Friday, May 20, 2011

The Write Way: Weird and Wyrd

(For the Introduction, check here. For the second piece, read this.)

In my last musing on the subject, I waxed eloquent--or cheese-ball, depending on your taste--about the virtues of Wit and Wisdom, two traits that you'll find in most successful writers. However, I should make note: those are two traits that can be found in many people who aren't writers. They are, in a way, equal opportunity qualities.

These next two are not quite so common--the second one especially. Though they can appear in many people who don't write, they're a prerequisite for successful writers. And nowhere else are they most evident.

So. Let's begin.

Let's face it: if you're not at least a little bit weird, you're no writer. Un-weird writers produce bland things like middle school grammar textbooks and legal documents. Writers--particularly fiction writers, who are obviously the most entertaining--cannot exist without weird.

So What Is It?
Weird is just something that sets someone apart from everyone else. Frankly, everybody's a little weird (see? It was worth reading this just for that little nugget!), but writers need to be something entirely different. In some ways, they need to be monumentally weird. Sure, it's good when a writer can function in normal society, but there needs to be something just a little bit off. Something that "normal" people don't quite get. It's an undercurrent of unusualness, a swelling pulse of profound otherness, which sets good writers apart from the competition.

It makes them stand out.

Why Does It Matter in Writing?
There are two kinds of self-declared writers: normal, and extraordinarily abnormal. Sadly, normal people just don't cut it when writing good stories. They regurgitate things they've already seen onto the page; they're typists.

Weird writers have entirely different worlds inside their minds. If they're lucky, these worlds will be realistic enough to be believable, but odd enough to fascinate readers. From the wellspring of Weird come fantasies and phantasms, fictions and foretelling. Weird makes writing worth reading.

The Ideal
The Ideal of this trait, I think, could conceivably function in daily life--could, in fact, interact with other humans quite seamlessly. But, when the lights go down and the crowds go home, the Weird bubbles up to the surface and spills over, onto the page or the screen or the typewriter.

When the normal humans leave, the writer comes alive and, as he does, so do his words.

Fun fact: this is pronounced "weerd," just like the word above. (Ain't I just the cleverest?)

So What Is It?
Wyrd is an old Anglo-Saxon word. If you're a fan of Eragon, you've seen the slightly altered form "wyrda," and if you've read all through Beowulf then you've seen the word in its natural form. Informally, "wyrd" just means a person's fate. Everybody everywhere has a wyrd.

In this context, however, I use "wyrd" to refer something inside of people. It's hard to see the thing itself, but you can always spot the people with wyrd in them. They're usually at the center of the room (whether they intended to be there or not) and they often have people looking at them in either adoration or envy. People with wyrd lead charmed lives, it seems: everything they do prospers and everything they touch turns to gold.

Sound esoteric yet? It isn't.

Why Does It Matter in Writing?
Time for the blatant, naked truth. Success in writing always comes down to luck and a little charm.

It does not matter how good you are. It does not matter how much you work. It does not matter whether your manuscript or article or poem is the most marvelous piece of writing the world will ever lay its bulbous eyes upon. Without luck--without, as it were, "wyrd"--your writing will never see the light of day.

Frankly, writers cannot succeed without wyrd. Some, in fact, have gotten by on nothing but wyrd (Stephenie Meyer and Christopher Paolini, we're looking at you). In this, writing is tragically like the music industry: even if you have a seven-octave range and tone so beautiful that Michael Bublé and Josh Groban would weep for envy, if you never get that "one big break" you won't make a dime off your work.

Sadly, we don't have "American Idol" for writers. It's all guts and charm, my friends.

The Ideal
Unlike the other traits, there are living, breathing examples of this trait. They fill the writing industry. Big names like Stephen King have wyrd in spades. Big and ridiculed names (again, Stephenie Meyer) have it to spare as well. Whether it's luck, or unbridled charisma, or ambition that would make Greek gods tremble, wyrd is not hard to find. Just check a television screen, and there it is: staring you in the face, wild-eyed and eager to change the world.

Wyrd, you see, is nothing if not power.

1 comment:

  1. Nice piece...You are spot on concerning weird people make great writers, what's really interesting is when those same people interact in a group... when the ideas are flowing off the cuff. The expressions on people's faces are priceless!