Wednesday, April 8, 2009

You might be a fiction writer, if:

--A friend is telling you her terrible news, and it’s so bizarre that you can barely say the words “I’m so sorry” because you’re concentrating on details in hopes of using this incident in the future. I’ll share my most recent case, but I warn you, I’m going to find a way to use this, so don’t steal my story.

My friend’s car is making strange rattling sounds, so she takes it to the shop. The mechanic opens the hood and finds the engine is filled with acorns. He blows out the nuts and tells her to liberally dust the engine and her driveway with cayenne pepper. But he warns her to avoid the air conditioning coils, or she’ll send cayenne pepper through the system. Another customer's vehicle became a nut burial ground, only he didn’t catch it in time. Squirrels ate through the engine’s wires causing more than $4,000 damage.

Is your imagination beginning to create havoc in a character’s life? Isn’t this great conflict—as long as it isn’t happening to you? Of course, you’re sorry that it’s happening to someone you know. (You’re only glad you heard about it.)

--In a middle of a sermon, you begin to take notes. Not just for your own edification, but for your character's.

--You overhear a catchy bit of dialogue and grab a napkin to record the phrase before you forget it.

--You’re looking at your children, smiling and nodding at what you hope are appropriate places, but your mind is still mulling the scene that you were working on before you were interrupted.

--You hate to waste any conflict, argument or inconvenience in your life. You don’t relish experiencing difficulties, but if you have to go through them, at least let them be useful for your fiction. I’m always thankful that my life isn’t worse; I can always find someone in more difficult circumstances. But I’ve had so much adversity since becoming widowed that I’ve started making a list of conflicts to throw at my characters. Poor darlings. They have no idea what they’re in for!

--You meet someone new and strike up a conversation. When they mention an unusual occupation, you begin to casually interview them.

That’s my list so far. What are the ways that you know you’re a fiction writer?

~Roxanne Sherwood

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