Wednesday, July 19, 2017

I "Conference Know" a LOT of People


This blog is about relationships, and mostly here I deal with intimate, close, personal ones. But conference relationships are in a different ballpark, as they say. Maybe even a different sport.

I attend a number of writing conferences each year. As a writing professional, I see attendance as part of the package for getting to be a better writer. I wrote about that earlier this week on another one of my blogs: “Why I Go to Conferences and Why You Should,Too”.

At conferences, I paste on my happy face and strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to me. I ask what heesh writes and I express interest. I take the proffered business card and hand over my three.

Is that bragging, I wonder? Look at me! Multiple pen names! Does that seem too forward? After all this is a conference on writing historical fiction. What does my seatmate care that I write plays, short stories and novels? What interest could there be in my writing in so many genres: mystery, women’s fiction, paranormal, science fiction, middle grade biographies, oh, and yes, historical fiction set in two time periods?

My seatmate might in fact infer what I have long feared to be true of myself: dilettante!

So we dance. “Tell me your concept.” “How long have you been writing?” “Traditionally published or an indie author?” “What’s next after your current WIP?”

And then the session begins with either a single speaker or a panel. I listen. I make notes.

Session over. “Bye. Have a good conference.” Then it’s off to dance again at the next session.

Are these superficial encounters the equivalent of the one-night stand?

At each conference there is at least one person I connect strongly with. We sit and talk over adult beverages. Or we sit in some lounge area on session breaks. We sometimes find ourselves attending the same sessions and sit together multiple times. Those exchanged cards I hang onto and communicate with at least a couple of times. And of those, a mere handful have turned into what might be called professional real friends. Especially if you see them each time you attend that conference.

I find a similar pattern within my on-line affinity groups on Facebook. A few people emerge as folks you’d really like to have on your team.

Is the dance a phony social convention or is the social glue of trying to connect a value beyond the superficiality of the interaction?

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Personality Quirks: Z is for Zealous


A zealot is an uncompromising character who fanatically pursues shis religious, political, or other ideals. One who is zealous is not considered a reasonable rational person. The object of the zealotry overrides normal social strictures, thus some are merely in-your-face offensive to you and others blow up train stations.

Historically, the word represents a member of an ancient Jewish sect that resisted the Romans until 70 CE and aimed for a world Jewish theocracy. Zealot has expanded well beyond that historical beginning. We have had all flavors of zealous folks since then.

I found an interesting etymology for zealot. The word derives from ecclesiastical Latin and originally comes from the Greek zelos meaning ‘be jealous.’ How did jealousy turn into fanaticism?

You of course can see the potential to use your religious zealous character in a thriller where heesh is trying to protect shis religious beliefs/icons from what heesh considers to be sacrilege. Perhaps your zealous character believes that the Pope is an impediment to shis religious beliefs and sets out to rid the world of him. Is your zealous character Catholic or is heesh from another faith tradition or even an atheist? How could your zealot get close enough to the Pope to harm him? Is heesh working alone or in concert with a group?

Another kind of book is murder mystery. This time your zealous character is a fitness and health guru whom many hundreds of thousands follow unquestioningly. Heesh writes books, has a video series for cooking and exercise, and has frequent large-scale workshops. Is it a fa├žade? Is the zealot for real or a fraud pretending to be a strict adherent as a way to milk the gullible public? What if a spurned lover writes a tell-all that threatens the comfortable lifestyle and image of your zealous character? Might the spurned lover end up dead? And if so, by whose hand? Your zealous character is the obvious suspect. But did heesh do the deed?

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Personality Quirks: Y is for Yobbish


To be yobbish is to act in the “rude, noisy, and aggressive way” that a yob acts. What that means in action may vary from one person to another. I may have a lower tolerance than you for rudeness or noise or aggression. That allows a lot of latitude for creating tensions among characters.

