The Writer’s Wife: Maybe a Test, Never a Target

When it comes to writing, my wife and I have an odd relationship.

She goes out of her way to be supportive of my writing endeavors. She encourages me, she tries to make sure I carve out time in my schedule to write, and she understands when I hit a creative rough patch and need to just escape the house and family for a few hours of in-my-own-head time.

I have no doubt she’s in my corner when it comes to this writing thing.

The bit that’s probably weird to a lot of people is that, to my knowledge, my wife reads very little of what I produce. It’s not that she doesn’t want to read it, but there are times when I caution her not to seek it out.

My wife tends to be a very serious person, but she is a writer’s dream when it comes to suspending her disbelief. If you do a decent job of creating a world and populating it with characters that aren’t outright ridiculous, she totally buys in to whatever it is you’re doing.

That might sound great, but there’s also a downside. Whatever emotional rollercoaster your characters experience, she’ll be right there with them, every step of the way.

Did I mention she can be a serious person? Well, because of that, whenever she reads for fun, it’s usually a romance, and it needs to be light-hearted and fun. Limit the drama, avoid the violence, and when it comes to horror, forget about it.

Now those of you who follow me here at the Café know that I will often venture into the realm of silly, and I have a lot of fun making people laugh. My wife would have no issues with that kind of stuff, but I still don’t send her to the Café and then eagerly await her praise followed by a pat on the head.

If I’ve written a goofy story for this blog, it’s probably something she’s already heard me riff on at home. I spend a lot of my day thinking about the pace and rhythm of a particular piece of dialogue or how to set up and then call back a joke, and I’m constantly finding ways to manipulate our conversations at home so I can drop one of these gems and see how it tests.

Did I mention she can be serious? That’s come up a few times, right?

If something I say, or some ridiculous situation I’ve come up with, makes her giggle, I know I’m on the right track. She serves as a good dry run for new material, but I don’t want to make her wade through the same stuff a second or even a third time. A good joke is never as funny as when you first hear it.

Another reason I don’t send my wife to the blog is that my characters talk like me. I envision her flipping through the pages of a story and then looking at me and saying, “Everyone in here is you.”

She’d be right, and she’d probably be bored, because she’s heard all those riffs and rants and intentionally awkward topics before. The only difference might be that I will sometimes tone down my characters’ language.

(I, on the other hand, love a good curse word and use them with great frequency. Lately I’ve really been fixated on the term “motherfucker.” I love the way it can roll of your tongue, all lazy-like, or it can explode from your mouth, fueled by anger and aggression. It’s a good word. It’s versatile. I encourage you to use it at your next social function.)

Okay, so even though I like playing the class clown, anyone who’s consistently read my stuff also knows that I sometimes drift into the darker corners of life. That’s where my wife and I really part company in terms of fiction. There have been a few times (and only a few) where I’ve asked her opinion on something I’ve written that might be a little more serious than what she’s used to seeing from me.

I don’t usually ask unless I’m feeling insecure about what I’m writing or if I’m venturing into unknown territory.

Each time, without fail, I’ve made her cry. (I choose to believe her reaction has nothing to do with the quality of the work or to an overwhelming sense of hopelessness she may feel at the prospect of having to financially support my ass for decades to come.)

She is, as I’ve said, a writer’s dream when it comes to suspending her disbelief, but a crying wife is no bueno. It should also be pointed out that a crying wife is far less likely to look at me and say, “Damn, I have a sexy writer-type husband! I need to get me some of that!”

(Ha, ha, people! Good luck getting that out of your mind’s eye tonight.)

So, in closing, do I have an awesomely supportive wife? Hell, yes.

Does she read most of the things I write? Hell, no!

And that’s the way we both like it.

Larry Jenkins is an aspiring Word Pimp. Has laptop, will travel. Let's make this happen, people.

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