Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wildcard: Writerly Phenomena

Since I became a writer, I've noticed a few writerly phenomena that can occur from time to time. Some a very different to others, but they're all unnaturally awesome (or un-awesome) and relate to writing in some way. Here are just a select few of them:

Purple Tree Syndrome. This one is pretty generic, and it has more to do with reading than writing - but close enough, I thought. I coined the term Purple Tree Syndrome sometime last week. It basically occurs when you're reading a book and your eyes are looking at the words, but you aren't actually taking any of them in because you are too busy thinking about purple trees or something equally irrelevant. Then you have to go back a re-read the entire sentence, paragraph or even page in order to pick up the meaning you missed the first time. If you have a particularly bad case of the syndrome, you may have to re-read up to three or four times.

Writer Recognition. This is when you can tell a writer from a muggle - I mean, from an ordinary member of society - while knowing very little about them and using only their appearance as a guide. This happened to me the other day when I asked one of my new teachers if she was a writer - and she was! Sweet guessing skills, I know. When she asked why I had asked, I said, "Well, I write stuff, too. And ... you just strike me as the kind of person who would write." Of course, it did help that she was an English teacher.

Aiding the Future. This is always helpful, in any area of life. But, in writing, this happens when you have a seemingly unimportant idea, then months later it turns out to be the most useful idea ever. I had this happen to me when I was stuck in the dark chasms of writers' block (*shudders*). I needed a new idea to move forward, but I couldn't think of anything that would fit. Then suddenly I remembered an idea I had had four months ago, and I realised that expanding on it would do exactly what I needed! Thank-you four-months-ago-Nick! Of course, the reciprocal of this is Hindering the Future, when you drive yourself down a street that turns out to be a dead end.

Writerly Perception. Perception is a phenomenon, even when it isn't related to writing (I was shocked when I learned that, too). But it's still incredible how different people view writing very differently. This image that's been circulating Facebook recently pretty much sums that all up:


So, there you have it. What are a few writerly phenomena you've come across?

26 comments:

  1. Oh, I've had a case of the Purple Tree Syndrome. Usually because it's 12am.

    I love that image. It's so true.

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    1. It really is :) I get Purple Tree Syndrome late at night, too. Usually it's an indication that I should go to bed :P

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  2. I love when an old seemingly unrelated idea turns out to be incredibly useful.

    Two other phenomenon:

    People watching addiction. I can't sit in one place for five minutes without staring at passers-by with open fascination.

    Communication failures. Non-writers put no value to their words. So they can say something that means next to nothing, and we assume it's got layers of meaning. Or we say something that has tons of meaning and they go for the literal (and meaningless) option and react on that. :-/

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    1. So do I! It's awesome :D

      I do that sometimes. More often I'm listening to their dialogue and trying to work out how to make my characters speak realisticly without wasting words.

      Communication is everything! I did a post on that last year in May, I think :)

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  3. Pretty much all of us writers are optimists (we all think we've got what it takes to write a best seller), then we use that optimism to write about the most dastardly, negative characters in the world.

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    1. That's so true. Books are full of them.

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  4. I sometimes have Purple Tree Syndrome, since I'm prone to day dreaming at any time.

    Amusing picture, by the way.

    "Pretty much all of us writers are optimists (we all think we've got what it takes to write a best seller), then we use that optimism to write about the most dastardly, negative characters in the world."

    There seems to be a similar trend where a singer with dark music is actually quite cheery.

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    1. I get it too, and sometimes I'm not even reading at the time.

      I think you're right about that. In a similar line of thinking, one my friends (a really bright, bubbly and funny person) is quite into his drama, but he only plays dark characters. He likes the constrast.

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  5. Oh rats! I had that picture all ready to post tomorrow! Oh well. I love this post. I suffer from purple tree syndrome all the time. But I've also found myself adding the future on occasion.
    ~Sarah F.

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  6. P.S. I tagged you. :-)
    http://sylmion.blogspot.com/2012/02/ive-been-tagged.html

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  7. Love your insights.
    I am a notorious Purple Tree-er. I have 'read' an entire page and then looked at it and realized I didn't compute a single word...but the plot of my book got a lot tighter.

    Fellow campaigner poppin' in to say 'HI!'

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    1. Hi! Thanks for commenting :D It's great to meet you!

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  8. I'm guilty of Purple Tree. It most often happens when I'm tired, but if the book's boring, or has too much backstory and infodumping, then I get an attack of the Purples.

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    1. Ah, that happens, too. I sometimes skim when I find the book boring. But most of the time, if I do, then I'm scared I'll miss something vital.

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    2. Yes, when I find I've done a Purple Tree, I generally race back through the pages, scanning them desperately in case I missed some vital piece of information. Only to find there wasn't one!

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    3. Exactly! It's a sneaky phenomenon, this one.

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  9. I am often thinking of Purple Trees. And I've found it happens during other times than when I'm reading. Also, the whole writer perception thing...ugh so true.

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  10. How about Rewrite-Syndrome? I can never, never, never feel comfortable submitting any piece of writing without first doing a ton of rewriting. (Even this post has gone through revisions.) What amazes me is how often I read material that obviously hasn't been well edited, or is simply unedited. (Having said that, let me hope I've not made mistakes on this post.)

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    1. I get that, sometimes while I'm in the middle of my first draft. I really need to work on that - I should write first, edit later! But, at the right time, this is a very useful phenomenon.

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  11. Hello from the campaign. I'm in your MG/YA group. I'm with Dave on re-write syndrome. I've also had a wicked case of split-personality since I started writing. It got so bad it took over my first book.

    Then there's "I said what?" shock when you realize someone read something entirely different than what you meant.

    Worst may be the Reality-Age-Gap. What kids or teens take in stride, adults can't cross without a lot more preparation. That one caught me on the brink of despair. But since the parents buy the books, I'm working on helping them across that chasm. Ready, set, crash! I'm at http://sherahart.blogspot.com You'll see what I mean if you read my next to last post.

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    1. Hi, Sher! Nice to meet you :)

      I've never had either of those, but I fully understand Reality-Age-Gap. Someone once said (I can't remember who), that if the story you're writing is too complicated for adults, you must write it for children instead. I love that idea :)

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  12. I love the Writerly Perception, lol! I've seen so many different takes on this - they're all hilarious:)

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  13. They are! Also annoying, occasionally. But the picture is so correct about it all :)

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  14. Just stopped by to say I've nominated you for the Sunshine Award on my blog :)

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