You Too Can Be a Writer’s Hero

The other night, on the evilness that is Facebook, I wound up chatting with a friend that I haven’t seen in months. (I’m pretty sure the chatting was cutting into his writing time, but he didn’t complain.) Adam exudes the impression that he writes pretty consistantly and doesn’t whine about not finishing something on time and doesn’t sweat it too much, where as I have been having difficulty with this short story that I need (okay, want) to finish fairly quickly–and thus was whining about it.

We were both ‘writing’ right there around midnight and I’m not managing to actually write a word. Which is why I was annoyingly chatting with whoever might be up…poor guy. But he was up to the challenge of being the Writer’s Hero. How does one become a Writer’s Hero?

By recognizing a writer who is struggling and getting them to shut up and do the damn work.

Phase 1 of the Jenny Intervention: The Race
When he says “Race you to 500 words.” I can’t back down–I have writerly face to save.

Now, he could’ve been just trying to get me to leave him alone for a couple minutes and I do not hold that against him. However, it had this blissful side effect of me being held accountable for work that I had not produced yet. Which meant that I didn’t care what I wrote. So I hashed out what’s gonna be two scenes in that troublesome short story.

He claimed to be finished first. I called him a liar because I was only at 300 words. He recounted, recanted, and we went off again. Then I said I was finished. Basically, he let me win and finish what I’d hastily started.

Phase 2 of the Jenny Intervention: The Quiz
So now it’s pretty late. We start talking about life and then we talk about the short story directly. Adam says “Let’s talk it out.” The he starts bombarding me with question after question. The questions are about the character and the story so I start thinking about it that way. He throws in questions about physical sensations, the senses, and thought process. But throughout there are also questions that seem directed at me personally and my brain starts going all loopy–like I’m the one being psychoanalyzed. So now I don’t want to answer on a Facebook chat, ya know? He must’ve noticed my hesitation (and perhaps one of my sarcastic answers…my fall back when I get all mixed up) because he asked if this was helping.

Yes, it helped but I don’t think it worked the way he meant for it to work. But it worked. I wasn’t close enough to the work and I realized it right then. Realization: If someone quizzes me about what a character is thinking or feeling, I should always feel like I’m the one being bombarded. It means I’m dealing with something I care about. Suddenly I was invested in what happened. I don’t think Adam meant for that particular outcome, it might’ve been more a ‘characterazation-y’ exercise than what it wound up being.

Perhaps we do this quiz instinctively with the writers we work with. I know that I’ve quizzed Ali and Deb at times, inserting issues that I knew were personal. Because deep down I think that the biographical critiques of work have some merit. Not with the facts of life, but the emotions of life. We will (or should) always write about what truly makes us feel.

The Result of the Writer’s Hero Intervention: Interesting Stuff.
I’m working on the short story.

Now that we’ve heard about Adam’s Writer’s Hero Moment for me…who has worked the same magic for you? Who went out of the way, when they were busy, and helped you. It can’t be “Everyone in my group supports me…blah, blah, blah.” Name a person. And thank them.

Thanks, Adam.

Adam Ali Deb short stories What I'm Working On

jenny maloney View All →

Jenny writes dark fiction that her mother hates. Her stories and essays have appeared in Across the Margin, Pantheon, Shimmer, Black Denim Lit, Skive, and others. When she’s not writing her own stuff, she’s reading mysteries for Criminal Element. When she’s not writing fiction or reviews, she’s writing/directing/performing/designing plays at Springs Ensemble Theatre.

3 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Well, obviously, all y'all.

    But I'll go back to my own online chat 12-31-99, which many of you have heard about. Courtney was in film school at the time.

    I said, “I admire people who go after their dreams.”

    She responded with, “What's your dream?”

    Of course, I said, “Writing.”

    “So what's stopping you?”

    Thanks, Courtney.

  2. Ok, I'm going to give props to John for taking me on in that contest a while back. I've been thinking about it lately, and about how focused and productive I was, knowing that I had someone I was trying to beat.

    It was exhausting, to be sure, but I was really pleased with the results because I not only hit my goal, I almost doubled it. All because it was a race.

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