I Write Weird Stuff

Man makes magic with his fountain pen.

I’m working my way through filing a sheaf of papers when my office phone rings.  It’s Ismael, my husband, on the other end.  After the usual hellos, he launches into a conversation the likes of which has become utterly commonplace for us.

Ismael:  So I’m having trouble with the hierarchy of my gods.  I can’t figure out which ones would answer to which.  

Me: You think that’s bad.  I think I’ve discovered a plot hole in LK.  If Jacklyn has enhanced hearing, wouldn’t she have heard that inter-dimensional coming when he attacks her in the cave scene?

And all of the people walking by my desk get the “What the hell did she just say?” look on their faces. 

It’s something that comes up a lot for me. You see, genre comes with a stigma.  Literary journals are largely against it’s publication within their pages.  Most writing teachers try to twist them into literary fiction when you submit them for a workshop.  Those who read books or watch movies with the kinds of themes my husband and I often employ are relegated to the levels of geekdom.  

I once ate lunch with a group of women who sat in the cafeteria and discussed their book, movie and television choices.  They rarely matched with mine.  I’m sure what they were reading was incredibly well-written.  I wouldn’t know.  I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.  It may have had something to do with the ringing endorsement the work received from one of my co-workers.  “You wouldn’t like it.  You only like to read that weird stuff.”  At first I was taken aback.  And a little offended.  Which, with some distance, I’ve realized is ridiculous.  She was partially correct.  While she was wrong to assume I wouldn’t like it (I have read many books that aren’t genre that I have loved), she was correct that it didn’t fit in line with my normal tastes.  I may have read it and enjoyed it, but it would likely never become one of my favorite books.  And that’s because all of my favorite books are filled to the brim with weird stuff. Which is something I am totally cool with.

Being asked by a friend who only reads true literary fiction what I am writing used to feel like I was introducing myself at an AA meeting.  “Hi, my name is Justine and my current works in progress contain a computer virus alien race, a divorcee with an imaginary friend, and dimensional portals.  Please do not throw tomatoes or insults at me.”  And I would say it with the same level of shyness, of shame, as though what I was writing was any less valid than your normal everyday literary work.  There’s literary fiction and there’s commercial fiction, and my muse just happens to like characters who are possessed by an alien computer virus.  So sue me.

My favorite author, Urban Fantasy extraordinaire Kelley Armstrong’s website bio boasts the following: “If asked for a story about girls and dolls, mine would invariably feature undead girls and evil dolls, much to my teachers’ dismay. All efforts to make me produce “normal” stories failed. Today, I continue to spin tales of ghosts and demons and werewolves, while safely locked away in my basement writing dungeon.”  

The more I started to read things like that, the better I started to feel about my writing identity.  For one thing, I found myself in rather illustrious company.  For another, I seemed, like Armstrong, to be incapable of doing anything other than that which I was embarrassed to admit.  One of my works in progress began as the comedic story of a divorcee struggling to get her life on track and become a more adventurous person in the process.  I worked on it as such for awhile.  But the idea just didn’t have enough spirit to get me going until I decided that she should be getting her adventurous ideas from an imaginary friend, who happens to be the main character from her favorite television show.  The story didn’t come together until I added that wackadoo element to it.  And then, it all gelled.  Scenes became better with Imaginary Guy shouting directions at my lead from the background.  

It was when that puzzle piece fell into place that I figured it out – as it stands right now, my muse doesn’t want me to write normal stuff.  It wants me to write strange, convoluted stories with science fiction and fantasy and unfamiliar elements.  When it wants me to write coming-of-age stories about a boy coming to terms with the death of his sister by rebuilding the car she crashed in (an idea I’ve been kicking around for awhile but have never been able to make work – maybe it will work if the car is POSSESSED by his sister!  Now that’s a winner!), it will tell me and that will be what I write.  But for now, it seems I better get used to announcing it.

Hi, my name is Justine Manzano.  And I write weird stuff.

10 thoughts on “I Write Weird Stuff

  1. Brilliant…keep forgetting how young you are…when I was your age did the same thing thought I must be weird I like Sci Fi but after a while I found that by saying yep I am geek and a nerd and proud of it! and seeing the look on their faces was far more fun and I also got some good friends that way and no fair weather ones as I call it…

    1. Thanks! Yeah, the older I get the easier it becomes to proclaim myself geektastic. I used to actually HIDE what I was working on from people, because I thought they “wouldn’t get it”. That problem is actually one of the things that fandom cured me of. But that’s a blog for another time. 😉

  2. The best thing about your saying ‘my name is Justine Manzano and and I write weird stuff’, other then of course you are who you are and thats always a good thing by the way,,is the fact that ,,,,,,you write! Any writter worth their salt would not even notice the ‘weird’ in that statement at all.

    1. You’re not wrong! I may get frustrated with it sometimes, but I am blessed. When I sit down, and focus on my writing, words come out. I manage to avoid writer’s block, and that is an important thing. It’s been a difficult road to be able to consider myself a writer. REALLY consider myself a writer. And now I do. I think that might be the a huge step to developing your identity.

  3. Hello, my name is…well, you know my name…and I read weird stuff. People look at me strangely when the see me reading a Star Wars novel or an old classic (You haven’t read that yet….God, I read that in high school!), but they really stare with wonder when the cover of the lastest book features a boy wizard, a woman riding a white horse and producing a magical glow from her hands or zoombies wearing business suits. It is my opinion that variety is the spice of life, whether it comes to your daily activities, the music you listen to or the books you read. As far as I am concerned, if there weren’t weird stories out there to read, the world would be incredibly boring!

    1. I agree – there is a whole lot of normal out there. I am intrigued by the offbeat and the strange because I live real life every day. Real life has divorces and sick people and bills to pay and drama. And even though the weird stuff also has problems (often times life threatening, or WORLD threatening problems), they are often far from anything I experience on a daily basis. And that’s the interest behind it for me. The ability to experience something you would never experience on an average day…mixed with a few things you might.

  4. Hahaha…I feel compelled to write odd stuff too.
    I went to Harlequin’s website once and discovered that they had a section where amateurs could contribute to a “round-robin” storyline. LOL…I so much wanted to add a scene that twisted everything so the good-guy was the bad guy and vice versa…but after reading some of the really earnest, serious comments about the story I figured my contribution wouldn’t have been accepted. Then there was the espionage storyline about four brothers I was working on, that became an
    “the brothers are aliens” because the real espionage stuff would’ve taken too much research,lol.

    1. I so completely understand this tendency. When I was going to school for my BA in Creative Writing, I never wanted to touch on the weirder stuff that went through my head because I didn’t think it would be accepted in a more literary setting. And that resulted in me handing in some of my least effective work. I’ve begun to embrace the fact that I am an oddball and that none of my more run of the mill stuff will ever have the same zing as my weirder stuff, because I simply do not have the same interest in it. To each their own, right? 🙂

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