Tag Archives: character development

How to Keep Writing From Weighing Your Life Down

I’ve blogged at length about how a writer’s life experience can improve their fiction, but I haven’t written on how the reverse is true, how fantasy can improve a writer’s reality. If the responsibility of writing weighs you down use it as an excuse to go outside and do something.

A Life Worth Commenting On

In screenwriting class our professor had us keep a journal, a place to document our fears. It was not a diary. It was a tool for scene building, a method for adding authenticity to atmospheric descriptions. We were to venture into unknown territory and write about it, to find a place that put us on edge, where the adrenaline heightened our senses, so we could chronicle everything we felt. Continue reading How to Keep Writing From Weighing Your Life Down

Why Joe Everyman is A Terrible Lead

Insert self here
Insert self here

Who is Joe Everyman?

You see him everywhere, with his crewcut, t-shirts, jeans, and vintage motorcycle jacket; this white, clean shaven, hetrosexual, twenty to thirty something rules the summer movie season. A de-socialized soldier in civilian clothes, he goes wherever the screenwriters order, not because of a strong desire, but because the plot needs him to be there.

He doesn’t waste screen time illustrating his motivations, those frames are better served with explosions. When there’s a 120 page script with 250 scenes, he’ll be there. When it feels like you’re watching a two hour montage, he’ll be there. When a set piece passes before you can figure out its dimensions, he’ll be there sprinting onto the next one. While other films take time to reveal their characters, Joe Everyman races to the closing credits.

When the premise is the selling point Joe doesn’t slow things down with character development. Every second he needs to evolve, comes at the expense of giant robots knocking over skyscrapers. He keeps things consistent so we can get back to super-sized dinosaurs fighting on beach front property, and UFOs blasting through landmarks.

In screenwriting, there’s a rule: enter a scene late, leave it early. Joe Everyman exploits this rule, to seem like more than what we see. As a cheat, the screenwriter implies Joe is a dynamic three-dimensional character, whenever he’s not there.

Joe can make his wife laugh, though we’ll never hear his joke. She’s swooning over a romantic gesture he performed off screen. They’re deeply in love, see they’re kissing, in a nice warm lit room shown through a shaky camera, so you know its intimate. As for the rest of their relationship, we’ll just have to take the movie’s word for it.

The screenwriter didn’t have time to fill in Joe’s personality, they left you to do it for them. Joe is a mannequin, hanging from train cars, leaping across buildings. A blank template for the viewer to project themselves onto, a surrogate, an empty vessel, a pod person. He’s a cardboard cutout with flat character traits and an empty face, ‘insert self here.’ He has a Madlib in place of a personality.

In this by the numbers story telling equation, the hero is the least important variable.

Without a call to action, Joe Everyman would languish behind a desk for the rest of his life. Stuck in a go nowhere 9 to 5, he’d have his 2.5 kids, and wait for his 401k to come. Coincidence has elevated him to the role of the chosen one, the one who will bring balance to the force, lead our armies against Skynet, and free us from the Matrix. If only there was a mentor figure to tell the rest of us how special we were.

Cardboard Man 2

The Alternative is Always more Attractive

There’s a reason everyone likes Han Solo over Luke Skywalker, Wolverine over Cyclops, Michaelangelo over Leonardo, Hit Girl over Kick Ass, Captain Jack Sparrow over Will Turner, Elizabeth Swann over Will Turner, Captain Barbossa over Will Turner (you see where I’m going with this).

Personality is appealing. Every saga has its vanilla individuals, fine, safe, and boring, then there are the players with some flavor.

Choosing between ‘interesting’ and ‘identifiable’ character attributes, I go with interesting every time. The character’s drive, goals, and failings should make them identifiable, not their broad appeal.

Beige just isn’t my color.

While erratic villains lead the plot in interesting directions, Joe Everyman takes orders between locations. Walking off the set of War of the Worlds, Joe shows up in Godzilla in the exact same outfit. Sam Worthington’s character from Terminator Salvation wondered through Avatar, then onto the set of Clash of the Titans. These were different time periods and places, but the exact same person. Not to make fun of Worthington as an actor, he’s good in everything I’ve seen him in, it’s just these parts were all underwritten.

Joe Everyman makes the supporting cast look cool by accident. He’s always upstaged by misfits whose plots we’d rather follow.

I can’t help but imagine a Matrix movie with Morpheus as the lead, a Thor title starring Loki, or a Godzilla film staring Bryan Cranston (for those of you saying “Don’t we already have one of those?” No, no we don’t).

