Aug 07 2019

Writing Takes Author by Surprise #IWSG

August 7 question – Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? For example, a positive and belated response to a submission you’d forgotten about or an ending you never saw coming?

A few twists I hadn’t planned haven’t planned over the years have taken me by surprise, or at least messed with whatever bit of plotting I did in advance.

But what stuck out in my mind when I read this question was my WEP Flash Fiction A Change of Heart in Bright Eyes Lifetime. One, that so many readers thought Osiris was a female. (I picked the name of an Egyptian god figuring, well, what more manly than the name of a freakin god? Seriously, someone has GOT to explain names to me one day. I really have no idea how people look at them and guess gender or ethnicity or age. Where did you learn this? Is there a book? Some online class? Who is the keeper of naming knowledge for non-Lenape people?)

Two, what really struck me is how many people, in comments or private messages, said they wanted more of the story. It’s based on something that actually happened to a friend of mine. My friend really did get dumped, while he was in the hospital, for a sex doll. And it really did get him out of his shell and inspired him to try new things, which has resulted in him meeting some more adventurous guys.

Honestly, I was just stuck for an idea for a flash fiction story. (There’s another one coming up this month.) I didn’t think the main character would be so popular. Then again, I usually write speculative fiction. My main characters aren’t normally regular people. That’s probably why I was surprised that so many people liked it. It isn’t my usual genre.

Ever write something outside your usual genre that was liked?

Did you take part in today’s IWSG prompt? Let me know. I’ll come say hi back.


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  1. I once wrote a flash fiction piece about a mother and daughter talking about the state of food at the girl’s nursery school… It won the competition. And was also the runner-up for the story of the year. I was shocked. It was just a story about what a mum would do for her child. But it worked. No dragons, no magic, no faeries… Mmm. It did teach me that heart is what matters.

    As for readers deciding stuff about characters: they also read stuff into your stories that you never wrote. And that’s fine. Because sometimes they miss what you actually said… and the story they experience is the one that speaks to them.
    Ronel Janse van Vuuren has this post to share Burning Questions #IWSGMy Profile
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    1. That’s true. I don’t know how people read things that aren’t there. But it happens often. I wonder if anyone has ever studied that?
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  2. What a cool story with nice results for you as an author. Sometimes we surprise ourselves. Happy IWSG Day.
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    1. Happy IWSG to you as well.
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  3. I know Egyptian mythology, so I know the story of Isis and Osiris, and know that Osiris is male and Isis is female. 😉
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    1. Go forth and spread that knowledge! Apparently, it is far rarer than I suspected.
      Thanks for stopping in.
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  4. Flash fiction is always full of surprises for me (I only started writing it with the WEP prompts). I’ve had some comments that have surprised me (gender in one piece, interpretations of the ending in a couple) too. It’s fun to see how people read it from different views!
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    1. It really is. Something I never thought about.
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  5. I guess you’d have to research the origins of names to discover if they were male or female. Of course, around here, Southern names can go both ways. I know a Taylor who is a girl and one who’s a guy.
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    1. Taylor is a very unisex name. Depending on where (and when) you are, so is Ashley. I’ve looked into origins. It seems that popularity and fame can turn a male name into a unisex or female one. Yet the reverse is almost never true. Catherine, Rosa, Marie, Edith, Amelia, Jane, Elizabeth, Eve, Anne … I don’t think they’ve converted to unisex or male names. (Though a few might have been from male names, depending where one digs.) It’s very interesting.
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  6. Gods can be male or female, it seems just Christianity got stuck with men-only. I have the opposite problem, with several females characters named after male classical characters; Jupiter, Nimrod spring to mind. The reason was that I named them after friends’ female pets… and they named them after airplanes!

    Then again, several ordinary names that have traditionally been male seem to have become popular female ones recently – and probably vice versa.
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    1. Who knew pronouns could be so important. Then again, we’re entering a phase of language where “they/them” can be singular for a character or person of undetermined or fluid gender. Which only makes me more curious as to how people guess at gender based on such little information. Especially when they guess incorrectly.
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  7. These days I think just about anything goes for names irregardless of gender. I have a tough time coming up with names. I always tend to want to use actual names of people I know, but that probably isn’t wise in many cases.

    I prefer stories about regular people. They’re easier for me to relate to. More realistic too.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out
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    1. Go ahead and name a character J. Watch in wonder as it confuses everyone. “Why didn’t you add some superfluous letters to that? We need more vowels!” It’s funny, I promise you.

      I have never been a regular person. Guess that’s why I have trouble relating to the stories that people call realistic. Yes, well, writers don’t get dull, ordinary lives, do we?
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