Tuesday, July 04, 2017

How a made-up person can infect a writer’s life

by Rick Blechta

My novel-in-progress (for far too long with not enough progress) is beginning to send out some scary tendrils into my life away from writing. The problem is all down to the main character’s influence.

I’ve never written somebody who’s quite the way he is: highly intelligent, erudite, a complete bookworm, and a person who has always marched to the beat of his own inner drum. It’s been a challenge to get to know him well enough to write his part convincingly (there’s a lot in the book that will have to be fixed when I go back to revise), but I now feel I’m winning the battle.

Trouble is, he’s reaching out and manipulating my life in unexpected ways.

First of all, his words reflect an impressive knowledge of the rules of grammar. He speaks the way the rules state he should which often makes his half of a dialogue sound stiff, formal — and just wrong, because of the way the general rules of good grammar are ignored most of the time. It’s giving me fits to get it correct (because it ain’t gonna be effective if I blow things with errors.

The problem is that I’m beginning to speak that way myself. Good grammar is important, but it lends one’s words a certain stiffness — or should I say snootiness — if it’s used in day-to-day chatting. More than once recently I’ve watched people to whom I’m speaking (see?) either get a glazed or stony look as I'm speaking to them. Finally, my wife pointed out that it’s the way I’m putting words together.

I’ve always been very impressionable when reading. One time my wife was reading a few chapters upon which I wanted her opinion (there I go again!).

After finishing, she looked me squarely in the eye and said, “You’ve been reading Rex Stout, haven’t you?”

“Yes. I read a couple of short stories the other night when I couldn’t sleep. Why do you ask?”

“Because your main character is suddenly speaking just like Archie Goodwyn!”

So it’s not as if this influence from my “invisible friends” hasn’t happened before. It’s just that this time it’s far more pervasive. The real issue is I’ve still got a long way to go on this book, so I’m going to have to be more aware of the way I’m speaking. I figure by the end, people will be sidling away from me or turning their backs when they see me coming.

And this is supposed to be the start of a series!


Irene Bennett Brown said...

A funny, wonderful, but yeah, scary, post! Loved it.

Rick Blechta said...

Thank you very much, Irene. I'm really glad you enjoyed it!

Donis Casey said...

I'm very much influenced by my reading, and by my own writing, too! My problem is that my accent is affected when I write about country people. Which is worse, to seem snooty or to seem hick-like?

Rick Blechta said...

Hmmm... That's a puzzler, Donis. I guess it depends with whom you're hanging around most of the time.