Cardboard Man 3

Joe Everyman must come into His Own

Joe Everyman is a portrait of the audience, painted in broad strokes, a bad boardwalk caricature. His psych profile is all encompassing. He’s the one size fits all of storytelling. He communicates with all the grace of an advertisement, a Frankenstein Monster stitched together from market research. As authentic as a politician, he’s something for everyone, and everything to no one.

He’s so hyper-average that he threatens the suspension of disbelief.

Plenty of stories start with a pessimistic protagonist. A person who’s been railroaded by life, a victim of a series of accidents who learns to take control of their situation. A passive presence who changes the moment they decide they truly want something. This is when Joe Everyman works best, when he becomes Joe Individual.

In The Matrix, Neo decides he’s not ‘the one.’ Realizing his life is expendable, he sets out to save his mentor. Rather than let the Oracle tell him what he is, he makes a defiant decision (which I know, was her plan all along). Regardless of the existentialist determinist debate, Neo believes he’s made this choice on his own. Killing his Mr. Anderson persona, he evolves into his avatar.

A storytelling crime happens when Joe Everyman is introduced only to stay blank until the very end. He may have gone through an adventure, but made no choices, personal changes, and learned no lessons. Taking orders without making decisions, he’s still just a victim of circumstance.

If a screenwriter wants our empathy, they shouldn’t expect it from the character’s presentation. Sure the guy on screen might look like me, but he has to earn my empathy. Get me invested in his plight, until his goals become my goals, his change becomes my change, and his outcome becomes my outcome. Then, and only then, will I see myself in him.

Do this well and it won’t matter what age, gender, color, or sexual orientation this character comes in, we’ll still see ourselves in them.

When you create a slate for people to project themselves on, take care not to leave it blank. If the vessel stays empty, it will feel hollow to the audience. Average Joe Everyman should end up Exceptional Joe Individual, or at the very least Tragic Joe Anti-Hero.

Eavesdropping Advisory (Audio Blog)


(If SoundCloud is down, download the track)
(Download the instrumental version here)

Writers feed off of rude people. Their grinding gears are music to our ears. We serve their words to hungry paper. We steal their souls with our typing fingers. When we’re around, they ought to keep their behavior in check, because there’s always an eavesdropping advisory in effect.

Who needs to shadow interesting subjects, when there’s the general public to draw from? Who needs to research villains, when we can just go out and cast one? Why fret over the words that break our hero’s routine, when there are so many rude people giving away free dialogue?

Crowdsourcing scenes, we set our buckets beneath brainstorms. Derailing conversations, we guide trains of thought into our stations. They want to give us a piece of their mind, they don’t care how we use it. They’re never going to demand creative control. Delivering line after line, they’ll never ask for script approval.

Charity begins at the checkout counter. We’ve gone out into the world to find ourselves some donors. We know that wherever the staffing is short, they’ll be there. Wherever the wait times are over an hour, they’ll be there. Wherever there are captive audiences in uniforms, they’ll be there.

When they cut us off in traffic with a harsh gesture, we get to play interpreter. When they emit hot air into our atmosphere, we get to play dehumidifier. When they sling vulgarities, we get to play catcher.

When they ask to speak with a manager, we’re tempted to step up, even if we don’t work there. When we can’t get close enough to hear anymore, we’ll lip read from across the store. Their subtitles are in caps lock, all we have to do is highlight, copy, and paste.

Eavesdropping Advisory is my most liked and commented on entry to date (it doesn’t hurt that it was featured on WordPress’s Freshly Pressed page). Many writers have confessed to sharing my process, a process I’ve put to use several times since.

For the audio version I wanted to harness that same aggressive attitude. Laying down a driving hip-hop beat, I mixed an collage of angry voices, and topped it off with a distorted melody that occasionally goes full dubstep. Despite the song’s bombastic push, it maintains a subtle creepy undercurrent. Check it out.

On Sherlocking

Writers, are you looking for a crutch to improve your characterization, a trick for easy subtext, and a way to enshroud what you’re foreshadowing? What if you could learn all of this as part of a game? Interested? Then let me ask a few more questions.

Clark Kenting

On Sherlocking: How to Use the Deduction Game to Improve Your Writing

Do you find yourself mirroring movements? Have you walked into a pedestrian’s path, pivoted in the same direction, and paused to break the connection? At the bar, do you find yourself raising your drink in unison with other patrons? In conversation, do you cross your legs at the same time as your friends? Do you scratch your cheek when someone else starts itching? At the end of the night, do you finish other people’s yawns?

