It doesn’t take much when it comes to writing to set my nerves on fire with worry. If I allow myself to get really worked up, you can envision how this might look. All you have to do is picture the young girl in the movie CAPE FEAR, called, “Dani,” who squirted lighter fluid all over the antagonist, called, Max Kady (played extraordinarily well by Robert DeNiro), as he lit one of those fat cigars. Whoosh! And you got yourself a fire – or more like, he was on fire.
The constant worry is normal, because after all, writers are full of fear, trepidation, worry, jitters, angst, apprehension, and all the other words listed in the thesaurus when it comes to a current work in progress. We spend an unbelievable amount of time nit picking over everything we’ve written – much like that guy down in Florida made famous by having his bug-eyed mug plastered all over TV as he tried to accurately count voting cards while looking for those “hanging chads.” Remember him? Remember that look? That’s the very same look a writer gets when studying the words on their page. (Not really, but it’s an effective visual – no?)
So, with my current work in progress, I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to build the world of my story. I staked a claim (???) on some of the words in the English language, a way of using them I saw as unique and an enhancement to this “world,” of my characters. The other night I was watching the show that is my new addiction, TRUE DETECTIVE. Two words spoken by one of the character’s in this segment made me pause the scene, back it up, and replay it again. I turned to my husband and said “Did you hear that?” Of course he didn’t, not in the way I had because his ears aren’t tuned in to dialogue, his eyes are busy studying character development, scene setting, and the like. We never stop writing – even when watching TV, right?
But sure enough, two words chosen by the script writers turned out to be the same two words I chose as part of the “lingo” for the world I’m trying to create. Well, I had a bit of a freak out moment, being as that’s how I get when it comes to writing. Which meant I contacted the “Magician,” to share this tragic news. With the right sprinkling of humor…”OMG! Donna! You need to go back RIGHT NOW and CHANGE EVERYTHING! THIS IS HORRIBLE. Just kidding…,” she went on to say this is actually a good thing if I was writing similarly to one of my fave shows. She reminded me there are only so many words in the English language and sooner or later, writers will use them in the same way. It can’t be avoided. It’s weird how we know this and still refuse to see it when we get so close to something like a work in progress, but I digress.
The email exchange then brought to mind another tidbit I read a few months earlier. This came from one of the agent’s blogs I follow, and she said that even if two writers come up with the very same idea for a book, the stories would be uniquely different, because the way we choose our words is as individual as our voices and our fingerprints. If someone else uses “your” unique words, or what you perceived as a brand new idea, they will still write the story differently than you. And it happens all the time. Over and over again.
Have you had this happen to you? An idea, or a word choice you thought of as uniquely yours, only to find out it wasn’t?