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!


Akasha said...

Posting all these comments at the same time must seem kind of stalker-ish (as I already mentioned, I think) but I just now remembered to look my dashboard and there were four whole new posts I hadn't yet seen! That deserves comments! *earnest face*
I promise, I'm completely harmless ;)
Getting to the matter at hand, that's to say, your post... I loved it. Totally relate to it. I have my dad's memory, who once asked at a funeral about the deceased husband's mother...who had died two months ago. Really, it was embarrassing. Like that time I forgot my best-friend had an older sister. And a brother. Or maybe two brothers...I'm not sure.
I have to admit I don't get the "cornflake" reference. I'm going to assume is a translation problem and not just me being dumb. (for my peace of mind)
I remember feelings. I never manage to remember the words someone said, which makes arguing matches kind of difficult, because how do you throw your opponent's words back at them if you can't remember? "Last week you said something really hurtful and demeaning, and I am fed up with your damned condescending attitude?" "What did I say?" "Hum...don't remember" *blush, head-scratching, blush* "Damn it". Match lost.
Your suggestion is hope-inspiring, though. I can use my forgetfulness to write, somehow. And I can try and remember to write down the kind of details that I always forget before keeping on with the story. (Seems kind of stupid, but once I had this amazing plot-twist to get my story to new, unknown heights, and then my ethics teacher walked in, and I completely forgot. That was four years ago, and I'm still stuck at that point! TT.TT)
Ok, creepily long comment, again.
Let's leave it here.

TwistedHilarity said...

Heh, naaaaah. See, I get so behind that everything piles up anyway, so all stalker tendencies are hidden behind the pile, LOL. Oh man, your poor dad!

Oh, cornflake! Yeah, I'd say likely translation. It's a kind of flaky crunchy cereal that's common here in the US. It's actually a reference to the term 'flake' in general. A 'flake' here is someone who is, hmmm, well, not really aware of things, forgetful, a bit out of it.

I'm so glad it gave you some ideas! Hope that you can get past that point, LOL. Man, that is just the worst when a great idea melts out of our heads, isn't it? *shakes head* Being a flake isn't easy. I salute you in your journey through flakehood, LOL.

And I get mine from my father, too! He once walked right by a riot and didn't even notice it was happening!

Anonymous said...

I like seeing how you analyze yourself! I do that too: try and figure out why and who and wherefores about myself...lol.

Your focus on the interpersonal relationship of either conflict of self or other is probably why I love your stories so much. I don't really care what the forest or the jungle looks like, or if they are in a forest or a jungle. As long as I got the general idea they are around nature and away from civilization, then I can focus on the character's interaction! Unless the details play into the emotional connection, like they are in a waterfall and it has something to do with a Shinto cleansing ritual that has something to do with their relationship, etc. then I just find the descriptive details of 'where their car is' annoying! LOL

Probably why I like Peter Pan a lot more than Anne of Green Gables. Although Anne does have a lot of prettiness in her words, she can drone on... Peter is harsh, brash, and blunt.

Thanks for the post! It was interesting! I love these lines:

"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."