People Pleasing, and why I won’t do it

To start with, I have never been a fan of being a “people pleaser.” Catering to the desires of others – especially desires of what they think I should be, do, or say – has never appealed to me on any level. It’s fake. It’s awful. It’s atrocious. I am who I am, and no one can change that. What does this have to do with writing? Let me open a few cans of worms.

1. I can’t stand the idea of writing to reach a specific audience. Will young millenials – a term I utterly despise – sit themselves down long enough to enjoy anything I write? To quote whatshisname from Gone with the Wind, “Quite frankly… I don’t give a damn.”* I don’t write for anyone in particular. I just write, because I can’t not write.

2. Writing contests make my skin crawl. I like the idea of getting money for writing, but I turn into a Nervous Nelly at the thought of the requirements. Wordcount limits, required subject matter, etc., and then there’s the possibility that I might not have rights to the piece after they get ahold of it… I’ll put it this way – Most of what I write feels like a child I’ve raised from birth. If I no longer have the rights to do with it what I please (even a short piece), it limits me considerably. Oftentimes, short excerpts that have nothing to do with anything else sneak their way into longer writings – usually months or even years down the road (and, in some cases, decades).

3. I hate unsolicited line edits. Yes, I hate them. Receiving them is like dressing up in something really pretty, then having someone point out a zit on your face. I know my work is not perfect. If I want deep criticism and word choice advice, I’ll ask for it. In the meantime, get over it. Of course, if I have something utterly silly like “the the” in there, please point it out.

4. My characters are who they are. I don’t necessarily control them. They will fly off the handle, say off the wall stuff, chase after squirrels,** and get flustered when they have to walk through a room full of spiderwebs. I can try to change who they are and what they do, but when I do that, it brings about the biggest writers’ blocks I’ve ever had to deal with.

5. I don’t care about tropes or about avoiding them. If I tried to make sure I wasn’t writing something that had already been written before, I’d be lying to myself. As Solomon once wrote, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Until you get this, you will forever be looking over your shoulder for the Trope Police. Just write the thing. Worry about originality later –– much later.

6. Never ask me to write anything specific. Just don’t. It’s another pet peeve, another writing block, etc. Also, do not ask me to copy anyone else in any way, shape, or form. I will glare at you, and possibly write you into one of my stories –– which could be good or bad.

7. Don’t be surprised if you ask me what I’m writing and I don’t have an answer. I should, I know, but I often have no way to put it into coherent language. I just write. Period.

8. Please, please, please don’t try to “ship” any of my characters (aka – hook them up). I will immediately stop sharing my writing with you, or kill one of them off just to spite you. Seriously. Just don’t do it. It’s tacky and annoying. Keep your shipping suggestions to yourself, and everyone will stay happy. Who knows? I might already have plans for it, and just don’t want you to know.***

9. I follow the characters I choose to follow (or rather, the ones who drag me into their lives). Some of the others just don’t open up to me. If you have issue with that, I’m not apologizing. You’re not writing the story –– I am.

10. I don’t care what Freud or any other psychologist, phsychotherapist, etc., has to say about this behaviour or that. Don’t get too analytical. It totally turns me off. And remember: There is no way I’d ever take Freud seriously. Ever.

All that to say: Don’t crimp my style, and let your criticism be truly constructive. Drop all expectations, and get to know my work before you rip it to shreds –– and I will do the same for you, should you trust me to read your writing. I will find as much good in it as I can. It is, after all, like your own child. You can’t say to a mother, “Your child is ugly.”**** It’s just plain rude.

Thanks for letting me get all that off my chest… Hope I didn’t scare you off. 😉

*Probably the only detail from that film that I actually loved. Apologies to anyone who loves that movie – it’s simply not my favorite.

**This only happened once in my writing, and there were mitigating circumstances.

***There is one exception to this: If you are my writing buddy, and have read a substantial amount of my work, you are allowed to make such suggestions. Otherwise, don’t bother.

****I mean, you can, but I don’t recommend it.


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Shifting the Plot (drastically)

If you’ve been following Salon Auteur’s blog for the past couple of years (It’s been around that long???), you might remember when I wrote this. Well… Nearly two years later, I have an update.

See, I was originally hesitant to kill off or otherwise nearly destroy the main character. However, I hit a major block later on down the road, and I just couldn’t seem to add to the story. It just didn’t seem… right. So what did I do? I went back into the Outtakes file (yes, there is an Outtakes file on my computer) and read through the rejected scenes… and I found that they were truer to the plot than what I’d added in. After all, to have the villain die so early seemed a little… too convenient (even if it did reveal a lot about his allies). Yes, there were others to take his place, but it totally wrecked the plot. He was the only convincing bad guy in the whole story, aside from the one who already got killed off. So I took the outtakes, tweaked them until I liked them better, and sifted them back in…. then proceeded to rewrite the scenes following them — and leading up to them. I’m still in that process, and I’m having to remind myself of the history of Marda so that I can get it all straightened out… But there’s still problems.

