Sunday, March 20, 2011

"This is about me, dang it!"

The Human Observation post this week is dealing with those people who turn everything you share with them into a barrage of their life experience.  You tell them that you had a great weekend.  Maybe you were about to share more details, and you made the fatal mistake of pausing for air.  Now all of a sudden the gate's open and they're off and runnin' - their mouth that is.  You then get to hear every minute detail of what they did, where they went, what they ate.  Now, don't get me wrong, there's something good about being a conversationalist but when you start ruling every conversation, you might want to take a step back.

And I'm sure you've all been in this position at some point.  You're going through a rough experience in life, maybe your pet isn't well.  You start telling this person about what's going on, and a story that is supposed to be about you turns into their issue.  "Oh yes, we had a dog named Charlie ten years ago.  He had heart problems too.  We took him to the vet, got him medication.  It costs one hundred dollars a month...."  And on, and on, it goes.  The rambling that contains nothing pertinent to the here and now.  Again, nothing wrong with sympathizing, but sometimes all that needs to be said is, "oh sorry to hear that", or "I know you're close with him."

Speaking along these lines, draws us ever closer to the braggart.  You know the type.  They did this, and they did that, and they did it better than anyone else.  Uh huh.  This is the point where my hearing shuts off, a rush of breath escapes my lungs and I seek my getaway.  But one thing that seems to always happen to these type of people, is they're called out at some point.  And the saying, "pride comes before a crash", must have been made with these people in mind.

So how can we take any of the above and apply it to our writing?
- Obvious answer is to give these qualities, or a bit of these, to a character.

- It also teaches us that people rarely respond directly to a question.
A couple examples:  Someone asks, "How are you?"  Generically, people expect, "I'm fine" or "I'm good".  Throw your reader off.  "What, you didn't bring me a coffee?  Nice."
OR
Someone is cooking, but another person walks out of the kitchen.  Someone in the living room says, "What are they burning in there?"  Direct response would perhaps be, "The steak."  Again, real life isn't always like that, and in fact rarely is.  You could make the response, "I just hope the smoke alarm doesn't go off."
- Maybe you can have your character respond to these type of people the way you would?

- Possibly a braggart could meet with his death because of his rambling mouth?

Analyze and brainstorm how the above characteristics could make a difference in your work.  You might find that by sprinkling in these type of qualities you can add another dose of reality.