"So, you wrote a book?"
"Yep. I did"
"What's it about?"
"About a woman who gets abducted...wait, it is about a woman who thinks she is crazy...well, she can't sort dreams from reality and..."
And there they stand, rapt in wonderment, as I go through the plot.
Friends and family. Their reactions to my chosen "side profession" as a writer is often off the cuff--knee-jerk, so to speak. This was the last thing that they expected. They didn't birth a writer. They didn't marry a writer...they didn't hire a writer.
But...it is way cool... "Can I read your book?"
The thing is, I don't really travel in any circles that are full of writers. In fact, I can't think of a single person I know (in the real world) who has written a novel. Don't misconstrue what I write here. I don't think it makes me a celebrity at all--It might make me more of a local oddball...or an impractical sort who spends her spare time writing books (that have not been published). lol... I can't help the laughter. The journey has been a hoot, and I am still on my way.
The reaction of friends and family, along with new acquaintances, has been funny. It has been humbling. It has been sweet, It has been encouraging.
People are usually the most interested in knowing where the story came from. How can I explain it? The inspirations are as varied as the people who write stories. But, I try. And I am just as forthright as can be when I tell them that I have no idea. That might be fueling the local oddball thing.
I was timid at first...afraid to have someone read my work. And it wasn't so much about them possibly not liking it--as it was about what they might think about me after they knew I did this--about such an impractical pursuit.
My mom was one of my earliest readers, buoying my sense of self-worth as a wordsmith. She kept journals...a writer at heart, I reckon--if she had ever had the time to do it. So, perhaps, that is where the writing comes from...the compelling need to set down words, to spill a story in my mind onto digital pages in front of me.
Bless her heart, hope she is writing beyond this world right now--or at least reading something she totally enjoys.
I used to visit her and hand her a stack of papers clipped together. That was back in the day before...before...today. Back in the day when I thought I knew what I was doing but had no idea at all. And today...well, I think I know what I am doing, but hold out for the possibility that I might still have no idea. But, that's okay. All part of a writer's journey--as long as we keep on writing, keep on learning... we will get there.
Back to my mom. So, back in the day...before I knew the difference between an alpha reader and a beta reader... she was happy to be an alpha reader without even knowing she was one. She would read the latest chunks of the story. And then...she would critique them for me. Oh, I am smiling hard. It was my post about writing the rituals of death here: that got me thinking about those visits with mom.
She would suggest who should die--and why they should die. :-)
She had one villainous character in book 3, marked for death. I had to explain to her that it must be someone wonderful...someone who--even with their flaws, has captured the reader's hearts.
"Why?" she asked.
I went on to explain--"For maximum emotion, mom. If I kill off someone who the reader despises. Someone they think really deserves it...then, yes, the reader will feel good about it--for about 20 minutes." I know--that twenty minute "guesstimate" might be extremely optimistic--or even truly beyond any grasp of reality.
She listened without arguing. "BUT, if I take out someone the reader is attached to, then wow! An emotional earthquake 7 point 3. Or higher. They will think about it for days..."
She nodded her head, letting me know she knew exactly what I was saying, then went on to tell me that she wanted the villainous character taken out. She didn't care about emotions at stake. He has been mean to the protagonist. He was an even greater threat to the group of people that she liked in the book. So he had to go.
I had so carefully laid down the groundwork, built up the story of the cold, sick, and cruel things he had done; the reader knew what he was capable of. Then suggested after all of this, that he was clinically, mentally ill. Then I had begun to slide in bits and pieces of his tortured childhood.
Mom was having none of it. She didn't like him. He was going to do nothing but bad things in the next two books. He was going to kill some people she liked. "Kill him off...that is my suggestion." were her final words about that.
I recall sitting and talking with an elderly neighbor--an old farm girl. She had asked what was new--what I had been doing with myself. She was over 90. I told her about writing, about the first book I had written. She wanted to know all about it. And as I told her, I could see something in her eyes, lol, something that was trying to ask, "Why aren't you out picking wild blackberries, or weeding your beans and tomatoes or something useful?" Oddball much? Yes...
If that is just part of being a writer, well, I hope that none of it ever changes... Each and every one of us is an oddball in our special way... :-)