Halloween is a dangerous time at our house. Two or three weeks before the holiday begins, the bags of candy start rolling in — creamy MilkyWays, satisfying Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, crunchy Kit Kats — and get stowed, supposedly for safe keeping, on the shelves in my office closet.
I’m all right as long as the packages remain closed. But once my husband breaks into them, all bets are off. My willpower dissolves in the acid of desire. It’s ugly. If you could see me now, you’d cower at the glazed look in my eyes, the sugar-induced tremors coursing through my body, the stacks of empty Smarties’ wrappers on every surface of my desk . . .
Writing has the same pitfalls. I try to stay on the straight-and-narrow. I yearn to avoid excessive commas, errant ellipses, those alluring semicolons. Inevitably, something sets me off, some scene will remove the figurative finger from my dike of self-control and blow my abstinence to smithereens.
Yep. You guessed it.
I’m a metaphor slut, an anaolgy ho.
I don’t say this proudly. I’ve tried to mend my ways. I memorized the twelve steps at Flourishers’ Anonymous and, in a horrid moment of relapse, rewrote them all. Electric shock therapy just felt good. Tough love wasn’t tough enough.
Late at night when I can’t sleep, I lay the blame on my addiction to poetry. Damn you, Wallace Stevens! Curse you, William Carlos Williams. I’m thinking of sending my behavioral therapy bills to novelist Alice Hoffman. Believe me, every morning when the sun greets the crisp blue sky, I vow to unclutter my prose. By noon, I’m a simpering metaphorical mess.
As a reader, I’ve noticed other writers have particular weaknesses, too. I find solace in that.
For example: Most authors have favorite words. C.J. Cherryh, whose works I enjoy tremendously, loves the word "coolth." I’m pretty sure she made it up and whenever I delve into one of her books, I look for it.
There are adverb junkies, sex-scene jonesers, multiple adjectival inserters, pedantic peacocks prone to alliteration, and experts who’ll spend more time writing about how a clock was made than plotting the entire story.
Authors have preferred actions too: standing, sitting, leaning a head against a shoulder, widening eyes, narrowing lips. Eyes twinkle, throats scratch.
We all do it. Every writer’s literary addictions come through.
So let’s roll around in the chocolate pleasure of conversation, the fondue of free speech.
What’s your writing temptation?
Have you noticed any author’s addictions? (Do you like them? Dislike?)
Or, simply . . . What’s your favorite candy this season?
Me? Since the Smarties are gone, I’m moving on to Paydays. I pick off all the peanuts first and then eat the gooey core . . . but that’s another post.