Beware Of Writer II: Revenge Of The Teenage Penmonkey From Mars

See that guy over there? The one in the alleyway with no pants, his big beard braided with bird bones? The guy twitching like he’s covered in ants? The dude stabbing an invisible demon with an invisible knife?

Now, see this guy here? Ahh, the writer. Sitting at his desk. Typing away. Clickity-clack. Clackity-click. Coffee by his side. Hair slightly mussed. Writing about murders and lost love and space opera.

Let’s say you have a choice to cozy up to one of these two individuals. Hang out with them for a day.

The one you’d choose would seem obvious.

And that’s where you’re fucked.

Seriously. Choose the Charlie Manson-looking motherfucker every time. He wears his crazy on his sleeve, same way he wears his poop on the outside of his body. But the writer? The writer hides his crazy. It’s like a little secret present inside filled with bees. A Pandora’s Box deep in the writer’s troubled heart.

It is time, once again, to beware of writer.

Your Attention Is Our Creative Heroin

Newsflash: we are needy little goblins.

Makes sense when you think about it. Our work — and thus, our lives — becomes geared toward seeking the approval of others. We’ll kill a dude just for the chance to have an agent request a full manuscript. It’s not just editors, agents, publishers, and producers. It’s the audience. We tell you we write because we love it, but the dark reality is we write because we need you to love us.

If you don’t justify our existence, we will wither like a frost-bitten petunia. We are junkies for your love and appreciation. The other night, I had my wife sit in front of the computer and read something I’d wrote. Thirty seconds in, I said, “You didn’t laugh.”

“What?” she asked.

“That part there. It was supposed to be funny. You didn’t laugh. Means it’s not funny.”

“It was funny.”

Squint. Shift. Twitch. “But you didn’t laugh.”

“I smiled. I laughed inside.” She saw the tendons in my neck standing out. Wet eyes trembling like those of a sad Japanime samurai girl. “Listen, if I’m going to read this, you can’t stand there over my shoulder.”

“Okay,” I said, not actually moving.

She rolled her eyes. Kept reading. Finally, I couldn’t take it. I said, “I will give you fifty dollars and a foot massage if you just laugh sometime in the next 30 seconds. Let me sweeten the pot. If you don’t do it, I will know that you don’t love me, and more importantly, you don’t love my writing. My only response will be to run to the bathroom and drown myself in the toilet.”

The lady knows the drill. She accepted the deal. Twenty-eight seconds later, a convincing little laugh. I could’ve licked the computer screen that felt so good. Creative heroin, indeed.

We Bite When Cornered, And Also, When Not Cornered

We look harmless. But we’re like hooded cobras. Very angry humans, we writer-folk. Not sure why, exactly. Maybe all those words get caught up in the pipes and chutes of our brain-plumbing, causing something along the lines of a spiritual arterial blockage.

A whole dictionary full of profanity and rage gumming up our think-machine.

Doesn’t take much to set a writer off. You tell us, “You know, I don’t like pie as much as I used to,” and next thing you know you’re wiping a gob of spit from your eye. Gets worse if you try to talk to us about writerly things. “I don’t think writers should self-pub–” but before you finish that sentence, we’ve broken a laptop over your head and shanked you in the jugular with a fountain pen.

In your blood we shall ink our first bestseller.

You Can See Our Libraries From Space

We like books the way crackheads like crack rock.

We collect books. We hoard them. Anybody who has ever moved from house to house with a writer in tow learns a very unfortunate lesson, very fast: books are the heaviest substance known to man. You’ll be thankful you get to move a fire-safe filled with dumbbells after you move 50 boxes of our books. Many of which we’ve never even read. Or we didn’t even like. Go ahead. Try to take one of our books away. “You didn’t even like this book,” you’ll say. “You said you hated it. That you wanted to find the author and shove this book so far up his ass he could taste his own shit-shellacked prose.”

“But I might like it someday.”

