Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Shy to the Point of Paralysis

You know those people who walk up to you at parties or in a crowd and seem right at home?  The ones who can talk about anything?  The ones who ask you questions like they think they will get an answer?  I'm not one of them.

I never assume anyone wants to talk to me or hear what I have to say.  Sometimes I think they should, but expect it?  That would be presumptuous, which in my Midwestern WASP family was an unforgivable sin.  If someone wanted my opinion, my parents always told me, they'd ask for it.  For years, I waited, but no one ever asked.  My first husband didn't even ask if I wanted to marry him.  He just assumed I would . . . and I did.

After I grew up, I realized, much to my surprise, that being the quiet sort has its advantages.  People forget you're around.  They say things that reveal themselves and others, but I get to stay invisible.  For a writer, that's a goldmine of human experience.  For every character I create, another walks by in the flesh, begging re-creation.  And because I don't know them, not really, I'm free to invent their story.  That's tricky territory with people who actually know you exist or care what you think, like your mother who reads your books and asks if the obnoxious jerk in the story is based on your brother.

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