Not long ago, I pulled one of my many reference books from my office bookshelf so I could get a few details for an upcoming scene I’m writing.
Holding the book in my hands, I immediately felt transported back to the time I first read it, and I had to smile. Suddenly I felt sentimental.
It was the Christmas holidays, visiting my in-laws, during the time I was still a hopeful writer who hadn’t yet been published. I remembered the manuscript I was working on and why I needed this particular book to help me with certain details—and I still remember what those details were. Snow fell; holiday cheer abounded; carols drifted through the house.
And here I was engrossed in Body Trauma, where every chapter follows an organ system, explaining injuries and how they affect the human body—and even better, how those injuries can be used by writers in their work.
I know; you don’t have to tell me. I’m morbid.
It’s great to be reading along about blood and guts, then have the author insert something along the lines of, "Use this injury if you need your character’s future to be uncertain," or "This is a good one to use if a character needs to be ill, recover, and then relapse."
Okay, so I’m not just morbid; I’m weird.
I’m aware of that.
But sometimes I forget that others don’t share my bizarre curiosity.
You should have seen the faces of my brothers-in-law when they saw the book. "Light reading, huh?" they asked as they inched away from me.
"No, really, it’s so fascinating," I said as I stepped forward, eager to share gems I had just learned. "Did you know that if someone has a bad impact—say they fell from a cliff—and it’s so bad you can’t tell where their face is, you look for air bubbles?"
They sank into the couch, eyes wide with horror.
The reality is that I am weird.
I’m a writer. That makes me a little bit off the beaten path.
How many other people do you know who have conflicts appear in their imaginations in the middle of the night? Who else hears people talking in their heads (and no, they don’t need medication or a strait jacket). Who else finds joy in the discovery of new information that will help make their pretend world a little closer to reality?
And how many people do you know who are so obsessed punctuation rules that they cringe when they see a T-shirt with a comma splice?
So yes, I’m weird. And I celebrate that weirdness.
Weirdness is the quality that brings me the wonder of the written word, characters, storylines, creation, and so much more. It’s what brought me to the place of—finally—getting published.
And yes, in case you’re wondering, that first manuscript I read Body Trauma for did end up published several years later, complete with injuries for three victims of a drunk-driving car accident.
That book is now known as At the Water’s Edge.
A few months after reading Body Trauma I brought my next bit of light reading while visiting family—Cause of Death. I had to chase people around the house so they’d pay attention to the diagrams of autopsies. "No really. Check this out! It’s totally cool!"
They’d block their eyes and run the other way, saying, "Man, are you kidding me?"
Sheesh. Some people just can’t appreciate a good reference book.
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