The story feels dry. Seriously. It has its moments of “greatness,” but in general, it’s lacking. The characters don’t have the same camaraderie (friendly or otherwise) as other generations of characters in the Mardan Tales. The settings are vague, at best. The pirates seem a lot more skilled and dangerous than they should — without explanation. I mean, really. The captains all argue over who’s the top guy, yet they manage to overtake the larger part of the kingdom of Ebenswy? What’s unifying them? Why aren’t there more assassinations or attempts? And why is Ebenswy itself so… blah? Why is it so hard to write a story based hundreds of years before the stories you’ve written before? Why do I just want to scrap this whole thing and forget it ever existed — yet at the same time, I want to save every bit of it that I can? Perhaps I’m just complaining and should just write…

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Is this brilliance or madness?

It’s April. Camp NaNoWriMo is in full swing – or rather, is nearly at an end. The wordcount goal I chose is 10,000 words. Easy, right? Ha! Once again, the obstacles of a busy schedule, random mishaps, and lack of ideas put me behind my goals by about 3,000+ words on a nearly consistent basis this month (which has almost been remedied by now). However, with a little encouragement from the NaNoForums (since I’m taking a break from FaceBook), I’ve pressed on anyway.

In looking at most of my writings, the plot tends to ramble, even when I do plan ahead (which I haven’t been doing). My current project is no exception. [Readers, please forgive the ramble ahead, but it must happen.] I am continuing the story I was working on the last time I posted here. The role of “villain” has already changed hands at least twice, if not more. The races of my made up world have come into view more clearly, and so has the tension between them. It’s much more than, “We’ve been fighting for so long that we’ve forgotten why” (which is often my excuse for longterm conflicts). There are deep-seated Reasons behind these things, and it causes Serious Problems for my protagonist – and this was totally not what I was going to write about…

See, at first, there was just the one villain. His reason for being a villain was that he was acting on instinct, because he was of a predatory race that hunted my protagonist’s kind. The main character’s love interest is of yet another race – more like humanity during European medieval times, and completely lacking in any “magical” (for lack of a better word) abilities. Oh, and did I mention that I still don’t have it figured out how they all met? Yeah… Go, Gwen! [Let the sarcastic cheering ensue!] Anyway…

Love interest was [magically] turned to the Dark Side, and joined the hunter. Protagonist ran off into the woods – her people love trees, and this is a major plot point – and discovered people of her kind who were ancient (really ancient!), and they taught her more about who she really is. Things came to a head, and she ran off to find help from some of the eldest of her kind. She was given a Quest, and during that Quest, push came to shove, and she wound up almost back where she’d started, trapped by her love interest and the villain. And then… a new villain presented himself from her supposed allies, and switched things around again. The original villain freed her love interest, giving up his own life (it’s complicated, I tell ya’!), the new villain was subdued, and protagonist and love interest limped along to where his people live (after much back and forth dialogue – “That’s a bad idea.” “No, it’s not.” “Yes, it is.” “I don’t care.” “Fine!” etc., etc.). Of course, events confirmed that it was a Drastically Bad Idea. Love interest’s people turn on them and considered protagonist something of a Bad Person – especially when yet another person of her race caused issues and made it look like our protagonists were guilty (I have to admit, at this point, that there’s actually two protagonists). They managed to escape, but where to?

Well, main character had previously said it would be a Really, Really Bad Idea to go to her people. I can’t, of course, hint at something like that without actually going there, so what will happen next? They’ll go there. Obviously. There will be the obligatory challenge against her love interest, and perhaps he’ll prove himself worthy of her hand. I don’t know for sure. However, I know there will certainly be Trouble (which reminds me of a song by Horslips). After that… Well… eventually, I’d like them to settle down somewhere and start a family… if that’s possible.

I will honestly say that this story has has a lot less bloodshed than previous stories I’ve written, which is bizarre. I have had one – count that – ONE set of Red Shirts so far, in the whole of nearly 17,000 words (including pre-Camp words – yes, I am a NaNoRebel!). The Travelling Shovel of Death has not made an appearance, and horses have not been present for most of the story (not that horses have anything to do with the bloodshed). One could easily ask whether my muse has a terrible sickness and has asked another muse to take over for now. Perhaps…

And, randomly, I dearly miss the land of Marda. This isn’t saying that I’ll write more of it, but… Well… You never know…


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