A Brief PSA: An Open Letter to Friends of Writers

Dear friends of writers,

Allow me to start this off by saying we love you. We really do – we love the way you put up with the craziness that we simultaneously feel shame about and brag about on the Internet because it makes us feel special, and yes that’s part of the crazy. We love the high fives and hugs and whatever your particular method of congratulations is when we finish an edit run or a first draft or whatever it happens to be, even when it feels really trivial to you. We just really love that you do friend stuff for us.

And we especially love those of you who try to engage with us on our work. Maybe you have a bit of a writer streak in you yourself, maybe you’re just an avid reader, maybe you’re just a person who likes to learn about new things or whatever it happens to be. You often listen to us go on about our story concepts, to help us sort through the kinks in it (yes, even when we just explain a problem, then explain the solution we just came up with and thank you profusely), and we appreciate that so much you don’t even know. You listen to us rant about great writing, bad writing, that mysterious bundle of emotions tagged only as Writer Feels. We get that you want to engage with us in what we love, and we think that’s great. I, personally, hope we make just as much effort to engage in what you love.

But we need to talk about something. There’s something you do that, a lot of time, we don’t have the heart to mention. But here it is:
When we tell you a story or character concept, and your response is “Oh, like [other book/game/show]?”
Please don’t do that.
Please, for all that’s dear to us, do not do that.

Writers, you may have noticed, are all these bundles of nerves about ideas and clichés. We hate them. We spend a lot of our lives trying to be original, often, in a twist of cruel fate, to the detriment of our novels until we learn balance.
But see, when you spend so much time analysing what’s going on in your books and where your ideas come from, when you hear someone ask whether your character is like someone else’s, your immediate first thought is “IT IS. IT IS EXACTLY LIKE THAT AND I AM A FAILURE AND NOW I NEED TO START AGAIN!!”

It only lasts a moment, but it is nevertheless unpleasant.

However, these things happen. Perhaps this character really does remind you of someone else, and you have said so. OK. We get it, it’s not necessarily a huge thing.
Whatever you do, upon hearing that “No, it’s different”, the next sentence you say should not be “Oh, so more like [other other book/game/show], then?”
This is very poor etiquette, and you now know why you got that stare when you said it.

Don’t get us wrong. If we have just listed the plot of the novel you read last week, please, please tell us. That’s not the sort of thing you want to find out halfway through a book (I have been there and it was the biggest pile of nope). Please do feel free to suggest tropes! Suggest aspects of other characters you think we should steal, because despite what we may say about originality, we will steal like kleptomaniac magpies if we think we can get away with it and it works with the book.
It’s just that we can be a little sensitive sometimes. Sometimes more so than others.

Thanks in advance for your understanding.

Twitchy Writer.

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