“We’re getting rid of the book,” you’ll say, and you’ll reach for it.

“YOU CAN’T STEAL MY DREAMS,” you’ll cry, then tip over the bookshelf. When the cops drag you away, you’ll casually note how much those feet look like the Wicked Witch’s feet from beneath Dorothy’s house.

We’re Probably Drunk

That coffee cup next to the desk? That’s probably wine in there. Or whisky.

Or paint thinner.

Yeah.

You Shall Be Destroyed! (Uhh, In Our Heads)

Revenge is a dish best served to a character who is secretly you inside a book we’re writing and in that book the dish is actually a platter full of scorpions and then you the character eats them and the scorpions sting your mouth and throat and they keep stinging you and your pants fall down and you slip screaming into a trough full of horseshit and all the townsfolk gather to laugh at you and throw Justin Bieber CDs at your head and finally the scorpions have babies inside your colon. The End.

Uhh. What I mean is, you know that disclaimer you read inside books? “Any resemblance to real persons living or dead is purely coincidental…?” That one? Coincidental, my left nut. We may not punish you in reality, but ye gods and little fishies, watch what we will do to you in our fiction.

“This character sounds like me. He looks like me.”

“I’m sure it’s just coincidence.”

“My name is Burt Smith. The character’s name is Bert Smythe.”

“Still. It’s a… common name?”

“He shows up in Chapter Seven, then is promptly beaten to death by a pack of housewives with double dildos. One of them says something about child support. Then they pee on his corpse.”

“Well, your ex-wife did write the book, Burt. Maybe you want to pay that money after all.”

Spoilery Spoil Heads Are We

“That guy did it,” we’ll say, pointing to some character on the TV. Or we’ll say, “She’s going to shoot him… right now.” Or, “No, you think she’s a hooker, but actually, she’s a he. And he‘s a space elf.”

Sadly, we’re usually right. We don’t mean to be. It’s not because we’re smart. It’s more because we’re obsessives. We watch a metric butt-ton of films. We consume gallons of television. We read a billion books and a trillion comic books. We play video games till our fingers look like rotten kielbasa. We write this shit. For a living. We know the tricks. We know structure. We know about Chekov’s gun and the bomb under the table and the act turns and the subtle-not-so-subtle clues. And we’ll blurt them out uncontrollably. Probably because we’re so goddamn needy.

We may be trying to impress you. Answer unclear, ask again later.

We won’t spoil things we’ve already seen. Well, not unless we didn’t like it.

“The unicorn killed her,” we’ll tell you.

You’ll punch us in the shoulder but we always feel justified. As if it’s not a spoiler if we think it sucks.

Man, we’re jerks.

As Writers, We’re Very Easily Distracte — Oooh Shiny!

When we’re supposed to be writing, we’re distracted by everything else: video games, the dogs, the vacuum cleaner, somebody else’s book, our genitals, a loaded handgun.

When we’re supposed to be doing something other than writing, we’re distracted by the writing.

“Honey, can you put the keyboard aside and stop typing for a minute?”

“Fine. Fine. What is it, you chirping harridan?”

“Well, you’ve been writing for the last fifteen minutes and I’d rather you be doing that thing you’re supposed to be doing? You know? Feeding the baby?” (Or, washing the clothes, driving the car, inserting the nuclear fuel rods into the containment unit, loading the handgun, etc.)

Our Stories Grow Like Viagra-Charged Erections

We are not only lying liars who lie, but we’re also wanton embellishers — the narrative equivalent of someone who cannot stop bedazzling an otherwise boring denim jacket.

When we’re telling a story, feign interest. Because that’s how you get the truth out of us. If you start to drift off — you start going through the mail, you stare off at a distant nowhere point, rivulets of drool begin creeping down your chin — we will crank the volume knob on the story louder and louder until we regain your interest. “I was at the post office today,” we’ll start. “Man, the line was crazy.”