Are you so in tune with your surroundings that you can see bathroom breaks coming?

Do you bless sneezes before they happen? Anticipating farts, do you switch seats before you’re caught down wind? Do you look up in time to make eye contact with people pretending not to look? Are you a social psychic?

Can you read reactions? When you watch someone lean back in their chair, do you see relaxation in your runes, or withdrawal in your crystal ball?

Can you eavesdrop from across the room? Are you a telephoto lip reader, or do you have a fluency in body language? Watch the couple across from you, can you tell if this is their first date or their anniversary? From their posture, can you tell if this is going to be an early night, or a late one?

If this foreknowledge sounds familiar, then you’re ready to play the game. It’s called Sherlocking; the game of deductions. Once honed, this skill will greatly improve your writing.


Let’s set the board. This is an open world game, not in that you can do whatever you want, but that you have to play it in public. Coffee shops are good, as are campuses, clubs, or wherever else people congregate. Stake out a position with a view. We’re going to give you something to do with all your excess intuition.

Eavesdropping is a skill worth developing, but for the sake of this exercise I recommend going at it with headphones on. We’re refining one sense at a time. The aim is not to confirm our suspicions, it’s to keep us looking.

Absorb what you observe. We’re gathering points of reference to be used later. We’re researching the human animal. Ignore the extreme examples: the tell-offs speeches, the overtly rude people. Today we’re looking for something a little more subtle. This is advanced people watching. We’re reading between the lines of faces, keeping a log of nonverbal cues, gathering tells for our readers to peruse.


Over my shoulder, I watch a middle aged man buzz around a college girl’s table without landing. His hips can’t find a position to settle in. His fingers keep trying to find his waistband. She takes off one headphone. Nods a couple of times, slips it back on. He says one last thing. She slips her headphone off, but he’s already spun around. Turtling up, she gets back to typing.

On the far side of the counter, a man sits with no accessories besides his tea; no newspaper, paperback, memo pad, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. Laying his hands on the counter, he rests his eyes and bobs his head. For two hours, he says nothing to anyone. He never checks his watch, never looks to the door for anyone. He nurses his tea and moves on.

Take a close look at the variables. Make your covert calculations, show your work. Draw a connection between what you see and what you think you know. Solve for X. There may be more than one solution.

The guy to my right is tracking an iPhone on his computer. Compulsively refreshing his browser, he watches it move across the Mississippi through downtown Minneapolis. Nibbling his nails to nubs, he shifts in his seat. His movements can be felt along the bar. Clicking on his tabs, he checks a Facebook page. The user’s name is the same one attached to the phone in the map tab.

Recognize the patterns? Make your deductions.

A girl on the couch watches a man in a tattered jacket enter the coffee house. His beard does little to conceal the frost bite at his cheeks. Weaving through the customers at the counter, he makes a beeline for the men’s room. She moves her computer up her lap. When she has to go to the ladies room, she brings her laptop with her.

Don’t default to stereotypes, flex your imagination. There’s the obvious reason this happened, but what if there was another one? Play with your audience’s prejudice, turn it into a red herring. Gather up these visual cues and toy with their expectations.


Sometimes the cure for writer’s block is a little risk. Sherlocking adds danger to the process. It puts the spark back into the romance.

I’m recording a first date from my front row seat, documenting deep sighs, and nervous ticks. Hanging on long pauses, my fingers tread the air before they resume typing. I’m live-tweeting a missed connection as it happens, catching more out of the corner of my eye than either of the participants.

The boy hovers over his seat before committing to standing. He’s in a sweater, dress shirt, and jeans. His date has a cocktail dress on. Opting for the hand shake instead of the hug, she smiles with her cheeks, but not her crow’s feet. Setting her phone on the table, her fingers walk toward it during lulls in conversation, a game of red light green light played with just one hand.

I know where this Match.com meet up is going before the couple can pronounce each other’s names. Neither of them have caught me rubber necking.

Close Up

There’s a line between reality and the game. Not everyone is roleplaying, they’re actions can’t always be explained. There might be a science to deduction, but for our purposes we’re treating it like an art form.

You’ll find your powers limited when you go out looking for affection, even more so if you’re trying to catch someone cheating. This isn’t about calling out liars, taking tells to task, or hurling accusations at lovers. If polygraphs are a junk science, you’re not about to break any cases with your ability to read faces. Your formula for recognizing patterns isn’t as strong as sodium thiopental.

