Curiosity – February 14, 2021

I am a curious sort.

Both ways. 

Not by any stretch of imagination or by creatively twisting the definition of the word am I “normal.”  My actions, reactions, attitudes, and judgments are not normal – they are, politely, “different.”  Strange.  Unusual.  Outlier.  Odd.  Unpredictable.  Abnormal.  Yes, you could say…

Curious.

Then, I am the inquisitive cat with ears pointed to an unexpected whisper.  The dog picking-up on a two-week old rabbit scent.  The raised eyebrow when I learn Widow McMurtry buys her gin by the case, frequently.  The silent alarms going-off when I see Clancy Peabody do something stupid when it’s in his best interest to do something, well, not stupid.  People doing other than what I expect them to because I know them, or because it is a “norm” people aspire to, make me well…

Curious.

I’ve admitted I am a student of psychology. Normal and abnormal.

Imagine my surprise thinking I have normal people figured out.  You know, far and away the majority of folks.  Then to find that normal people are not normal.  Excuse me.  That most “normal” people are abnormal. They do “things” contrary to what we as society define as nice, righteous, wholesome, expected, admirable, fair, whatever word or words crank your handle. All the qualities normal people themselves profess to consider “normal.”

My surprise has two legs.  Those not normal, those “abnormal” folks are more normal than normal folks.  Or at least they are dependably abnormal.  I’m seeing normal people are undependably normal or dependably abnormal.  Not talking hardened criminals or loony-tunes citizens.  Just folks everyone (including they themselves) consider normal.  If it’s in the playbook, God-fearing.  Honest.  Reciprocal.  Fair.  Trustworthy. Devoid of hypocrisy.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  Babe-in-the-woods.  It’s all a matter of degree. Sure. 

My studies of normal and abnormal personalities, apparently distributed on a hazy continuum, are driven by my desire to understand the characters I work with when I write.  Setting a plot, sketching a scene, I introduce a character.  We both know what is to take place.  I’m the mechanic.  My character is supposed to be the vehicle, move the story, provide color.  Believe it or not, nine times out of ten, even a marginally good character will get away from me, try to redirect his/her role, even replot the story.  Psychology at play.

Ah, I hear you saying. “Your character is you!  Your alter-ego.  Your frustrated wannabes. Your Walter Mitty.  Your Caped Crusader.  Your Sam Spade.  On a bad day, your Adolf, Caligula, Reverend Mister Davidson or Sadie Thompson, Darth Vader, or Joel Cairo.”

No.

My characters begin as incomplete cloth.  Pieces of always more than one real person (normal and abnormal as necessary) are stitched together before I imagine a new character into a story.  I know what the role is to be.  I know what kind of person I need for a role.  Inside the first several paragraphs, a new character often shows itself missing an essential quality, motive, sensitivity, whatever.  I can only provide that from what I’ve observed in my life, which is not always something I have myself experienced. The more psychology I introduce, the more the character begins to breathe and tell me what next is needed, evil or goodness, heroism or cowardice.  Characters looking to develop review and select what they need from my psychological palette.

Existing characters are complete as-is, their fabric accurately sewn.  Lately it seems however, that my understanding of normal and abnormal warrants review, ultimately, revision.  Revision not affecting my caricatures, but my life.  This discovery has been a disappointment. Disheartening. A curiosity.

Wants more work.  More observation.  I’m on the case.

Published by spwilcen

Retired career IT software engineer, or as we were called in the old days, programmer, it's time to empty my file cabinet of all the "creative" writing accumulated over the years - toss most of it, salvage and publish what is worthwhile.

15 thoughts on “Curiosity – February 14, 2021

  1. Normal is a paradox anyway. A human is only normal if s/he has faults and makes mistakes, yet making mistakes usually means straying away from the norm!
    Anyhow, I am going to shut up now because the more I think about this concept of normal, the more it makes my noggin buzz…

    1. Good Sunday morning to you. If you are not regular as rain. Sadly, I must report you one of the “normal.” With lovely twists, turns, and simply marvelous flights of witty creativity, yes, but one of the dependables, an international treasure. NOT, I report, one to ever disappoint. Well, um, yes, a bit of curiosity now and again, but I never hesitate to board your word bus.

      1. Good to know the “Big D” feels the same about you as I do. Means you have a cadre of faithful and Big D has good taste. Have a lovely afternoon, Sir Hobb.

  2. Well said SP. I can say that as someone who has always been surrounded by sub-normal people, totally crazy people and nuts, I had a hard time when I met one person…I’ll leave at that…who at the time was the only sane person I knew…Of course, as the years of friendship passed, so did sanity, unfortunately. I think we are all rather crazy because we tell each other all the time that we are sane and that we put the loonies in the hospitals and forget about them. However…I can say that as a writer (mostly of poetry but I have written two plays) my characters are entirely fictitious. They may resemble someone or react like someone or even act like someone but they are not that someone. Nothing that I have ever written is the truth relative to me. It may be truth relative to someone reading it. As an artist I create, I don’t replicate normal life. When I write about sadness, joy, ecstasy or anger, it is not mine that I am referring to, it is the essence of those emotions that I create artistically, not organically, in the character. When I was a cop I was asked by people what I thought about police shows on the tele. My reply was that I liked some. When further asked if they were realistic, the answer was always a resounding no. Nothing on the tele has anything to do with life, normal or sub-normal. It is all a creation. I’ve enjoyed your post SP, as always, I hope you and the boss had a lovely St. Valentine’s day and hope you’ve a lovely week ahead. All the best to you,
    FBC.

    1. Again although mildly, we disagree. I’ve a preface to Metaphor which explains my stance well. Briefly, you could not write fiction involving people if you did not understand people. People you know and have known, and even yourself. You, me, no one, can fabricate love, hate, greed, anger, or tomatoes if those emotions are not in our experience, we’ve not lived them in some way or recognized them in someone else. We do not write about Bob Snerd, surely, ever, but a bit of Bob, some of Larry, some of Francisco, some of Javier, some of Espie, somewhere, and some of Sue, Elaine, Juanita, and Francine. As writers we bend, twist, tear apart and reassemble, but deep below the surface on the pages, reality exists. Similarly you could not poetically paint history smoking from a stone (if I recall it correctly) if you have not felt something with such force that you see, feel, and hear what no one else has – until you describe it to them. Not your anger, no. But you have been angry, even if as in opening your comment above, mildly chagrined by the idiocy of those around us, their insanity when (as you and I know) it is so damned easy to be sane! And love. And fear. And hope. And joy…

      Do well. I know Sunday starts your week. Do amazing things. A nice glass of red for me this evening. Salud!

      1. Thank you SP, and no, I don’t disagree. I believe just as you’ve expressed. I was trying to say that as artists (writers, actors, painters, dancers et al) we take raw material, which are our own experiences, and convert them artistically into whatever form our art takes. Not that we invented the emotions, we’ve transferred the sad memory of losing a puppy into the sad moments of a breakup or other loss. And that what we write is not autobiographical on the outside but just may well be from the motivational side.
        All the best my friend and enjoy your Sunday evening.
        FBC.

  3. I’m totally abnormal! Haha who designed the theory or drafted the concept of normal anyway. Conventional or unconventional maybe; benchmarked against some contrived convention. As I travel through life i have been sucked in to the conventional way as an abnormality. Funny how we wonder what happened when it all goes wrong!! Thought provoking and amusing thank you 🙏🏼

    1. Well, gosh. I’m glad you found it amusing and especially thought-provoking. Thank you for taking time to “chat” with your thoughts. Have a swell one. Scotland, yes? Always beckons. One day, maybe…

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