I write but I rarely write about writing. I think about writing. I sometimes talk with friends about writing. I have written once or twice about writing*1*. Thank goodness I don’t do it very often.
See, the first piece of advice a young writer gets is, “Write what you know.” Unfortunately for readers, most writers know most about writing so they tend to, well, write about it. I’d rather write about nude wimmens or careening to the inside of turn 7 at Lime Rock or whether I can catch a cow on a hook in the deep blue waters of the Gulfstream.
But the sun is shining. Life is good. And Duma Key the place is, for now, very far away.
I’m reading Duma Key the book right now and have been thinking about why I like Stephen King and, as a broader question, why we all like Stories-with-a-Capital-S and the people in them. See, I don’t read fantasy. I don’t even like horror stories. I never told ghost stories around the campfire nor believed them when I listened but I like Stephen King and he tells some serious ghost stories.
I have just two simple truths to share here:
1. We want to spend our time with interesting people.
2. Characters in novels are always busy.
The USA Network peeps have it right with their “Characters Welcome” promotion. The books I like best, the movies that grab me, and the television serials I keep going back to are all peopled with interesting characters. It doesn’t matter as much what they do in the stories as it matters what makes them interesting.
I may be an interesting person. Or not. You may even like me as a person. Or not. No matter. Neither of us particularly wants to share our time with someone doing what I did today. I brushed, pooped, showered, and wandered around my office in my underwear for a while. I spoke to a couple of clients. I researched a strategic plan. I wrote this blog and my weekly column. I worked on a couple of photo images. I checked that I have a band booked for the weekend concert. I may have passed gas. I ate lunch and will eventually eat supper. Tonight I have a heavy evening planned with the t00b.
That was a busy day. Absolutely no part of it moved this story forward. In the novel we could have skipped directly from finding the red picnic basket in the attic to catching the cow on the hook.
Any writer who can create someone we like and keep us hooked with his or her day-to-day puttering is a treasure.
1 My 10-1/2 Hot Tips for Small-Town Op-ed Writers was commissioned and published by Inklings in 1997.