Monday, February 20, 2012

Guest Blog: The Terrifying World of a Writer by Spencer Seidel

The Terrifying World of a Writer
By Spencer Seidel

Ask anyone who knows me, and they'll tell you that I can be overly scheduled, neurotic, a tad
eccentric . . . Well, I won't go on. You get the picture. Let's just say that sometimes I'm not real good with going with the flow.

Show me a writer who isn't a little strange, and I'll show you a mediocre writer. Writers throughout
history have been weird. Hemingway was weird. Same goes for F. Scott Fitzgerald. Do I even have to mention Truman Capote?

I think there's a simple reason for this.

For those of you who don't write, let me describe the concept with an analogy. Suppose you woke up one day with a sense of smell as keen as a bloodhound. Can you imagine how awful that would be? You'd smell everything vividly. Every cleaning product on every surface, your own BO, or worse, everyone else's BO. And I won't even mention that cat box or God forbid, the old cat herself. And that's just the beginning. What about the garbage, the laundry hamper, or the week-old milk in the fridge? Even sex would be a challenge. You'd go mental.

But there's a flip side. Imagine how wonderful freshly baked cinnamon rolls would smell. Or bacon in the morning. No wonder dogs are always begging around for food or dying to get outside. The complex and sometimes overwhelming smells must drive them nuts.

Being a writer is a lot like that, except instead of smells, it's motivations, emotion, and possibilities. When I get into the car to drive to work every morning, it isn't hard for me to make my writer voice say things like, "His last day on earth began just like any other." Yikes! Even on that short drive to my day job, I'm always seeing possibilities. Things that could happen, little things that change lives forever, events that books are made of, like a dropped cellphone on the passenger-side floor that makes someone stray into oncoming traffic, or a blown tire. The more complex the situation, the worse this effect gets. I think this can make writers a little crazy and regimented in their ways as they seek to control their environments.

But, like with our newly found bloodhound senses, there is a flip side. Although some can be extremely introverted, writers are very good at sniffing out people's angles and motivations. I contend that this makes writers very difficult to lie to. Think your writer spouse could never find out that you're having an affair? I'll bet she already knows. Or suspects, anyway. We can be hypersensitive and detect subtle verbal clues and facial expressions people aren't even aware they're using. We do that because that's in part what makes good characterization. That's a powerful thing.

People are always telling me I would have made a great psychologist. I'll bet that's true of most writers. That's because you really need to understand people at a gut level to make believable characters.

That also gets a little hairy. You can't just think about all the good things people do, although there is
plenty of that around, despite what you hear on the news. Sometimes you have to live inside the head of a killer or rapist or worse, trying to understand how a character like that would think. It can be frightening.

I mean, what if I find out I sort of like it in there? Damn, there I go again.

About the Book:
A teenage boy is found on Portland Maine’s Eastern Promenade Trail holding the dead body of his best friend and the murder weapon. Forensic psychologist Lisa Boyers is called in to interview the disturbed young man, and her jailhouse interviews reveal more about her troubled, violent past than she bargained for.

Make sure to check out my review and the excerpt later today.


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