What an interesting etymology for yobbish! A yob is a rude, noisy, and aggressive young man and the word originated in the middle of the 19th century from the backward spelling of boy. That’s an interesting way of creating neologisms.

I can imagine a family moving into a new neighborhood. The quietness is disrupted by loud music played late into the night by the yobbish teenager of the new family. How do the neighbors react when the teen discards trash on their lawns or won’t give way on the sidewalk for an elderly neighbor using a walker? Is there any way to break through the incivility and turn the yobbish young man around? Perhaps a kind neighbor realizes the yob is acting out to get attention and reaches out. Or maybe the yobbish teen is in a situation wherein he must help someone or callously disregard the need for help. What does the yob do and what is the aftermath of the choice?

Another scenario with a yobbish character could be the supervisor at a fast food franchise. He’s a Class A jerk. He picks favorites. Employees never know if today they’ll be praised or punished. Do employees plan retribution, some sort of retaliation? Do they video tape him and send the tape to the corporate management? Is there one event that pushes other employees to finally stand up to him like his humiliation of a physically or mentally challenged person? What if the supervisor’s supervisor is yobbish?

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Personality Quirks: X is for Xenophilia


 These days there is a lot of talk worldwide about xenophobia, fear of strangers, such that borders are unilaterally closed even to refugees, not just immigrants. This fear is flamed by outrageous acts of global terrorism that is meant to send the message that no where is truly safe, not your shopping mall, not your commute, not your religious building. They have been very effective, these terrorists, at disrupting what ought to be a sacred principle in any religion: help those in need.

So let’s talk about an opposite condition: xenophilia, attraction to foreign peoples, manners, and cultures. A xenophiliac would seek out opportunities to travel and to welcome those from other cultures.

Xenophilia derives from Greek xenos meaning ‘stranger’ and philia meaning ‘fondness.’

So what stories could you spin? Might xenophilia apply within one’s own country? Might a Southern belle want to know more about and be attracted to understanding the life of the black sharecropper down the road? Why not? How would that come about? Perhaps she encounters the sharecropper at the library and is curious what heesh could want to read about. Maybe the belle meets the sharecropper at the grocery store and notices heesh bought the same dress fabric. Historical or modern day, your protag could follow through on the curiosity and become friends with someone who has lived the opposite life. Welcoming that new culture with interest and zeal is the sign of a xenophile.

Or, your xenophile could be one of those extreme characters who has little innate core so heesh adopts the trappings of another culture and lives shis life as if heesh is born of the other culture. Imagine how annoying to know that someone is only assuming the garb of being French, British, or Pakistani. Your xenophile would insist to others that heesh is of another culture even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Is your xenophile mentally ill, delusional, or merely establishing a life that is more tolerable than the one born to? Does the xenophilic character remain in the other culture or does something shake shim out of it to the reality of life?

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Personality Quirks: W is for Wiccaphobia


You got this one! Wiccaphobia is a fear of witches and witchcraft. Yep, you knew that, but you may be puzzled still about the word. Why would this still be a real thing? We’re not all in Massachusetts, and it is not the 17th century.

Witches have been feared through much of history when in fact those thought to be witches—typically women—were folks who possessed more knowledge about herbs, healing, and meteorology (for example) than the average. When things are going well, calling on the witchy woman to help heal or provide protections was normal. When times get hard, people look for who to blame. And the person who is different, who knows more, who expresses non-standard beliefs might take the brunt of the anger and fear.

Wicca was created as a religious cult for modern witchcraft, a 20th century institution. Wicca, the institution, establishes it origins, however, in pre-Christian pagan beliefs and practices. One must be initiated into Wicca into a coven of other witches that can only occur after a year and a day of intense study, reflection, concentration, and practices. Wicca law holds “an it harm none.”

So what’s to fear? Where does wiccaphobia come from? Here is a group of mostly women who have chosen their own spiritual paths. I suspect it is a holdover from the prejudices and myths of the past. And from unforeseen implications of applied magick. “An it harm none” is a great goal, but sometimes, Wicca warns, bad results can occur when none were intended.

