Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cornflake, know thyself

I am a card-carrying flake. It's kind of like being a marine: it's not just a job, it's an adventure.

Really, it is.

--As a flake, I regularly park my car and forget where in the world it is. This typically results in 'the great hunt for the car,' which oddly resembles something like a quest in an old fable, with little old ladies giving advice, strange creatures swooping overhead in the (asphalt) forest, and feasting and rejoicing at the end.

--As a flake, I don't get a lot of jokes immediately. I tend to believe this is because I have a brain that is not fully functional in real time. More often than not, my critical thinking doesn't come into play for at least a minute after a conversation has already happened. So when, say, I'm chatting with a barber and he says, 'don't mind me, I'm deaf in one ear and can't hear out of the other,' do you know what I say?

"Oh, dear, I'm so sorry to hear that!"

And one minute later I'm hitting myself in the forehead as critical thinking analyzes that statement and whispers, 'hey, cornflake, that was a joke!' And the above example? That really happened. Poor man thought I was absolutely mental.

-- As a flake, I am pretty much guaranteed to forget people's names, regardless of how long I have known them. I have, at various times, forgotten the names of my husband, my kids, my best friends, my boss, every human being I have ever spoken to on the web, everyone I ever met, and the names of every character, band, and book title I've ever heard of. Have you ever tried to introduce someone to your best friend and you not only forget the new person's name, but your best friend's as well? Definitely an adventure, just not the fun kind. I love meeting people, and talking with people, and commiserating and sharing and just plain bitching. And when you can't remember someone's name, no matter how much of a wonderful time you had with them, it's hard for them to believe that you really enjoyed their company at all. Which, to put it bluntly, sucks all around.

It's taken me a while to accept my flakiness. I have tried to overcome it, to change it, to improve myself and eliminate it, all to no avail. My flake-i-tude seems to be here forever. All my close friends and family accepted it years ago and are kind enough not to mock me too much for it. Although I may have earned the nickname 'Cornflake' among my fellow writing buddies.

But I'm very grateful they have come to realize that my complete inability to remember jack shit is totally unrelated to how much I care about them and enjoy being with them. Thank god. I'd have no friends left if they weren't so kind!

That said... there is one thing in my life that is oddly non-flaky: stories.

I adore stories, always have. I love reading them, watching them, writing them, hearing about them second-hand. I adore storytelling, especially when romance is involved. And after all these years, I believe I have figured out where my flakiness comes from.

My brain thinks life is a story, too. One that is not quite finished yet, so you don't need all the pesky little stuff in there. So it remembers the details that are important to the story, and tosses the rest. Do heroes need to remember where their cars are parked? No. Do we care what the names of all the people our hero meets are? No. Do we need to know that oxygen is the most likely gas for an atmosphere that supports life because of how it forms bonds with other molecules?

Hmmmm, Maybe. And see...I remember that one, even though it came from just one darn paragraph in a chemistry text book I read over ten years ago. That's because it might affect plot...so my brain remembers that one (And as an aside...methane is the next most likely gas. Neat, huh?).

Yes, I'm a geek flake. A romantic geek flake. Life is weird that way.

So, what does this have to do with yaoi or writing or any such thing? Self-knowledge.

In my life, I pay attention to people's characteristics and backgrounds and emotions rather than their names, to romances going on around me, to the idea of 'going to the store' rather than 'where the hell is my car.'

In my writing, I've begun to notice that I do the same damn things. I like writing the characters, and the romances. I feel like that's something that comes much more naturally to me. The details? I tend to forget those, especially on a first draft. What color is that horse? No clue. Are my heroes in a forest or a jungle? Uh, forgot to figure that out yet. And where the hell is their car? Really, no freaking idea. What color was it again?

I have a friend who is opposite myself in many ways. That woman is a real detail person, and when she writes, I notice a lot of physical details crop up in her stories, too. That's her strength. Her settings and descriptions are always so beautifully vivid, sometimes enough to give me raging cases of inadequacy. I love her anyway. :-)

I already felt comfortable about my strengths. Accepting my flake-hood helps me remember that I'll need to go back and enter in more physical detail and plot points, for example. Or that I need to make a file to keep track of said details (eye color, height, scent).

So I would suggest, for any beginning writers looking to figure out what to improve next in their writing? Taking a look at yourself and what you focus on in your life might give you some ideas about where to start. And even if they don't, hey, always nice to take some time to get to know yourself a little better, eh?

Happy reading and writing, everyone!