Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Surprised Even Me…

Do you ever do something entirely subconsciously that outright surprises you?
I recently finished a novella length story and promptly handed it to my mother (my front-line editor ;).
After waiting for a few days, I got up the courage to ask her what she thought of the story so far. Her reply completely surprised me.
“I really like it,” she said. “But it’s got such a 40’s flair to it. I feel like I’m walking alongside Marlowe.”
I understood the reference immediately. We practically grew up on 1940’s movies. It’s remarkable that I can see anything more than black and white. But I couldn’t understand why she would say that about the story. It had nothing to do with a 40’s detective flick.
That afternoon I picked the story back up and started to review it. About four chapters I looked up at my mom and said, “You’re right.”
The story and characters might have had nothing to do with hardboiled PIs smart talking police and suspects, and it quite definitively takes place in modern times, but there’s just something about the story that has that “grit and polish” flair. I can’t really explain it, except to say there is something about the atmosphere, the sense, the street level landscape, and the high-rise views, that clearly says, “Raymond Chandler was here.”
And I didn’t even try! In fact, I’ve never tried to write in that style.
Does that ever happen to you? Whether in writing or some other area of life, does a long loved influence suddenly pop up when you least expect it?

Note: Just in case there are people out there who didn’t grow up on the classic movie channels, I’m referring to the Phillip Marlowe detective series, originally penned by Raymond Chandler. If you give me the chance to watch The Big Sleep I’m probably going to take it. ;)

18 comments:

lbdiamond said...

Oh, yeah. Happens all the time. I guess that's a good thing, since being a shrink usually forces me to search the subconscious mind...
;)

Emily Ann Benedict said...

Haha, you've got much more of a handle on the subconscious mind then. ;)

destrella said...

It must have been in you and just came out! Awesome. :O)

Elana Johnson said...

Oh, definitely. As writers, we're shaped by our lives. I don't even know who Marlowe is, so this would never happen to me. But there are other things in my novel that scream "ELANA!"

Emily Ann Benedict said...

Yeah, you really can't write a book without leaving your personality all over it!

Btw, I highly recomend the Phillip Marlowe series. They are increadibly complicated mysteries with plenty of great wit. :) The Big Sleep is my favorite, but then I do love Boggie. :)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I haven't had that ah-ha moment yet, but I look forward to it, now! :-)

Joanne said...

They say we write what we know, and I think this is a perfect example. Those 1940s movies were such a part of your life, shared with your mother, and such a passion, that the essence of them comes through in your words. It's actually an interesting and unique spin you've given modern-day mysteries!

Karen Lange said...

Interesting! I've had people tell me that my writing sounds like me, but so far, no Marlowe:)

Congrats on finishing the novella:)

Brianna said...

Hmmmm, I haven't had one of those "ah-ha" moments yet... I'm usually fairly conscious of the underlying themes/etc. I weave into my writing. That may be partially because I like to go deep and break all the little details down in my mind as I write to make sure the overall "feel" is coming off the way it should. Sometimes I wish I could do it without thinking though! If I ever do, I probably won't even realize it and someone who reads the piece will come up to me and say, "Hey!" like your mom did.
Yeah, I have a bad habit of trying way too hard sometimes... ;-) LOL!

Emily Ann Benedict said...

Shannon & Brianna: Those ah-ha! moments really do sneak up on you. ;)

Joanne: You know, we usually think about "writing what you know" in references to specific experiences, but I think you're right. Sometimes it's a major influence.

Karen: That's funny. I think that means you've got a strong "voice!" And thanks. This is my very first attempt at an novella. :)

Karen said...

Emily, that's neat. In a conference I went to, we had an exercise to write a conversation between two of our characters and ourselves from our WIP. My antagonist started yelling at me. I didn't even know him that well. (Oh, but I guess I did, huh?)

Andrea said...

Blessings,
andrea

Emily Ann Benedict said...

LOL, Karen, characters can be like that. All of a sudden the just jump up and take you by suprise!

Thanks Andrea. :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Emily Ann -

This sounds a lot like describing a writer's voice. When reading a friend's novel, I could "hear" her speaking. Word choice, humor, etc. all came through loud and clear.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Lydia Kang said...

Definitely, although I'm always surprised when I find myself typing out something like that. It feels natural, but I didn't consciously think about it. Weird.

Warren Baldwin said...

Just posted the review of your book and interview with you.

Karen Lange said...

Good morning, Emily! I have an award for you at my blog. No pressure, just wanted to let you know that I appreciate your blog!
Blessings,
Karen
karenelange.blogspot.com

Tyrean Martinson said...

Definitely have had those moments . . . although I don't think I've written anything like those older musicals I used to watch over an over again . . . think Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelley, Donald O'Conner, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers where manly mountain men do ballet with axes in hand . . . can't really imagine any of those kinds of images popping up in my stories at any time, but who knows?