Thursday, May 3, 2012

Unexpected Benefits: Pessimism

I'm a bit brain fried today. I spent 15 hours driving to my sister's graduation, and then I slept. I'm in a different time zone, I haven't had coffee, and I'm not entirely certain this isn't a dream I'm having while asleep at the wheel.

Nonetheless, it's an update night, and so you get an update, you lucky readers. Tonight I'm picking a topic at random from my stable of ideas, so you get a post about why my pessimism helps me as a writer.

As a pessimist, I fear the worst. I'm prepared, at least emotionally, for a worst-case scenario. That usually means that there are scenarios I didn't think of that go wrong, and everything I didn't prepare for goes wrong, so I try to be prepared for those next time.

Which means that I spend a lot of time wondering, "What if?" What if I overslept and missed my flight? What if the person who was supposed to pick me up never shows? What if I miss out on what I was supposed to do, but end up meeting other people and doing something else?

While very few of the scenarios I envision make it into my writing, it is good practice. When I need more narrative tension, I have my "what if?" practice to fall back onto, so that I can think of the worst possible thing to get in my characters' way. The same goes for minor delays, subplots, or background flavor that makes it into the story.

I wouldn't advise that you become a pessimist if optimism works for you, but I do think that the mental exercises us pessimists go through as part of our daily lives makes it easier to come up with worst-case scenarios for our characters to go through.

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