The etymology is Old English wicca meaning ‘witch’ and, of course, phobia is ‘fear of.’

You could set this story as an historical fiction pre- or post-wiccan hysteria. Your wiccaphobe might be a religious fanatic who believes strongly that shis path of spirituality is the only sanctioned one. Anyone expressing pantheism or who venerates earth-based beliefs would be anathema. So the wiccaphobe may set out to destroy what is perceived as a threat to the rightful order. Would there be violence or just a subtle undermining of the person such that the Wiccan leaves the region? Would the community rally around the witchy old lady who is so helpful or would they join the hysteria to wipe out witchcraft?

How about a science fiction time-traveling doctoral student whose dissertation is witches and witchcraft? She is a witch but doesn’t know it and her wiccaphobia stems from her unease with special talents she’s had all her life and can’t always control, a closet witch who fights coming out. She chose her dissertation topic as a way to confront her wiccaphobia fears. Perhaps her trip to Danvers, Massachusetts to collect data in 1692 results in new understandings of the period’s hysteria and leads her to accept her own talents in the 21st century.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Personality Quirks: V is for Vacillant


Your vacillant character is uncertain in purpose and/or action. And you are correct when you see a connection to vacillate. Heesh alternates, wavers among different opinions and actions. This indecisive character can be quite trying for your other characters who are seeking clear answers or stances.

Vacillant comes from Latin vacillat- meaning ‘sway unsteadily.’

How might you use a vacillant character in your writing? Perhaps your lighthearted novel includes a character who is deeply into astrology and other prognostications. Heesh uses the daily horoscope to lay out the day’s plan for business. Heesh loves Chinese food because the fortune cookies add another layer of understanding for shim, and so forth. Assume your vacillant character is a Libra. Heesh knows the stereotype for Librans—indecisive because they see both sides of every argument, thus unable to pick. Imagine the situations that can be bollixed up with your character’s waverings. Get married? Set a date? Where to honeymoon? Constant plan changes can give you fun scenes.

Another kind of vacillant character might be someone who is so insecure and so self-deprecating that committing to any course of action would be risking being disliked by others. Such low-self worth can make for a very annoying character for whom one initially feels sympathy but as the vacillance continues, others lose patience.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Personality Quirks: U is for Umbrageous


You may know someone who has “taken umbrage” or even have done so yourself, but I wager you’ve never thought of an umbrageous personality. This personality quirk is in the same family as yesterday’s truculent, but perhaps umbrageous is not thought of as negatively. After all, umbrage is typically situational rather than a constant state like truculence. On the other hand, we’ve all met those thin-skinned folks who seem to be looking for an excuse to be offended.

Umbrage come to us from the Latin umbra meaning ‘shadow’. In late Middle English its sense was a ‘shadowy outline’ which led to ‘ground for suspicion’ which brought us to today’s ‘offense.’

In the first scenario, creating an umbrageous character means finding situations/events for your plot that most people would pass off as inappropriate or uncomfortable. But an umbrageous character would take such offense as to be vocal and unpleasant about the situation/event. Perhaps someone tells an off-color story or a gender-insensitive joke. Many of your characters will look away or walk away without comment. Your umbrageous character might take on the speaker and bring shim to task. Heesh feels the offense so deeply that it must be addressed. Perhaps heesh sees shimself as the police officer for civil speech. How do other characters react to the outrage and passion of the umbrageous character? Do they cheer shim on or do they avoid shim as much as the original speaker?

In another scenario, you could also create an umbrageous character who doesn’t publicly address the creator of the situation/event. Rather, think Super Hero/Heroine. A Batman/Batgirl or Superman/Superwoman who takes umbrage and retaliates at a higher level of response. Heesh sets out to right the world’s wrongs. What motivates super heroes/heroines if not umbrage. You could create a nice paranormal or fantasy tale for your stage.

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