You’ll never know exactly what anyone is thinking, so just chronicle the things they’re doing.

This is a game, if you add stakes, you’re playing it wrong. It’s about collecting mannerisms to be used later. If you can reverse engineer these deductions, then you know how to build subtext into your scenarios.

Let people give you character description that goes beyond clothing, traits to help your readers with their imaginary casting. They’ll give you actions to replace “said” before dialogue. They’ll give you expressions that contrast their words. Good characters aren’t what they say, they’re what they do. Great characters betray banter with bad behavior. Jumping from scene to scene, you can juxtapose their cool exterior around company with their burnt interior when they’re alone. Plant your setups in their awkward moments. Their expression can be the last notes for your chapters to go out on.

If you want your words to feel authentic plagiarize from real life. This doesn’t mean copying and pasting your journal into your work in progress, finding and replacing your name with that of your protagonist. It means replicating these little things, the observations that infer meaning.

The truth is only fun when it’s subjective. Good writing invites readers to sit in the jury box. It gives them all the evidence, but doesn’t draw their attention to the right exhibit until just before it becomes relevant. It deceives them by making appeals to their emotions, lining up a collection of red-herrings. Exposition is a bad witness, their testimony is hearsay, robbing the reader of their epiphany. Planting payoffs, good writing gives the reader several opportunities to have their own “Ah-ha!” moment.

By the time the author makes their closing remarks, the reader should feel validated for what they knew all along.

Eavesdropping Advisory

Weather DrewA warning to rude people, on behalf of writers everywhere. We’re issuing an eavesdropping advisory: if you don’t have an indoor voice, expect to end up in one of our stories. If your temperance drops, and you put a shrill into the air, you’re begging for a role in our next adventure. If you blow white noise conditions out your molar vortex, we owe it to future generations to make a record of it. If you’re a severe weather friend, letting out an arctic blast every time you vent, we’ll be there to chronicle it.

To those who suffer from line blindness. Who steal spots because they feel entitled. Who complain about having to wait, when they couldn’t be bothered to make an appointment. When you say you want to give management a piece of your mind, we’re the ones who really take it.

We welcome you line cutters, you unsatisfied customers, you unexpected guest lecturers. When we need a character’s bile to come from a real place, we eagerly await what spills from your face. It might be toxic, but we won’t let it go to waste. We write what we know, and we learn from people like you.

To the megalomaniacal moviegoers, arguing with actors on screen, we’ll make sure that your dialogue gets to the right place.

To those who throw temper tantrums at tech support, we’ll pay special attention to how you’re wired, to where your screws are loose. We’ll find your glitch. Check your terms and conditions, we reserve the right to do whatever we want with this information. Your call may be recorded for training, quality, or entertainment purposes. Your anger may find its way onto one of our pages.

When you scream, “Am I just talking to myself!” We’re all ears, writing your soliloquy into our screenplays. When you feel like you’re shouting at a brick wall, we’re on the other side building a monument in your likeness.

If there’s a big book tallying up all of your sins, who do you think is keeping score? Never piss off a writer. We’re Santa’s little helpers. We decide who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. We decide who gets shown in a positive light. If we see that you’re always in the red, that’s how you’re going to be painted. If you ignore other people’s perspectives, we’re not going to see your good side.

When you pose statements in the form of questions, with valley girl up speak, we’ll be there to note the inflection. When you lob back handed compliments at your friends, we’ll be there to catch every last one of them.

When you drop F-bombs on civilians from coffee shop couch cushions, gossiping about the other members of AA, we’re the ones writing the flight manifest of your Enola Gay.

You’ve crossed the line, from annoying to entertaining. We went from shutting you out, to tuning you in. It’s not in our interest for you to calm down. We want to egg you on. It would take a boardroom full of comedians, working several months, to punch up lines of dialogue to your level of crazy. You’re doing all the work, and we’re grateful for your charity.

If the potential for conflict is visible, we aspire to make it audible. Conflict is the heart of drama. Be a drama Queen and you will rule our scenes. Be a diva and we’ll give you a place to sing. Every opera needs a prima donna. Every story needs an antagonist.

Send your minestrone back three times in a row. Ask to speak with the chef. Hand out reprimands with your demands. Remind your server that she’s working for tips. Read your nasty Yelp review out loud just incase the staff doesn’t think to search for it. Bravo, you’re perfect!

Drive your knees into the bus seat. Choke the life out of your cellphone. Shout into the receiver until you’re sure your voice is distorting on the other end. Point a finger at a person who isn’t there to see it. We’re casting for The Terror of Metro Transit, and guess what? You just got the part.

