means of exploitation, for an opportunity to really jump start the conflict and make a story of the situation. Be careful what you do around us unless you don't mind seeing how we take the truth of what we see and dig for interpretations you might not like.

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