This is not how to talk to me.
These are tips I’ve picked up on how to talk to other writers. Although I’m sure the same tricks would work on me.
Okay. Keep in mind that writers are people first, readers second, and writers third.
What? Writers are readers before they’re writers? Even Anne Rice is a fangirl: “Favorite wish as a True Blood Fan: To do a silent cameo: me and a long haired velvet clad vampire tete a tete in a booth at Sam Merlotte’s” (from Facebook).
Yeah. Every writer was inspired to write by first reading; every writer has a few heroes before which they would stutter, stammer, and otherwise lose their minds.
So: here are the three ways to talk to a writer:
1) Make normal, ordinary, everyday conversation. Like, “Would you like something to drink?” or “The bathroom is that way.”
I know, this is frustrating; you want to make some kind of connection with this person who is probably (at least somewhat) living your dream life: writing books for a living, or at least writing books and selling them. However, have mercy on them. Writers are generally somewhat shy, at least around people they don’t know. They have public faces that they can pull out in a split-second that allow them to talk to just about anybody, at any time, but these are their public faces.
There are only so many things that writers will talk about when they have their public faces on. Mostly writing stuff, like how they got published, found their agent, came up with the idea for their book, etc.
2) Talk about books. Like, “Have you read Book X yet? SQUEEEEE!”
Or book recommendations, like, “What were the books that helped you survive high school?” “Do you have any books that you associate with important moments in your life?” “Was there a book that changed your life for the better?” “Have you ever literally thrown a book across the room? What was it?”
I have participated in many happy hours of conversation with writers, talking about other people’s books.
3) Talk about trivia.
This digs straight into the heart of any writer.
Where do writers get their ideas from? People ask this, I know, and there are all kinds of answers, from the general to the particular. But, to take the question at its most general, the answer is, “I collected a bunch of facts and ideas and something in my brain went ding.”
By talking about trivia, you are dumping extra facts–that is, extra story material–straight into the writer’s brain.
This is what writers talk about with each other.
Something to keep in mind: prefixing any comment to a writer with “You are so awesome” will generally shut off most of the writer’s brain. I can’t swear to this, but I would generally say that most writers secretly don’t have the best self-confidence in the world. –If they had, they wouldn’t be writers; they’d do something with a reasonable chance of success, like engineering. Instead, they (we) need at least intermittent reassurance that we don’t suck. Ironically, they (we) don’t trust this reassurance (which is why we need more of it).
“You are so awesome” is a button that, if pushed repeatedly, starts a crazy feedback loop of “Thanks!” “Wait…if this person really knew me, they’d know how non-awesome and ordinary I am.” “I can’t stand being non-awesome!” “Somebody tell me I’m awesome!” “I don’t deserve it…” ZZZT.
Instead, mention a particular thing they’ve written and say you liked that. Don’t analyze the book or ask highly-involved questions. (Are you there to impress the author with your insight into their book? Lame. Are you there to make them uncomfortable by trying to make them remember something they haven’t thought about for two years? Lame.) However, if there’s something that’s been bugging you that isn’t unreasonably picky (like, “X was wearing a red shirt in chapter 1, how could X be wearing a blue shirt in chapter 2 you fool?!?”), you can ask that. Like, “I always wondered whether book Y was supposed to be a metaphor for Z. It made me rethink my ideas about Z, at any rate. So did you mean it?”
Be prepared for a “Huh. Maybe so, but I didn’t do it on purpose” kind of answer, though. I’ve heard it a number of times.