We’re the lurkers, the creeps, the ones with records to keep. We’re the quote bookers. We face away, because it makes it easier to hear what you say. We’ll be the ones to accept the awards for your tell off speech.

It’s your audacity that gives our voices authenticity.

If you can’t say something nice, then say it to our faces. You’re an expert quip handler and we’re here to take your tongue-lashings. Thank you mistress, may we have another? We’ve been bad. You should give us a talking to. You’re a control freak, so dominate us. Rake us over the coals. Break us down. Break our writers’ block while you’re at it.

You are rife with material. Take it out on us. Scold us. Berate us. Take us to task.

Good, we can feel your anger. Strike us down with all of your hatred and your journey to the quotation mark-side will be complete.

Now your cruelty belongs to the ages.


Keeping My Memoir out of My Fiction

Question for writers: do you ever have trouble keeping yourself out of your stories? I do.

Head in a book

Keeping my Memoir out of my Fiction

Whenever I’m writing escapist fantasy, something happens that urges me to bring it back down to earth. My journal makes a compelling argument for its inclusion. My story relocates itself from a foreign land. It’s time frame travels back to the present. Memoir entries sneak into the margins. Mistaking them for notes, I find my private affairs on the page.

Overcome with a compulsion to method write, I draw from life experience. At the expense of the mystery, each line is a composite of my personality. Hoping no one has got my number, I hand my readers all the variables they’d need to do the math. Unrolling secret parchments, I leave them out for the uninitiated to see. Putting my shame up on a pedestal, I invite art authorities to criticize it.

I try to catch myself doing this. I try to spot the lines plagiarized from the other side of my mind, but they’re spaced out. It’s hard to drag the bottom of the text for corpses, the skeletons that once resided in my closet. It’s such a slow process, it’s no wonder my subconscious keeps getting away with it.

Exercising eminent domain, my internal city planner rezones my mental map. Putting my deepest fears in the town square, it gives the bad idea I’m trying to cast out of my mind the key to the city. Polluting my thoughts, it changes the skyline. Soon my enchanted kingdom resembles the streets I always walk down. The population resembles the people I see every day. Reality bleeds into my imagination. Now my dreamworld is no longer mine.

Real people show up for character auditions. Their dress code shows up in my descriptions. Personal ticks preface dialogue that I can’t help but quote verbatim. Sometimes I find myself wondering if I’m a writer or a stenographer.

I try to obscure their identities with accessories. They cast them off as inauthentic. No amount of armor can lock down their limps. No amount of flashy jewelry can bury their body language. No veil can mask their micro expressions. Glasses with plastic noses and mustaches will not spare me from paying likeness rights. The players want to be recognized on the page. I’m afraid that’s the only way I can get them out of my headspace.

The disclaimer will read: all characters appearing in this work are out there among you, any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely intentional. Names have been changed to protect the obvious.

May the class action lawsuit commence.

Face into Book

I’m a closed book until you read my writing. My drawbridge goes down, and I’m open to interpretation. There’s no artistic alibi, no neutral nuance, no subtle subtext to hide behind. All my deeper meanings float to the surface. All my subliminal messages go up in lights. All of my dramatic disguises get outed to the public.

Every quotation mark says something.
Every ellipsis is evidence.
Every full stop is a footprint.
Brail breadcrumbs will take you right up to my residence.

There are too many parallels to the path I walk. Too many telltale signs buried between the lines. Too many plot devices for you to reverse engineer. Too many transparent notions making my agenda clear. You know that I know, that you know, what I want you to know.

Into the Book

Casting myself as the lead is such a rookie mistake. It’s bush league. It’s a noob cheat. Making myself the main character is so first year author, so vanity press, so screenwriting 101, but here I go again.

It happens so gradually that I don’t catch myself doing it. I’m tailoring the hero’s garments to fit me better. I’m relocating them to a climate that resembles my own back yard. I’m limiting their knowledge base to something I can pull out of my own ass. Forgetting what color their irises are, I hit my own with the old eye-dropper tool. Forgetting how they style their hair, I give them the grown up Bart Simpson look that I always wear.

Suddenly my female lead has undergone a sex change. Now all the parts for women have been underwritten. Their nuance gets rounded off, and a set of troupes come to fill the spaces in. My once progressive premise shifts, it’s now part of the problem. My ego demands screen time, and all my great ideas for solving conflicts with words fall by the way side. The violence just keeps finding it’s way back into the script. I keep seeing myself making a fist. I need someplace to put it.

