Not an Odalisque

NaNoWriMo Day Ten: Procrastination

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I hate my characters, I don’t care what happens to them. I don’t want to write about them today. I’m doing what any of us would do: sitting in front of the computer, with my novel file open, browsing the internet. I’ve read most of the Guardian online. I’ve checked my inbox on several social networking sites, and written long replies to strangers who contacted me with idle questions. I’ve checked for comments on my poetry on WriteWords, and grown maudlin because nobody ever understands my poetry. Then I turned to the biggest contributor to online procrastination: the NaNoWriMo website.

If I am not making progress on my own novel, I reason, I can at least help others with theirs. I therefore browse the ‘Plot and Character Realism Q&A’ forum, where writers can exchange knowledge which with relevance to their novels. I have had helpful responses to queries about abstract art and the nomenclature of Buddhist singing bowls. ‘What a wonderful use of technology,’ I hear you say. I realise that it is bad form to bitch about what people say in forums, but my pot of annoyance has finally bubbled over.

Too many Americans ask stupid questions. Too many of them give equally stupid answers.

One American with literary aspirations wants to know about the process of crossing from South to North Korea. I rather want to write a summary: “sneak up to the DMZ, step on a landmine, and allow your body parts to splat gracefully onto the ground. Alternatively, avoid the landmines and see which side spots you first, if you prefer a death by bullets.” Nicer people than me are helpfully explaining that the two are at war, and this part of her plot might be difficult. Another asks how an attractive woman might seduce a teenage boy. I’m tempted to respond “by being present”, but they are having an in-depth discussion of methods, and I wouldn’t want to interrupt. One girl wants to know what it is like to ‘be a minority’. What can I say? “We all are, love, but especially you.” The most stupid question has to be “did the Nazis occupy France during World War One?” but my favourite is “why would a sex-addicted 21 year old want to kill herself?” Why indeed?

The aspect which makes me want to scream is the quantity of questions asking “What’s it like in Britain?” Part of me wonders if the American market is crying out to be flooded with Anglophilic books. If it is, then why don’t some of the Americans who visit Britain write them? Surely there are enough tourists to fulfill the demand? But, no, those who have never even called into ‘Europe’ feel the need to set their novels in sleepy Dorset villages. So they post their questions for Brits to answer: “what do English people use instead of swear words?”, “what do they call the telephone directory in England?” and “what is different in England, compared to America?” It never seems to occur to them that their ignorance of us could be mirrored in our ignorance of them, so that we would not know what we are different from.

Fortunately, there are other Americans willing to step into the breach. Take, for example, the case of girl whose main character is moving to Edinburgh. The author has never been there herself. Luckily, an American who once spent a day there can inform her that “the locals are EXTREMELY nice.” She had been “surprised after all the animosity of the English at Heathrow Airport,” which surprised me, too, given that they were simultaneously in the presence of someone who capitalises adjectives for emphasis and in the most cheery, bustling tourist spot of Southern England. Happily, she found that “in Scotland everyone always seemed to be in a generally good mood.” That made me suspect that she was lying about her visit, but there were plenty of other Americans willing to contribute. “The money is ridiculous,” one notes, “especially the coins. They have no 1 Pound bills. Not that I ever got anyway.” She helpfully adds that when eating out, one must ask for “the check”, noting “that is just the culture.”

Even this, I think I could have ignored, if it wasn’t for a perfectly innocent post asking how aware Brits are of American politics. As Brits posted their replies, Americans emitted virtual shrieks of horror about British ignorance, not only of national politics, but also politics at the state level, and of ‘basic’ necessary facts such as the number of states in the States. I’ll happily admit to having no idea how many states there are in the USA, counties there are in Britain, or even sitters there are on my local library board, if you’ll leave me alone.

I’ll tell you what I do know about, though. My characters and my plot. I’ll leave you to your silly questions, I have writing to do.


Written by Not an Odalisque

November 10, 2009 at 5:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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