I’m A Writer…. By Nancy Brophy

In the bathroom at Panera’s while waiting for a stall I watched loop after loop of toilet paper appear near the floor. In my wildest dreams I could not imagine what someone needed with that much toilet paper or why one needed to loop it all the way to the floor before it could torn off. So as I waited I developed a story line for this woman complete with a tear-jerking back story. Now without going into too much detail, another stall came available and I was in and out before she finished. While this might invoke pity or worry in some, for me it added another dimension to her character.

Half of the voice memos on my Iphone are about plotting details. I frequently stop conversations to jot down a word or idea that I can work into my WIP. Total strangers have been enticed into lengthy conversations about imaginary people.

I grade other people’s emails. Really? Did you need to use the same word three times?  Text messages annoy me with their lack of good spelling and proper punctuation. I downloaded a thesaurus not too long ago simply because it had 257 synonyms for the word walk.

I formed an instantaneous dislike of a young woman the first time we met because she used awesome in the same sentence twice.

When I choose the name of a villainous character I peruse the names of those who send me spam.

The words free wifi  posted outside a restaurant cause my heart to stutter as I imagine I can get some writing done between bites. If I’m eating with another writer, I know she feels the same. While most people are uncomfortable when a couple at another table has a public fight, I inch my chair closer.

I pay close attention to how the men speak to each other. Writing male dialogue as a woman can be tricky. I despise bad grammar, but listen closely to how people really speak. Not all spoken idioms work in a written sentence.

I’m rarely in a situation or conversation where I don’t question if I can use it in a story.

I evaluate the plot line of television programs. There are two types of crime programs. Ones where the police are so smart they can sniff the air, knowing exactly what happened and where to find the killer and those where the police are either clueless or non-existent. So when I see a show where killers don’t dispose of the body appropriately or victims fail to fight back I want to write one of those snotty reviews I see on Amazon.

In the new television show, The Following, with Kevin Bacon, the psychology of the show appeals to me, but they kill six to ten people each episode and never even break a nail. Killing is harder than that.

Murder is frequently for psychological reasons. People don’t look normal or behave rationally while walking around stabbing others. If killing provides power and ego then it makes sense that the killer would want everyone to know. Super villains always pit themselves against super heroes for a reason.

Several years ago in Washington DC I visited the International Spy Museum. Aldrich Ames was selling US secrets to Russia. He knew there was investigation going on, but because it was being conducted by two women, he figured he was too smart to be caught. Almost from the very beginning they were on to him.

Why? Because they asked 160 people the same question. How would you get away with it? 159 answered thoughtfully thinking about how they knew KGB agents and could make a contact. Ames’ response was to be offended that his integrity had been questioned.

Finally I care about plot. Lack of back story annoys me. For example, why did Little Red Riding Hood’s mother trust her to go through the woods to grandmother’s house alone?

These are the things I think about and I’ll bet if you are a writer, you have a similar list.


Posted on March 9, 2013, in General and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Nancy,

    NOW I get why you never liked me! 😀 You said, ” I formed an instantaneous dislike of a young woman the first time we met because she used awesome in the same sentence twice.”

    LOL, I am not known for being an original speaker. Why I love to write?? REWRITES.
    Don’t like what the heroine retorted to the hero at that highly emotional moment? Come back two days later and help the poor chick out.

    Or … make her suffer even more.

    PS, My sons also learned to say “Mom, just leave the room!” during their C action movies. Oh, the cornpone dialogue!



    • Cathryn, Don’t do this to me. I spit coffee all over myself when I read your first sentence. Then I laughed my ass off. (Well, you’ve seen my ass – not exactly off) Thanks for the comments. Nancy


  2. As usual I was laughing while reading your post. I found myself nodding to several of the habits you describe–particularly in restaurants and bars. I remember after a Christmas Eve dinner together, in a very full excellent restaurant in Monterey, my husband and I had a conversation like this:

    “Did you notice that couple two tables over?” He asked.

    “You mean the ones who looked about our age?”

    “Yes. Did you notice how they never said a word to each other–“,

    “Like they’d heard it all before?” I finished the thought for him. ” I didn’t see them even making eye contact.”

    “I’m so glad we aren’t like that. We talked the entire time. Why would you even go out to such a nice place if you aren’t going to talk to each other?”

    “Well…” And I was off, making up several scenarios, ranging from being spies to recovering from tragedy to not being a couple at all but a bad date from match.com.”

    People don’t even have to talk for me to get a story out of them. 🙂


  3. Nancy, I’m grinning! What a great post.
    I was grumbling about a movie my husband was watching last night. I kept saying things like, “They’d never get away with that in a book. Seriously, they couldn’t come up with a better line than that?” He asked me to leave the room.


  4. As usual I laughed my caboose off…because it’s all true! Time to get morning coffee. Now that I’m down to chuckles it won’t get spewed on my keyboard.


  5. Our minds do work in mysterious ways – we notice things. This is why writers were encouraged to stay in their writer caves. Laptops were the innovation that triggered the whole ebook evolution.


  6. Its true inspiration comes from everywhere…even the smallest detail can evoke a response and immediately we are thinking how we can use it. Great post and an insight into the writers mind.


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