Friday, June 26, 2009

Hi, how how are ya, what do you do?

I write to meet chicks.

Fortunately, my wife of thirty years approves.

Cause I also write to meet dudes. And cops, firefighters, librarians, nurses, gas station owners, social workers, teachers, garbage collectors, mechanics, booksellers, book burners, gun salesmen, politicians, reporters, and ditch-diggers.

Or, as the great Harvey Korman said in Blazing Saddles in deciding to gather a gang to wipe out Sheriff Cleavon Little and the tiny town of Rock Ridge, "I want rustlers,cutthroats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con-men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwackers, hornswogglars, horse thieves, bull-dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers, and Methodists!"

Which brings me back to the point of this essay.

Why do I write?

Because I love to talk to people. Hear their stories. Learn their secrets. Observe their habits and quirks and moods and feelings, whether they're right or left handed, and what kind of car they drive, and if they talk with their hands as well as their mouths, and do their eyebrows jiggle or stay straight while they do.

Because those little details are important in helping me create characters that stay with you far after the book is finished.

As a writer, I must never forget that I don't write only to fulfill a publishing contract. I write for people. Therefore, I like to be around people. To see how they tick, and how they react under stress. (The surest sign of a person's true character.) And when necessary, to find people a lot smarter than myself so they can tell me things I don't know. So they can fill me in, and I can infuse my characters and scenes with that information. Making it easy for you to figure out what I'm saying.

This point was brought home the other day when I got an e-mail from Kelli (no relation to Our Kelli), who works for the school district in West Aurora, near my home in the Chicago suburb of Naperville. She runs a book club composed of folks who also work for the district--teachers, social workers, and others--and were reading my debut crime thriller, BLOWN AWAY. (Bless them every one!) Since I live in Naperville, she asked, would I like to join them for lunch to talk about the book?

It would have been easy to say no. I cracked a tooth the other day, and had a dental appointment that morning. I didn't know what the dentist would do, or what shape I'd be in to have lunch. (Eating with Novocaine mouth? Highly unrecommended.) The smart money was on blowing off Kelli's offer.

I jumped at the chance anyway.

I'm glad I did. The book clubbers don't live in Naperville, but they made a traveling feast because the book is set here, and it'd be fun to eat where the action took place. (Isn't that a cool thing to do?) They were smart, and friendly, and full of good questions. We had a great time over nearly three hours of cheeseburgers and discussion. (Plus, no dental work that morning, so I didn't drool in my French fries.)

Among other things, I found out that another of the group, Kathy, used to be in the Marines, and met her husband there, and they're both Russian language experts, and her hubby is now in law enforcement, and they know all sorts of folks in our armed forces, many of whom are fighting in the Middle East, and it turns out I'd like to set some scenes in future novels in the war zone, so we're going to talk again, so I can hear their stories, and maybe make my writing as rich and accurate as those fighting heroes deserve from me. Most important, I learned that I now have a new set of happy, interesting friends and readers named Kelli, Kathy, Lynne, Carol, Linda and Karen.

Which gets me again back to the point of this essay: why do I write?

And the answer: I write to meet people.

And the occasional hornswoggler.


None this week, alas. The above-mentioned dental appointment turned into oral surgery yesterday to remove the tooth, and I'm barely able to finish this post as it is swimming in River Vicodin! More O-Grams next week, I promise.


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Love all these posts--well not the one about suffering after oral surgery--and meeting people is definitely a side effect of writing.

I've met lots of great and interesting people and a few nut cases along the way.

Marilyn a.k.a. F.M. Meredith

Kelli Stanley said...

LOL ... love the post, Shane!! :) And so true ... people are endlessly fascinating.

And Blazing Saddles--one of my favorites. Once in a while, after at least one drink, I'll launch into "I'm Tired ..." ;)



Shane Gericke said...

Hi, Marilyn, thanks for writing. You're right about meeting great and interesting people ... and a few nut cases. My favorite of the latter sent me a five-page letter once complaining about my use of exclamation points. I've been chuckling about that for years now!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Be well.

Kelli, I love Blazing Saddles too. Harvey Korman was so underrated as an actor; he was just brilliant, in my opinion. He made that movie.

Misty Evans said...

Yes, Shane, this is definitely a true part of being a writer that most of us enjoy. I can usually strike up a conversation anywhere with almost anyone and sometimes even sell a book in the process. *g* Last week I met a psychic at a garage sale. She bought one of my books and gave me fodder for a new paranormal story. I love it when that happens.

I recently interviewed a group of authors about this same question for an article and found their answers fairly diverse, but almost all of them mentioned the human connection as a compelling reason to write.

Nice post!
Misty Evans

Shane Gericke said...

Thanks, Misty. Writing is a passport to talking to folks. Particularly to experts in their fields, who normally would be much too busy to spend a few hours with anyone not connected to their work. When you mention that you're an author, though, and you're writing a book and could you borrow a little of their time and expertise, they open right up. It's like having a magic ring that lets you into the clubs you always wanted to be in, but didn't qualify. People who aren't writers view our jobs as exciting, fun, sexy and enthralling. Which it is.

Plus, they buy you drinks :-)

Thanks for writing, Misty.

Jen Forbus said...

Well blasted, I feel short changed with no Shane-o-grams! Just kidding. I'm happy you managed to muddle through with your Vicodin infused tooth.

As a non-writer myself, I so enjoy meeting the folks who write what I read. It's a thrill to hear them read their work, talk about their processes and experiences, shoot the bull, whatever! I take advantage every chance I get!

Shane Gericke said...

And we thank you for it, Jen. Without you, we'd have to get real jobs working for someone. O, the horror!

I like talking to writers cause they're the best storytellers. Next to cops, who crack me up with their tales of getting the bad guy.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

I agree with you about the magic ring, Shane! I've had the most interesting conversations since I outed myself as a writer. I've also found that the question "So, how would you kill someone?" gets some good answers. The best ones come from those who say "I would never even think about that," then they come back an hour or so later with a very complicated and clever plan...