“Nn-hnn,” you’ll say, paying only half attention.

Our eyes will narrow. We’re suspicious. Okay. Fine. Fine. You want to play it that way? Done. “The guy in front of me smelled.” This is true. This is part of the story. But then, we add: “He smelled like a corpse stuffed with a dozen Italian hoagies. He smelled like a dead guy exuding hoagie oil from his pores. I almost threw up.” Ah. Ah-ha. Yes. We’ve started to hook you. You’ll look up.

“Really?” you’ll ask.

“Oh yeah. And then he was mauled by a bear.”

“A bear.”

“Yep. A Kodiak bear. Not a record-breaker or anything.”

(We don’t want to seem like we’re embellishing, after all.)

“And where did this bear come from?”

Pause. “Uhhh. A hang-glider.”

“He came down from a hang-glider.”

“I took it too far, didn’t I.”

“Probably.”

Of course, on the other side…

We Have Judged Your Story, And We Have Found It… Lacking

We wish the rest of the world would embellish. Everybody tells stories. We’re just dicks about it because we think we’re the experts. We’re not. We’re just bloviating gas-bags. (But don’t tell us that.)

You’ll finish up your five minute story: “… and then Jenkins gave the boss a look like, whatever, and he went back into his office. Then we all went to lunch.”

“That’s it?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, that’s all you got? That’s the story?”

You frown. “What the hell were you expecting?”

“I give that story a D-plus. C’mon. It had no third act turn. The escalation was mostly a flat line from zero to zero, and I didn’t see a lick of character development. Jenkins didn’t have any kind of catharsis. God. Couldn’t you have thrown in a screaming porn star or a ninja or something?”

“You know, I don’t think that’s particularly fair –“

“A SCREAMING PORN STAR OR A NINJA OR YOU WILL GET THE HOSE.”

See? Beware of writer.

The first “Beware Of Writer” post can be found here. That post is this blog’s easily most popular, having gotten by now over 200,000 looky-loos by you, The Internet Public, and collecting 139 comments. Thanks, you crazy cats and kittens, for checking it out. If you like the post, spread the love.

 

62 comments

  • Now we wait for Beware of Writer III: Son of the Writer.
    And frankly I am a little unnerved by how perfectly you have encapsulated habits I thought were my own. Shit, I’m a writer, or something.
    I may need to print this page (and the original) and leave them on my bedroom door as a warning.

    • I AM A BRAIN PARASITE, RHOADES, AND CAN ONLY BE REMOVED WITH POWERFUL MEDICINES WITH DANGEROUS SIDE EFFECTS AND THAT’S ALSO THE ONLY WAY TO STOP ME FROM WRITING IN ALL CAPS

  • I went to the library yesterday to pick up my weekly Stack of Books, and overheard the librarians. One was debating her evening plans. She said, “I don’t think I’ll read tonight. Today was just too crazy. I need a break.” And I, of course, commented that there was no such thing as too much reading. The librarian started to explain how people who work at donut shops get sick of donuts sometimes. (I, meanwhile, am thinking, but you’re a librarian; you didn’t actually spend all day reading, you spent it dealing with nonsensical people.) Then she sees my Stack of Books, and stops explaining the donuts. Yep. Yeah, I really, really don’t understand needing a break. Then the Kodiak bear parachuted down the chimney and mauled her. I felt vindicated. Break from reading. Pfft.

    Part of that story may be embellished.

  • This. Oh, so all of this.

    It would be worse for me if my husband were more…I don’t want to use the word “supportive”, because it’s not like he intends to be “unsupportive”, but…maybe understanding? He has no concept of the inner-workings of my brain. Last week I laughed myself silly over the idea of a tea shop/gun store called “Tea & Muskets”, and he just gave me a wide berth and shook his head, thinking I’d finally lost my mind. And there I was thinking I was BRILLIANT. If he actually indulged me, we’d have to cut pathways through the books to navigate through the house and I’d have long ago figured out a way to be wired into my internet-capable devices (instead of just lovingly caressing my smart-phone while the neighbors make small-talk at boring suburban cookouts).

