Okay, pun intended, let’s get that out of the way real quick. After you are done groaning, check out the trailer though. I have been anti-vampire ever since a certain series of books and some subsequent WB shows debuted. Of course, there was one notable exception. Now there is another! Check out the trailer below! It comes out right around my birthday too, so maybe I can get my wife to splurge for IMAX!
I have thought recently about some of the principles that I believe in when it comes to fiction stories and genre. I am not speaking about genre in the more traditional sense. When I go to Amazon, I realize that if I go to the Fantasy section, then I will get results that reflect books having to do with magic, mythical creatures, swords, and the like. I am speaking in this post more to the general idea of a fantasy. A fantasy is something created in one’s imagination. Something that has not actually happened. See how that fits into fiction? Fiction is a story that never actually happened, created from someone’s imagination.
Of course the next question you have, after accepting that premise, is, “So what?” I hear you. I notice many writers and readers get caught up in the “reality ” of stories. In science fiction, I have seen some argue about whether or not space travel in X manner (notice I dodged the argument by using a variable instead of mentioning a specific method.) Some people only want to write or read those science fiction stories that reflect realistic technology. My take on it is that it is called science FICTION for a reason . If it was real, it would be called a science textbook.
What I see many authors gloss over these days, however, is what I call internal consistency. This applies to everything that is created within the story. It applies in many ways, and it requires the writer to be somewhat cerebral. Before he became delusional and arrogant, M. Night Shyamalan created the Sixth Sense. He created certain rules that he followed throughout the movie. For example, anything the dead interacted with in the physical world was red. After the surprising ending, one could go back and see all of these rules in place throughout the movie. I remember seeing an interview with him, where he described going through scenes and looking for discrepancies in the color scheme, sometimes finding a problem right as they were starting to shoot.
This, to me, is internal consistency, and is very important to me in the stories that I enjoy. I want stories to be consistent with the rules created in that world. If this is a story where the ghosts cannot speak to the living, then I do not want to catch a ghost talking to a living person, unless there is a development in the story that accounts for this. I don’t want to see a character that acts wildly outside of their established personality. Internal consistency, in my estimation, is critical in any fiction story. As far as whether or not certain elements are realistic? It is all fantasy, which is not real by definition.
Many people that are involved in, or interested in the writing world know about Orson Scott Card’s evolving foot-in-mouth debacle that has really cost him some likability points. Tom Cruise seriously tanked in public opinion after he followed up his public couch-aerobics routine with proclamations that postpartum depression could be cured by aliens , and that Brooke Shields was not courageous for coming forth and revealing her own struggles with postpartum depression, but rather a bit loony for taking medication to help her in that time. I may not be a PR genius, but I don’t think it really is never going to be popular to to mess with anything that involves babies and mommies.
If we were to take the opinions of everyone that reads this post, then I am sure that both of us could come up with many other examples of celebrities with too much time on their hands, shooting their mouths off and inadvertently hitting themselves in the foot.
So the point of this post is that people should keep their opinions to themselves?
Not really. I will probably say this many times before I die, that I believe in balance in life for most things and I am not a black-and-white thinker. People have always been interested in the private lives of celebrities. I teach psychology classes, and whenever we can do vignettes where the target subject is wide open, most people pick celebrities to write about. I think that the same has become true of writers, where readers really want to feel some connection to the writer. I know as a reader myself, I am much more likely to shell out the cash for a high-priced new novel when I feel like I know something about the author and that I really want to support them as a person.
How much sharing is too much though?
Sometimes a third person perspective is great to be able to see things clearly. For example, it is easy to see from the outside that Tom Cruise and his beliefs are not mainstream, and it is clear to many that he needed to just keep his mouth shut a long time ago. He went from being America’s pretty boy, to being just another celebrity whack job that illustrates just how celebrities often have an unhealthy combination of ego, money, and way too much free time. Orson Scott Card has made many contradictory statements that just keep burying him deeper and deeper into the pit “should have shut the Hell up.”  In retrospect, it is easy to see where they veered off the path. What does that mean for others though?
