Writers seem like normal people, when you meet just one at a time. Well, mostly normal. Get in the company of two or more, and you’re likely to lose the thread of various conversations. Writer speak is peppered with its own unusual, unique, and sometimes quaint lexicon. Here are five of the headscratchiest examples.
1. Pantsing — This one is my personal favorite. The variations “pantsy” and “pantser” add an extra quality that sounds even more bizarre to nonwriters. The origin is an old pilots’ saying about flying by the seat of their pants, meaning depending on their instincts and how the plane feels as its motions, vibrations, and possible problems resonate throughout their body, through the plane seat’s connection, to the seat of their pants area. It essentially means just starting to write and letting the story come out however it wants to. I don’t really do this very often, from word one. My thing is more getting things going and then sitting back to watch it unfold. Both come down to writing by instinct.
2. Window Staring — The fine art of looking out a window, or at a wall, while the brain’s inner workings figure out a stuck place. It looks like day dreaming, and that can be involved. It actually can be productive, while looking like doing nothing.
3. Getting an Entire Novel from One CD — This one sounds like gibberish to a nonwriter, but to writers with a brain that generates storytelling from music it’s the language of productivity. And I mean it literally. It’s pretty rare to this extent, but on a few occasions I’ve sat down to listen to a new CD on headphones and by the end emerged with a fully plotted novel. No inkling to full blown. A lyric snatch, music note, or even entire song will inspire characters, dialogue, or plot. Sometimes all of it together, in a glorious cinematic unfolding of story.
4. Doing Index Cards — Wouldn’t want to leave out screenwriting. A lot of people write out plot points on index cards and arrange them into a story flow. I can’t say more about it, because, as with fiction, I do my plotting in my head. I’ve always thought it was cool, though. Any temptation to try it gets shot down pretty fast, since I love my own personal style too much to risk messing it up.
5. Buttons — In screenwriting, a button is the bit at the end of scenes and acts that makes a reader want to turn the page. Oddly, I had to become aware of buttons and learn to create and use them when writing scripts, but later on I realized I’d been instinctively doing the same thing at the end of scenes and chapters in my fiction. In scripts, they eventually became a natural part of my flow, but trying to make myself do them at first was like hitting speedbumps on the interstate.
The language of writing and screenwriting evolves, as experience and ability grow. It can almost seem as if it was learned by osmosis. Then something new comes along to remind us it was more like a brainstrain at first. Much like any other language, integrated into everyday life.