  • No one touches my books. I have many. They are, quite possibly, legion. I, for whatever reason, cannot part with them — even the ones I want to burn or think are the WORST things ever written down. I might NEED them someday. Moving my things has always made the box-lifting people grumble. I most point and snicker, because they are my family. And if your family won’t help your hoard a library of books, who will?

    Brilliant post, which is so very true. Whenever someone reading my story laughs at the right place, it’s like instant Nirvana. But when there is no laugh? That’s when you find me twitching in the corner, scrawling on the walls: All work and no play, makes Ali a dull girl.

    Also, I retweeted this, because it is awesome.

  • The attention whore part is so true for me. It didn’t used to be, but then people…real people, people I didn’t have a handgun to the heads of, started saying they enjoyed my work. Honestly, I blame you Mr. Wendig. Because now, when I write something, I /will/ take a school bus hostage to get some feedback, any feedback, on what I wrote. “You didn’t like it!” “Yes, I did.” “But you didn’t /say/ you liked it.” “I didn’t say I didn’t like it.” “It’s the same thing! And now you’ve doomed the parents of this box of orphans to a world without their children! Goodbye my darlings; it really is this person’s fault your dying today…”

    and then the cops come and I have to run, but they know I’ll be back…they know…they have my books after all.

  • As usual I laughed at this.

    Most of what you said also applies to IT geeks, except we have our thumbs replaced at age 30 due to arthritis and we are all addicted to either caffeine/sugar or adrenaline (step away from the big needle).

  • “books are the heaviest substance known to man”

    Having just moved more than SIXTY boxes of hard and soft cover novels, reference books, textbooks, cookbooks and assorted fucking TOMES of poetry, some in languages I CAN’T EVEN FUCKING RECOGNIZE, I can attest to this fact.

    Seriously, who the fuck needs three copies of the fucking Bhagavad Gita? In Sanskrit? I can’t even fucking READ Sanskrit. And why is every goddamn cookbook out there made out of fucking neutronium?

    My bookshelves have their own goddamn gravity well.

  • Wow, I had that exact same conversation with my wife last night. (I’m referring to the creative heroin one, not the one with the Kodiak bear; my wife knows I haven’t been to the post office, since she’s been asking me to go for weeks but I just keep writing. Sorry, I know that’s not a very interesting story, but as luck would have it, that’s when the ninja leapt from the monorail and swung a great white shark at my head.)

  • Boxes of books, check.
    Why does it seem that boxes of Comic Books are heavier? Is it all the extra ink?
    Oh and game books too, damn, my wife is gonna hate me when we move. Well hate that I will be essentially a cripple for a week after.

  • Wow… even non-professional writers can fit in the description. Scary… and interesting.

    As for the books, I can relate. My brother hated me when I needed help to move my 6 or seven boxes of RPG books. He almost kicked me in the face when I told him I would have to move them back sometime soon, with my “normal books” in extra.

  • Oh man, I am such a spoilery spoil head. I can’t help myself. “He’s a ghost!” “She’s about to be run over by a car!” “He has a weasel in place of a penis!”

    It has never occurred to me before that this is because I’m all obsessed with how narratives work and such, but it’s all true!

    And this means I don’t have to be sorry about spoiling everything for everyone anymore. Nope. I am sorry no longer. I revel in my spoilerpowers.

  • I laughed so hard I cried. Whisky-laced coffee was nostril-ejected onto the keyboard and then carefully cleaned. Good Monday-morning laugh — very much appreciated.
    Gave to my husband so he can understand better the crazy he married.
    Thank you so much for this.

