Juxtapositions: Crazy Like A Walrus

And nothing else matters.


Doubtless, four of five of you out there in Jux land have wondered at some point why so many writers go bat-fuck insane. I am here to tell you!

In the world of acting, there are two main “schools”. There’s technical acting, where the person creates what I like to call synthetic emotion from whole cloth. This is what I did when I was acting. This is what I do in the vast majority of my writing. For everyday, tiny things, this is a perfectly acceptable way of generating feeling in a story, as for mundane events you hardly have to dredge up a depth of feeling. This also is the only way you can imagine the reactions of people in situations very, very far removed from reality.

Then there’s method acting. This is where you use an experience in your past to help you create the emotion you’re after on the stage. This can also be used when you’re putting words on the page, something most people are unaware that writers ever do. When I need something to be exactingly emotionally accurate, at its very best, then that’s when I, and from reading I’m assuming most other writers as well, turn to my own past. When you read about a part of the author going into each of his characters, this is it.

So now you’re wondering how the hell I’m going to tie this into insanity. It’s simple, really. Allow me to give an example.

I’m now once again working on my second novel, which is a much more complex affair than my first, at least as fair as the writing goes. Without tossing out too much of the plot, let’s just say that there are a few painful relationships going on that end up being at the heart of damn near everything in the story. To help me create what is possibly the most important of these from a story perspective, I had to turn back to my memories and experiences with Rebecca Traylor, who best fit in my life the sort of thing I was going for. It wasn’t a very good fit, but it would have to do.

Whenever I think about how describe a scene between the two characters in this relationship, I imagine how I would have felt if I was in the character’s shoes, and this had happened between me and Rebecca in, say, 2001. Then I interpret what that would have been through the character’s personality rather than my own. In a weird way, it’s like I spend every day that I work on this novel (and have a scene involving these two characters) with Rebecca; someone I actually see only once a year or so now.

The consequences of this are humorous. I keep thinking I see Rebecca everywhere. The sensation only lasts a second or two, but it’s quite jarring. I can only imagine what happens to the poor fantasy authors after awhile. Starting to understand why so many authors drink?

Okay, me either. I just thought it was a weird phenomenon to write about. And this isn’t the first time I’ve gone through something like this, either. When I was writing my first novel, the character of Elisabeth went through periods of being Ryann Frye, Rebecca again, and finally Vivian Rath, depending on which draft we’re talking about. That one took years to write as well, which explains that…I think. Point to a year, and I can easily tell you who I was using. (For the curious: 2001 was Ryann and Rebecca, 2002 was Rebecca, and from then on Vivian.) Although, in Elisabeth’s case, I never had to use this method very much at all, whereas I now find myself having to do it for practically every scene. Again, this is because of how much more complex this story is to write, despite being a more straightforward narrative.

One day, I will use this principle to get my very own walrus.

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