Before long, I’m looking back at myself from the text, in this paper mirror, wondering how the hell I even got there.

The hero speaks in catchphrases I never got the opportunity to use. They lift lines from tell-off speeches I’d never be brave enough to give. Their words strike a balance between cold and charming, with a whit so quick you’d never see it coming. They’re not me, they’re how I’d like to be. Even when they’re down and out, they do it elegantly.

It’s obvious why Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler wrote the way they did. Their detective avatars could be the men they never were. They needed a place to feel secure.

There’s no mystery why this happens. Feeling weak, we writers long for self empowerment. When we feel emasculated, we tell a male power fantasy. When we’re lonely, we fill our dry spells with wish fulfillment. We escape to a parallel universe with a more agreeable set of circumstances. One that’s full of manic pixie dream girls, femme fatales, and sometimes even genuine companionship.

Book Face 2

Someone get this blog entry out of my horror story. Get this coming of age piece out of my sci-fi fantasy. Get this cautionary tale out of my dark comedy. Curb the autobiography. Set the diary at the dumpster. My life story hasn’t been lived in enough to fit in with this furniture.

I don’t want to talk about my circumstances. That’s why I tried to write this story in the past tense. I don’t belong in this universe. That’s why I wrote it in third person omniscient, but the story keeps shifting to try and deal me in.

Here I go breaking my hero’s routine with a break up, flashing back to the moment of impact, as a cheap ploy for sympathy. Underdog established, check. Alright, let’s milk this bit. Now my novella is haunted by the Ghosts of Moments Past. Not sure if I should hire an editor or an exorcist to fix it.

This is not the story I want to be armed with when I’m running the introvert gauntlet of social networking events. It will leave me in limbo at the punchbowl. There are too many personal details, too many big reveals. This pitch would make a cramped elevator feel a little too intimate. It weighs heavy on the tongue, because there’s too much information in it.

There are ballad titles in my chapter headers,
torch songs in place of description,
verses cutting through the prose.
You could practically sing my fiction.

Sad bastard lyrics show up in speeches,
blues structure creeps into the timing,
and no matter how hard I try,
I just can’t stop it all from rhyming.

Okay, so really, we’re going to do this? We’re going to let a character whine about watching a sunset alone, and everyone is cool with that? We’re going to commit to words that we bootleg movies because we have no one to go to the theater with? You don’t think anyone’s going to pick up on who’s really saying this? If all of our characters save seats for their imaginary friends, pretty soon our readers are going to pick up on exactly what is happening.

Now I’m talking to myself and making a record of it.

Of course I'm getting sucked into Stephen King's Doctor Sleep
Of course I’m getting sucked into Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep

I want to use lies to tell the truth, but the truth wills out. A few grains of it become a silo, and there’s nothing left to omit. I can’t distort it, stretch it, or be economical with it. A half truth is a whole lie, and my internal reader knows the difference. Jonesing for authenticity, my reader knows when something has been cut with bullshit, when a pack of lies has gotten into the mix, when an expression has lost its purity, it knows to squeeze the rest out of me. So I over share to feed its appetite. It keeps me honest with its refined tastes.

This compulsive honesty comes at the expense of a clever premise. Naked emotion costs me the storytelling possibilities that come from outside of my own skin. It narrows the appeal down to those who speak the same language of regret. Where a strong plot could carry a reader, I leave it up to a character’s voice to do the heavy lifting. Where a strong conflict would keep the pages turning, the honesty demands that I pause to dwell on how I’m feeling.

I refuse to accept that a fall from grace is a part of the process, that I have to hit a slump to produce a hit, that a downward spiral is a good point of reference. I have too much truth to draw from. My palette is overflowing with it. Quite frankly, I don’t even want it.

I need to learn to lie to myself more effectively. To vent about things that have never happened to me. To smuggle adventure into my tales of woe. To trick myself into writing fabrications with a twinge of authenticity.

When there’s something in my life to dwell on, it has a way of trying to star in everything. It bursts onto the set when it’s not even in the sequence. I can try to hide it in the shadows, but it keeps sliding into the spotlight, stealing the scene every chance it gets. This thought I can’t push out of my mind, is a diva that refuses to go back into their trailer. It wants to keep shooting until we get it right. It wants its story to be known, even if it’s not the one I wanted to tell.

If I could only smother it in makeup. If I could only give it some direction. If I could only fire it without slowing down the entire production.