  • Well, everyone has made most of the obvious points that yes, you are so friggin’ spot-on.
    You could have saved me vast amounts of money spent on therapy.
    So now I will also fashion the tin foil cap, not to keep you out, but to keep what I have in there IN!!! (Let’s see the looks I get when I pick up my kid from school today. They already love my blue hair.)
    Damn brain leaks…

  • “it’s not a spoiler if we think it sucks.”

    Boy, is that the truth. I am infamous for spoiling what everyone else is watching. I can’t help it.

    As for the rest, WHERE ARE THE CAMERAS? I know you’ve put cameras in my house. And in my head. Where are they? I’ve torn the place apart and I can’t find them. Tell me where you put them, or in my next novel screaming ninja porn stars will feed you to a bear.

  • My friends told me two moves (and about 1000 books) ago that they would never move me again because I had too many books. I keep the ones I don’t like as good examples of what NOT to do. And I have a Nook but still can’t bear to part with the hard copies. Is it bad to admire the professor I heard about who bought the house next door and turned it into his library? Off to find more shelves….

  • As I read through that epic of dark madness and bloodlust, the line “In your blood we shall ink our first bestseller.” was the one that bothered me, because I found the grammar clumsy.

    It took me out of the MOMENT, man.

    Louise Curtis

  • “Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.” ~Albert Camus

    And then there are writers. For whom no amount of energy seems sufficient to accomplish the task. Nice to be in good company.

    At least it’s a symbiotic kind of crazy. We supply the hit for story-addicted readers. Good thing, else they’d be gathering us up in great writhing handfuls and leaving us out at the curb with their melon rinds and fish heads every Tuesday morning.

  • As someone who lifted the crates of novels that *wouldn’t* fit in the living areas of my house up into the attic recently, and whose roleplaying game bookcase had to be specially bought with reinforced shelving to take the weight of that many hardbacks, I can confirm that books are damn heavy in writerly portions.

    Still, I’m in good company.

  • We’re outted! Again! Damn it! Now I’ll have to destroy you…er, I mean, a drunken, smelly character in my story via a falling, overstuffed bookshelf which has been pushed over by hang gliding Porn Ninjas who jump through the skylight to fight a Kodiak bear who was on his way to mail a letter.

  • I like packing my books in large boxes that can’t be lifted without severe back injury. I want my “friends” to remember when they helped me move. Serves them right for not laughing at the funny bits. Next time I’m putting in a screaming porn star ninja vampire attacking a robot pirate riding a zombie unicorn.

  • Drunk? Writers? Noooo.

    All I have here is a bottle of mead and that’s not proper drinking. Okay, the gin, whisky and rum ran out earlier but even so, mead is just an aperitif.

    Now when I hit the Penderyn, that’s drinking.

    That’s when the really good dreams arrive.

  • “We are not only lying liars who lie, but we’re also wanton embellishers”

    So when my husband says I’m as bad as my six year old this must be what he means. I will go and apologize to him.

    Awesome post. I will alert the villagers!

  • Add me to the “get out of my head!!!!!!!” list. But at least I have something to show my husband as proof that I’m not just the garden variety crazy. I’m the writer kind of crazy.

  • Today is one of those monumental days where I realize my entire life has been a giant lie. There is no such thing as a hand-glider. It’s called a hang-glider. It was like learning, at the age of 25, that there is no Roman Coke. It’s Rum and Coke. Thanks Chuck. And great post!

  • Oh dear god, yes… YES.

    I channelled everyone who ever pissed me off into a minor (and super-irritating) side character in my current work in progress. He is soooooooo satisfying to write, especially towards the end, bwahahaha.

    Mentally filing away hand-gliding kodiak bears for future use next time I’m in a boring post office queue…

  • I have said it before and I will say it again: “writer” is just a socially acceptable term for “schizophrenic, guilty of pre-meditated murder”. Seriously, we play with the voices in our heads like they were Barbie dolls, commit horrible acts upon them and giggle about it. Then we proudly present the trophies to our friends, families, blog followers, neighbors, passing strangers and cats. We’re all fucked up.

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