As a writer, it’s par for the course that people will ask you awkward things. Actually, I think anyone who is in a creative, exciting field will be asked things that will make the artist unsure of what to say. If you thought, ‘Why are you single?’ questions were bad, then you’re in for a treat.
Here are some questions authors would like you NOT to ask:
1. ‘Am I in Your Book?’
This is usually asked by one’s romantic partners – or ex-partner. It’s usually asked in a mix of thrill and anxiety (the latter stems from fears that nitty-gritty, confidential information has been exposed). Personally, I never put people I know in my books. Yes, people inspire me but my imagination creates unique characters that I don’t know other than in the world of my head. Asking the author in your life if you’re in their book makes them feel a bit uncomfortable. If they say no, then you might feel rejected; if they say yes you might feel like you’ve been exposed. Rather don’t ask.
2. ‘I Have an Awesome Idea For Your Next Book. Hear Me Out, Okay?’
Oh dear. This one gets me eyeing out the exit every time. Just because your author friend or colleague writes, it doesn’t mean that you can ship all your author dreams on him/her. Chances are, the author in your life would like to write something he/she wants to. It’s the one place we have where we can be in control and let our imaginations run unbridled! There’s nothing wrong with suggesting a cool idea, of course. But just bear in mind we’ve got so many thrashing around in our heads already!
3. ‘Can I Be in Your Next Book?’
Oh, gosh, here we go again… So you just found out you’re not the cool, chic and stylish protagonist in your friend’s book that you are sure is going to be a best-seller. Bummer. So you think that maybe, just maybe, you’ll make a starry-eyed appearance in her next one. And why shouldn’t you? You’re awesome. But trying to edge your way into the book might put your author friend into a bit of a tight spot. See, as authors we don’t want to feel that people are only vying to get into our pages. We also don’t always know how to say ‘no’. We don’t want you to feel that we’re mean-spirited or that you wouldn’t make an interesting hero/heroine; but you just might not fall into the ideas we have for our book.
4. ‘Isn’t Writing So Much Better Than a Real Job?’
Now, this sort of stuff is sure to get under an author’s skin. I blame Carrie Bradshaw for making people believe that writing is about lying on your stomach, strumming a few keys and then heading out to do a bit of shoe-shopping. (Okay, look, sometimes it is, but generally we work so much harder!) Writing is not an easy career at all and it is no less demanding just because we get to do it in our pajamas if we want. (Hey, we deserve to be comfortable when we can’t find the right word!) I once heard a cool quote from Red Smith: ’There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.’
5. ‘Have You Done Your Research?’
You’ve just told your friend about the amazing book set in the 1800s that you’ve been writing and then he asks, ‘Ooh that seems tricky. Have you done your research correctly?’ When you go to your mechanic, do you ask, ‘Hey, you do know what you’re doing, right?’ Or when you visit a surgeon who has operated on you, do you ask to make sure that he didn’t leave a scalpel in there? No. It’s a common misconception that authors just sit and type (see Carrie Bradshaw reference above) and the words just flow out of us. Sometimes they do but usually we do a lot of planning and research to make our stories as believable as possible. We try to enter the minds of our characters and understand where they’re coming from and what they’re about. In fact, writing is sometimes a bit of a smaller activity than doing research. Maybe it’s a good idea to do some research into writing before posing such a question.
What are some questions you as an author don’t like having to ask?