Tag Archives: personality

Psychological Writing Series: Honesty and Truth

I know, I know.  You’re learning way too much about moi through this series, but please bear with me.  And promise not to hold any of my childhood naughtiness against me, as I have learned some restraint in the intervening years.

Honesty.  Or rather the lack of it–as my story goes.

I was the world’s biggest liar as a kid. 

“Did you lose your earring?”  Nope.  Really, that’s not it in the heater vent where I dropped it two days ago.  Even if it looks exactly the same as the one in my ear right now.  Even if I spent hours trying to fish it out before you noticed it was missing.

I lied my way into and out of things.  I also lied myself into the corner more often than I could count.  Seriously.  I might as well have had my name on the living room corner for all the time I spent with my nose in it.

According to Merriam-Webster, honesty is “adherence to the facts: sincerity.”  I could argue this point, as I was very sincere in every one of my lies.  But if I don’t try to twist the definition, it really comes down to this: honesty equals the truth. 

 Or does it?

I’ve worked as a child advocate for many years and the most eye-opening thing I’ve learned is this: there is no such thing as absolute truth.  Instead, we all bring our experiences to the table when we interpret and remember the facts of an incident. 

Example: ask five witnesses to a crime the same exact question and you will get five variations of the “facts.”  Sometimes these factual accounts can differ so tremendously as to ring false.  Yet each witness is providing the absolute truth–according to them.

Confused yet?

I’ll simplify.  Remember back to the last disagreement you had with your significant other, parent or friend.  Now, what happened?  That’s right, really think about what happened.  Try to remember the exact words that were used. Where you were standing.  How you crossed your arms over your chest or tapped your foot. 

Now what does that look like from your adversary’s perspective?  Will s/he remember the exact same words, the places you both stood, how you looked and what you did?  Maybe they didn’t watch your toe tap, but noticed the ear tug and scrunching eyebrows.

Did someone see or hear this conflict?  I bet s/he remembers something else as well.

And yet when recounting the incident, you will all swear your version is true because that’s what you remember. For realsies, people cannot recount the absolute truth.  Our personalities, past experiences, moods and focus all affect how we see and feel things at any given time.  I call this personal truth.

Conflicting personal truths can make navigating relationships extremely difficult both in real life and in fiction.  Especially when each party is sincere in his/her version of the truth.

Often, however, confused is what we want our characters to feel.  In romance novels, it benefits us to have our characters misinterpret intentions.  In thrillers, we need to plant seeds of doubt in our MC’s mind about what is happening and how it happened.  This confusion creates conflict.

As writers, it is our job to know the facts of our tale.  Only then can we effectively allow our characters to bend the truth to fit their life experiences and personalities.  When each character is sincere and honest in their version of events, our stories retain natural conflict just like in real life.  And this, my fellow scribes, is the absolute truth.

Does recounting a personal truth make someone a liar?  How do we, as writers, learn to see all the variations one truth has to offer?  How do we reconcile this for our characters and, in real life, for ourselves?  Can the ability to understand the inherent falsity of truth make us more honest?

Curious minds want to know.

PS: my spellchecker isn’t working at the moment, so please forgive any typos!

The Truth About Agents

Before submitting a manuscript, I do a lot of research on an agency in general and an agent in particular.  This method either makes me extremely picky or a master procrastinator.  The end product is that I’m a submission snail.  Slow and plodding.

Along the way, I read articles, interviews and blog posts about my potential victims agents.  Iread information on the industry and try to keep up with publishing news.  I do not submit randomly just because an agent has a pulse.

In the past few weeks, what I’ve uncovered is a truth about agents that reminds me of my days as a childcare provider.  Agents are woefully underappreciated by the majority of writer wanna-bes.  Their careers are not what we picture them to be.  They do  not sit on the couch watching Oprah and eating BonBons while kids run free and beat each other over the head with shovels. 

Oops, I got ahead of myself there.

But the point is the same: agents work hard to find talent they feel passionate about.  As writers, we would do better to understand where they come from.

