Monday, November 17, 2008

Thinking Like a Writer

I had this epiphany today. I realized I have a habit of pulling myself out of a situation and assessing it as if I were a narrator. Of course, I spend much of my life narrating situations. In a big box store this morning, I watched a manager and his female underling walk the aisles. I listened as the manager explained why some items on a nearby shelf shouldn't be there. I watched the facial expressions of the woman, assessed how she felt about her boss, guessed at what she was thinking. By time I moved on, I had written an entire scenario for them in my head.
Then later at the dentist office as I waited for my daughter to have her teeth cleaned, I observed a family of three in the waiting room - mother, son and daughter - as they argued over who hadn't walked the dog that morning. I quickly summed up the relationship between the siblings, the parenting skills of the mother, as well as her marital situation.
When I stopped and laughed to myself at what I was doing, I realized it was something I've been doing for years. I fill in all the blanks of the countless people I encounter in the course of a day. I write their back stories!
Sure, some folks might characterize my behavior as a little weird, a bit on the intrusive side or even presumptuous, but writers get it. We don't find it strange when we hear someone say their characters have conversations in their head. We don't even lift an eyebrow when one of us discuss a villain as if he or she is a living, breathing person. Because to us, they are living and breathing. They are our creation, the flowers we've coaxed from the fertile soil of our imagination.
So rejoice if you find yourself the moderator between the voices in your head. Celebrate if you fill in the details of scenarios you observe amongst strangers. You're not crazy. You're just thinking like a writer.

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