We do want to have that connection with people who write our favorite books, especially with the changes brought on by social media. But what should a writer share with others, and what cuts too deep to the controversial topics that end up hurting reputations more than helping? It is not that I think writers should not have their own opinions, but that people should remember some topics are just going to turn a lot of people off. No one is so big that they can never fall.
When I started this blog, I decided a long time ago to keep politics and religion out of my posts. Not because I do not have any of my own opinions, but because I am not here to stir controversy and push for some kind of social change. When I do, I do not want to push some specific concept, or try to use my tiny platform to push a radical agenda. Most people in the Western world are not people that are homophobic people that believe that Brooke Shields is a horrible mommy because she sought treatment for her postpartum depression. I am not saying these opinions are right or wrong, I am just saying that at some point, it is a good idea to realize when your point of view is going to be wildly unpopular, and that discretion is the better part of valor. Not that I have not had my own posts that seem like a bad idea when looking through the telescope of retrospection.
I really believe that social media should convey some sense of fun about the writer, help make the writer a real human, share some admirable values such as the value of family or charity, and should maybe reveal a bit about the writer’s process and those “behind the scene” tidbits that all of us as readers love to read about. Patrick Rothfuss is someone who I believe has really been able to do this with his blog. I have not read every single post of his, so this may be something that comes back to haunt me later, but from what I have seen, he has that balance. He shows his compassionate side, his personal side, how much he loves his wife and son, and a little about his process as a writer. When he does post something of his opinion, he is not too far “out there” so as to alienate a large segment of the population.
I know for me the model and general rules I plan to use when I share personal information in my blog. What about for you, how much is too much sharing?
 This may be a slight exaggeration and oversimplification on my part. 😉
 Located right next to the pit of despair.
About A Pint with the Professor
I do believe that the experiences we have, and who we are as people shapes what kind of writers we are and strongly impacts our voice as writers. I teach psychology courses for a major university, and I work in the mental health field. I really do infuse much of my writing with what I understand about people and their psychological make up.
I came up with the idea for this feature on my blog from multiple different sources. It would only be right to acknowledge them, and it might also be interesting to some. Marian Lizzi, an editor, recently wrote in the Writer magazine, that she likes to read books where a smart person is writing about something fun. She said,”Some projects—even at the proposal stage—make you feel like you’re having a pint with a favorite professor. (Not in a creepy way.)” Thus, the name of the feature. Along with this, I realized that I love hearing about how writers think about their own writing and the fictional worlds they create.
I also have to admit a somewhat selfish reason to write this. It is good practice for me to think about these things as well. In order to write something for you, I will have to research, and wrap my head around it first. That helps me to be a better writer, because ultimately I am a very cognitive writer. If it also helps you too, then what an exciting thing for me to be a part of!
So in this series, which I aim to publish each Thursday, I will share how I believe the things I know well, like psychology and sociology impact my writing, and impact the writing of writers that I admire. Each week I will try to preview the next section, so that you can let me know of any stories that provide effective examples of the concept coming up. I would love to feature the work of other writers as examples of the themes I am talking about each week.
What you can expect from me is not the ins and outs of grammar, or the rules about writing. Those things are important, but are not my focus here. You should know, that as the Cat in the Hat says, I am not really a rules guy. So I do not see myself as an authority whom you should not question. I see these things as just my ideas. I don’t mind debating them with you over a pint.
I will focus on the things that I know. I will explore psychology, sociology and other related concepts as they apply to stories and characters. I hope you find it fun, interesting, and informative.
So pull up a stool, grab a pint, and order some fish and chips. Let’s have some fun.
My first post, scheduled for Thursday next week (7/19) will be an examination of the social psychology factors that influence characters. Social psychology is the study of how society impacts each individual person’s psyche.