A Few Truths About Agents

  • They do not get paid to read our slush.  There is no all encompassing salary from the publishing gods that pays them to read through submissions.  None.  Therefore, the precious sentence or two they spend on our writing is done for FREE.  How many of us would punch out and then put in five more hours of work?
  • They do not get paid until we get paid.  An agent’s income is a fraction of our advance and royalties.  When they read our query letter (for free) and request a full (for free) and consider our manuscripts (for free) and pimp us to publishers (for free) and haggle over contracts (uh huh, for free) THEY DO NOT GET PAID.  Again, how many of us would accept a job where the boss says, “Dude, I want you to work for me, but I’m not gonna pay you yet.  If you can keep my kid from getting one bruise in the next six months, I’ll write you a check.”? 
  • “Agents” are not a whole.  Some agents are professional, others are not.  Some like to edit, others do not.  Some rep a career, while others rep a book.  Some like email.  Others dig snail mail.  Some put ketchup on their eggs.  Others are vegan.  My point is, agents are individuals.  They have individual preferences, personalities and business practices.  Respect their individuality.  I hated being lumped in with other daycare providers because I NEVER watch tv and think BonBons are nasty.  Did you know that writers are mentally ill and will likely attempt suicide?  Hurts to be lumped, doesn’t it?
  • There is no law that says agents have to respond to queries with a personal touch.  The agenting gods did not decree this.  It is not our given right as writers to get glowing rejections, a full manuscript critique or a reference list of other agents to query.  This is a matter of personality and time.  If you receive a form rejection, consider yourself lucky to have a response.  If it has any kind of personalization to it, consider yourself blessed. 
  • Agents have feelings.  It’s true.  I have yet to read an agent who doesn’t get hurt by nasty comments thrown their way by writers who don’t have a clue or the manners to go along with their ignorance.  Be respectful.  Listen to Thumper.  “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nuthin at all.”
  • Agents are elephants.  They have long memories.  Do not waste their time submitting the same story with a new title.  They will remember.  Do not slander them when you get your rejection.  They will happily burn the bridge.  One of the biggest reasons childcare providers quit providing care is parent problems.  We do not forget.  In reality, who does?

I guess what I’m saying is this: respect the time an agent took to even consider your manuscript.  Respect that they have limitations and personal preferences.  Know that they work long, hard hours and get paid wee, little chunks. 

In addition, don’t blanket email your manuscript to fifty agents.  Know who each agent is and what they’re like.

I love kids.  Love, love, love them.  As a licensed provider, I did my job well.  Yet even then, I knew that my home was not the place for every child who had working parents.  Some kids have different needs.  Some providers have different skills.  I knew that being passionate about kids wasn’t enough.  I had to be passionate about each kid as an individual. 

As a writer, I would like my agent to be passionate about my story.  Anything less and we both get the short end of the contract. 

What do you look for in an agent?  How have you tracked them down prior to submission?  Do you believe having an agent is more important than having the right agent?  What’s the difference?

Life Quirks: Fact is better than Fiction

Yesterday I spent my day on the fly.  I had a HUGE project to work on (13 hours total by the time Iwent to bed) and a ton of running to do.

Not the get-your-heart-rate-up-cuz-I-wanna-be-skinnyless chubby, but the taxi driver, errand kind of running.  For the first half of the day I threw on my comfiest clothes while I did my creative thinking for the project. 

Low and behold, noon barely squeaked by and I had an urgent need to begin running.  Not wanting to be a total geek, I swapped my jammie pants for a day-old pair of jeans (because they were still clean and right at the end of my bed, just slightly baggy.)  They went beautifully with my hundred-year-old, navy blue sweatshirt (which looked hot with my gray t-shirt sticking out the bottom–very 80’s.)  And lest I forget, I must add that my socks were white gym socks (because what else goes with jammie pants?)  These I slipped into a pair of black dress shoes (because they were easy to get on and were by the door when I donned my taxi hat over my bed-head pony tail.)

And this, my friends, is how I presented myself to my community at no less than five places of business. 

I know, you’re all shaking your cyber heads right now and pretending not to know me.  However, I had the most amazing epiphany while waiting in front of the clothing store for my DD and her friends. 

I WAS A READY-MADE CHARACTER.

If I wrote romantic fiction, I would never have my MC be the clutzy young lady as a way of meeting the hot male protag.  Oh no, I would write myself right into the pages. 

Hot male protag would stumble across the hidden secret that his seemingly put-together flame is really a fashion faux pas of the worst kind.

Writing YA?  Heck, what a better way to  forget it.  I can’t divulge that storyline just yet!

And the list goes on…

What life quirks do you have that would make fantastic novel fodder?  Have you used them in your own writing?  Or, are you the quirky character that gets written about and don’t even know it?