I recently took part in a 24-hour Arts Marathon on the campus of Tunxis Community College (Farmington, CT) and learned quite a bit about artists, people, and myself.
When you close people together up in a room, particularly if those people are writers, they may come out of their trances long enough to interact with each other. That is, if they were putting effort into a project and had the strong winds of the muse at their back to begin with.
I came into the room with the best of intentions to get something accomplished but alas, without a shred of concept of story in any form or format. Nevertheless, I plugged in the laptop. Very shortly thereafter a sentence appeared and from there, a story spit itself out. Took eleven friggin’ hours, but it did.
I’m sort of an introvert, easily intimidated by crowds–that’s two people or more–and find myself unable to really make small talk, tell jokes–or find anyone else’s funny when I’m concentrating on a story–and have always been eloquentially dysfunctional though I find it easy to write in a more or less semi-intelligent manner. Whereas I am stymied by the simplest of queries in conversation, if corresponding via a keyboard I can hold up my own. Therefore, if centered within a group, I listen.
You can learn a whole lot by listening (though I do hope that anyone listening to my recitations under these same conditions allow me the same leeway I hope to extend them). The revelations, the contradictions, the habits that are observed can teach one not only about the person with whom one is incarcerated but about people in general, and more so, about one’s own self. Did you never notice that the most annoying things you find in others are most often sins you yourself commit on a regular basis?
In other words, I do apologize for being, well, human. And I must add, thank you for teaching me that and adding to my storehouse of information on characterization in writing.