I think some of my most amusing interactions with people come from those who are wannabes. As I will eventually be a fully published author, writers are those I tend to pick on the most. I was thinking about some of my experiences in deserts lately and how much I dislike those environments, but how rich miserable places are for creative stories. Probably one of my favorite personal experiences involved a cameraman in one of the beat up cities out in the middle of nowhere. So here goes the story.
The city sits in the middle of a sea of sand and fine dirt, and all the power comes from a variety of generators strategically located throughout the area. Some sections have power, some don’t. Some only have power at certain times of the day and the only means of transportation are trucks designed to take a beating. Most are either really expensive or really beat up. Mine was somewhat of a mixture between the two, stripped down with no doors or windows and only a tarp strung across what passed for a windshield as a relief from the sun. The bed of my truck was completely empty, with the exception of a few tough boxes strapped down with bungy cords, a set of pretty crappy speakers mounted to hook and loop fasteners across the dashboard, and a word processor known as an Alphasmart so that I could do some writing in my free time in a case attached to a mounting bracket between the driver and passenger seat.
I had a couple hours before I needed to check on my guys in the city again, so I was typing out the next scene for my work in progress, pretty thoroughly engrossed in the task at hand when a shadow fell across my keyboard. I looked up and saw a man with a scraggly beard and a video camera with one of those tripods that are taller than I am braced along his shoulder. As is typical, he asked me what I was doing and what that thing was that I was typing on. Being a proponent of writing on the go, I explained the Alphasmart to him, showed it off a little, then launched into some of the cool parts about Seton Hill’s Writing Popular Fiction Program and how much fun I was having learning how to write horror. He starts talking about how he has these great ideas for this entire series of books plans and the conversation begins.
The conversation goes really well for a while. We talk about plot and world building and are having a really great time. Until we start getting around to characters. That’s where I start seeing some rather entertaining holes in his entire concept. His story seemed to revolve around a very studly action hero. Very old-school James Bond-ish Alpha male who would be able to kick butt and solve all sorts of problems, kill bad guys, and have sex with different hot chicks every single night. I brought up to him that action, adventure, and spy books were doing very well these days and then I asked him something of a key question which involved studies about book sales. I asked him about who his intended target audience was going to be for this series and who he expected to be purchasing his books. He was overly excited about how his books would appeal to a wide audience, male and female, because his main character is someone guys would want to be and chicks would want to sleep with.
I read books because the guy is hot and I want to sleep with him? I had no idea that’s why I’ve been reading all these books! Of course that’s exactly it! I absolutely want to be with a guy who has sex with a different chick every night! Or even multiple chicks in the same day! That’s exactly my dream guy! How did this cameraman capture my dream man so precisely? How did he know? What kind of research must he have done to come to this startling and unbelievable understanding of relationship insight?
I tried to nicely explain to this gentleman that, according to the last research I had read, approximately 80% of all books are purchased by women. I also tried to explain that women might be a little bit more complicated than just wanting some random guy to have sex with every now and again. I’m not really sure he understood. Turns out the guy was single, never married, and didn’t have a steady girlfriend. I wonder if society is giving men the same unrealistic expectations to live up to that it seems to continue to push on women. It still made me amused and I couldn’t believe that he actually thought his series would appeal to women at all. Men, sure. Well, maybe. His plot seemed to have a bunch of holes in it and seemed way too simple for the modern world and modern technology, but if writing is something he truly believes in, I’m sure he’ll find a way to make it work.
The problem is, I don’t think writing is something he really believes in. I think a lot of people have dreams they don’t really believe in, or they’re just jumping in on other people’s dreams to start a conversation. If you see someone working on something or doing something, you hop in on whatever it is you see them doing and hope that if you seem interested, maybe you can get lucky and learn more about them instead of being honest about yourself. The trouble with doing it that way, though, is that I did learn more about him. I learned that he’s not someone I would ever want to date if the character he created is really the kind of guy he would want to be or look up to. It was still a very amusing encounter and I continue to be impressed by the way other people’s brains work. Or maybe I should be amused by the way my own brain works.
Hm. Maybe I should be worried about the way my own brain works. My brain is a very strange place.