Saturday, February 21, 2009
ROBERTA: I recently submitted a section of my current opus to a couple of my reading buddies and was struck when one said: “I can’t believe your character would do that.” (I think the character in question was leaving his wife abruptly rather than confess to financial misdeeds.)
Lately, the paper is full of that kind of stranger than fiction stuff. Doesn’t it seem like another public figure goes down in flames every week? I don’t have any trouble buying that people do stupid things. (Although Blagojevich has taken this to a new level.) I can believe that Alex Rodriguez was feeling a ton of pressure about the high-paying contract he signed, and that he was immature and maybe (maybe!) naive. I can believe that Bill Clinton was dizzy with power and tired of being watched at every moment.
People are steeped in denial about their own weaknesses and motivations. We writers know that from our own lives and we exploit it fully in our characters. Where I get lost is when public figures get caught and then deny wrong doing. I'm thinking maybe we should all make a pact on Jungle Red: If one of us does something dumb, let's all remind her or him to fess up? Any takers? Or takes on the subject?
HALLIE: Confession: if there WERE a performance-enhancing drug for writing, I'd have long ago taken it. And inhaled. Then, despite my dozens of NY Times best sellers, I'd fess up, here and now. If only.
RO: No fair....Hank is quite perfect and the rest of us would look like losers.
HANK: Oh, now who's on drugs?
ROBERTA: So we need a new pact, then? If one of you guys comes up with a performance-enhancing drug for writing, we're all in?
JAN: Definitely in. The coffee isn't working anymore. But I did have a sports/energy drink the other day for tennis that I was going to try to apply to writing. I'll let you know.....
HANK: There was an amazing article in the NY Times a few months ago, and it haunts me every day. The bottom line was that people who are less than intelligent have NO idea they're dolts.
Here's what the experiment did, if I have it right. They gave a group of people a test. Then, afterwards, they asked each person how they felt they did. By a huge and indisputable margin, the people who said things like "Oh, I aced it" or "I knocked it out of the ball park" did poorly on the test.
The people who said--"oh, I don't know, I could have done better" or "I wish I could go back and answer some of those questions again" were the ones who, absolutely, did well.
To me, that explains so much. I mean, it's brilliant. If people have NO IDEA that they have no idea, doesn't that explain so much?
SO. We have Elliot Spitzer, who, I guess, figured he could do anything he wanted. The guy in Boston who said his name was Clark Rockefeller but it was really Christian Gerhartsreiter. The guy who crashed his plane so he could pretend he was dead.
The WOMAN WITH THE CHIMP. I mean, let's just stop right there.
RHYS: Right now I'd wrestle Hank for the performance enhancing writing drug! Two books a year is getting to be overwhelming. Also thinking of doing a James Patterson and hiring a mini-me.
But the people who astound me are all those millionaires who coughed up serious money to Madoff without any guarantees. Surely if you have millions you have financial advisors and you run any transaction through them. I suppose the simple answer is greed. Also the simple answer to the housing crisis. Mortgage bankers were just too greedy and people took loans too good to be true.
We are all wise, sensible and all around fabulous people. The problem will be when they write our tell-all biographies, will they have anything juicy to tell.
Okay, so my misspent youth but....
RO: You know...I met that chimp. A few years back, one of the owner's dogs followed Bruce home when he was out for a run and the dog wouldn't leave. We had to call the owner and drive the dog home..which was uh, untraditional with, as I recall, a horse trailer, a maybe an rv..it was like a travellers camp..you know..the Irish travellers..weird...and then the chimp came out...
HANK: Rhys, I definitely want to hear about your misspent youth. But it's RO they're gonna want in People Magazine for her close encounter of the primate kind. Now--what were we talking about,again?
ROBERTA: Did I meet you during my misspent youth, Rhys? Okay, JR Readers, pick a thread and do the best you can! If you don't like any of these topics, come back Tuesday for the amazing Nancy Pickard or Wednesday for the fabulous Kate Collins or Friday to hear psychologist Carolyn Kaufman talk about writing great fictional characters.