No one else thinks like authors. We are a unique breed. Who but an author has a web browsing history that includes guns from the 1880s, dances popular in 1739 and the winner of the 1983 America’s Cup Race? Who but an author looks at a group of people and sees one of them as the victim and one the murderer? Who but an author can talk about ways to kill someone without blinking an eye? (Aside from a serial killer, perhaps?)
I’ve noticed that our conversations sometimes make others uncomfortable. I was with my NaNoWriMo regional group one Sunday in Panera Bread. We sat in the main room, having coffee (an author’s life blood) and discussed one of the challenges – Killing Cliff Brooks. (See below) It’s traditional among some NaNo groups to bring in a character with this name and kill him off. We sat there talking loudly about how we planned for Cliff to meet his untimely demise. He was destined to be shot, stabbed, bludgeoned, strangled, hanged, dragged by a horse and blown up.
After a few minutes that people were giving us odd looks. Finally, one couple got up and moved away from us, disgusted looks on their faces. I realized they were upset by our conversation. Honestly, I thought it was funny. These same people probably read the type of books we write, or watch TV and movies filled with graphic violence and don’t blink an eye. But apparently our conversation in Panera made it too real.
After doing my radio shows for several years, I’ve spoken with a lot of authors. We may approach our stories a bit differently, we may write different genres, but some things we have in common:
We have a warped view of the world. Not that it’s a bad thing, we just see facets other people don’t.
We have a knowledge base filled with bizarre, esoteric things – useless for everything except writing a novel or winning Trivial Pursuit.
We can talk about writing until the cows come home or the bar closes.
We may never have met before, but by the time we’re done talking, we know everything about one another – at least about our books and characters. I may not remember a person’s name, but I can tell you all about their writing.
We think normal people (non-writers) are boring.
We are easily distracted.
We are not orderly or organized, but we can come up with that all important fact in 10 seconds or less.
We are ready with ideas on how to improve someone elses’ writing and beg for help with our own.
We will argue a point until one of us dies, and it’s usually something that doesn’t matter anyway in the real world.
We know what motivation, story arc and pacing mean.
We are a diverse and bizarre bunch – but we wouldn’t change ourselves or our writer friends for anything.
We have a million and one ideas flying around in our heads and have so many story ideas, we will probably never get them all written.
But we cling to our story ideas because they are ours, they are a part of us and we would be nothing and no one without them. The words make us who we are. They give us hope in despair, light in the darkness and calm in the storm.
Why We Kill Cliff Brooks
The following is an account of why we kill Cliff Brooks as told by Drew Patty, a member of the South Bay WriMo.
Cliff Brooks is an actual guy who actually lived in South Bay. He was one of the earliest participants in the NaNoWriMo. Several years ago, Cliff, Drew Patty and others were at a write in. Drew’s (then 13 year old) son, Phillip, was also there working on his mini-novel.
Phillip leaned over Cliff’s shoulder and read what he’d written. He burst out laughing. Cliff, who was somewhat offended, complained, “It’s horror, it’s not supposed to be funny.” Phillip insisted that it was hilarious.
Cliff quickly wrote a character named Phillip into the scene and killed him off in an appropriately gruesome fashion. To retaliate, Phillip wrote a scene into his story where Cliff Brooks, President of the United States, turned into a two headed monster and exploded. He shared this story the following week. Since many of the other NaNo’ers liked the idea, they decided to put Cliff into their stories and kill him off. Thus began the “Kill Cliff Brooks” challenge.
Dellani Oakes is a not quite completely crazy author of Indian Summer, Lone Wolf and The Ninja Tattoo. Indian Summer – historical romance and Lone Wolf – futuristic romance are available from Second Wind Publishing. The Ninja Tattoo – contemporary romantic suspense, is available from Tirgearr Publishing.