Oh how I love watching the confused expressions that flash across people's faces when I attempt explaining my life. I am not saying this with the slightest of sarcasm. I truly do enjoy seeing the conflicting emotions that are a result of trying to comprehend my activities... or more accurately - one activity in particular.
Most of my daily routines are accepted as sufficiently mundane:
~ My primary job is as a commercial truck driver which requires my residing at work five days per week (70 hours on the clock, 60 hours of driving).
~ I am an avid reader that enjoys all genres, though I've been known to favor literature possessing elements of history, psychology, and dystopian societies. Having a career that primarily places me behind the wheel, I have taken to acquiring numerous audiobooks... preferably unabridged.
~ I am a chronic consumer of music. Again, genre does not matter. Those who have had the misfortune of traveling any distance with me can attest to my varied listening habits as I transition from classical to heavy metal, bluegrass to modern pop.
~ I spend much of my spare time studying. The topics are yet again greatly varied. Politics, history, psychology, social dynamics, technological developments (ancient and current), science, medicine, art, fashion, and civil rights are but a few of my common pursuits.
~ Most unsurprising, I am a lover of food and coffee. I'll eat most anything, but I expect my coffee to be thick and dark.
I know, you might be thinking, "These things seem normal enough. You have many interests. Nothing wrong with that." Truly, nothing I've listed thus far contributes to people's concerns. In fact, my varied pursuits have led others to seek my advise. Some friends and colleagues to start calling me Jeeves.
The confusion starts when the topic of my favorite pastime is addressed: Writing.
Now, writing itself is not a subject of concern. Many people write for many different reasons. Be it the expression of opinion, the sharing of skill or knowledge, a telling of personal memories, or a product of pure imagination aimed solely at entertaining - authors have been putting thought to print for eons. Personal diaries, blogs, poetry, lyrics, textbooks, epic novels - the world has had more writers than there have been published authors.
By being a writer, I am not special. The act of writing isn't what others find strange. When people discover that I spend so much time writing, they tend to be curious. Curiosity leads to conflict.
The following conversation was with a prospective writing friend... a conversation that seems to take a recurring path:
What do you write?
Mainly science fiction and fantasy.
Can I read something you've written?
Sure. (offer a piece fitting to reader's interests)
Where do get your story ideas?
I base my stories on reality. Historic events, current news, and such. Just need to shape the tale to fit the desired world. You can take something as common as war and apply it to any era simply by expressing the appropriate technology and motivational drives. Medieval conflict could be the desire to conquer new lands and gain resources - battle involves swords, archers, and siege machines; likewise, a futuristic battle might involve the ambition to control a new planet for the same gained resources - the fight is waged with spaceships, lasers, and robotic warriors.
Are the characters based on real people, also?
Not in particular. I don't make characters that are fictionalized versions of people I've met. My characters are creations of my imagination.
How do you come up with so many personalities and manage to maintain a convincing dialog?
I spend about twelve hours each day talking to myself.
You talk to yourself? Like speaking your thoughts out loud?
Like carrying the whole conversation for all the personalities. I voice each person individually.
But, all people are different. You can speak for two characters, but they would both still be you.
Unless you commit to the separate personalities completely.
Yes, but it is still you. You can't accurately predict how characters would realistically react to each other.
And that is why I live my characters. Speak as they speak, think as they think, feel as they feel... in real world situations.
You pretend to be a fictional character with real people?
No. I am the character. The people in my stories are real. I make them real. I give them flesh and I sit back watching what happens to my characters in the real world.
*a long pause* Uh... that's a bit crazy. I've gotta go. Nice talking with you.
Crazy. Insane. Mad. Unbalanced. Delusional. Detached from reality. Needing of professional help. I've heard it all. Perhaps they're right. On the other hand, I find myself asking the question:
"Who hasn't lived the role of a fictional character?"
Before you claim innocence, I would like to offer examples:
When you visit your parents or grandmother, do you speak and act the same as you would during a night out with friends?
Do you talk to your boss in the same way as you do with a telemarketer calling during dinner?
Are you the same person whether sitting in church or sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic?
Chances are, you have adapted individual personalities to address varying situations. I know personally, I can be quite crude and profane on a regular basis... yet I manage to maintain a level of decency when dealing with others who possess more delicate sensibilities.
The ability to embody such a wide range of personas is what makes the human mind so remarkable. The adaptation of who we are is key to our survival and success. Our pliable minds are what separates us from animals. A wolf can't decide to be a lamb, but you can be anything you wish.
In closing, I wish to offer a challenge. A challenge without set rules. A challenge without winners or losers. The challenge is simple:
Sit down and talk to yourself. Have a conversation between the party goer and grandma's favorite. Have a debate between the optimist and pessimist. And if you have an interesting discussion with yourself, consider writing it down and giving your characters names.