Today my post is going to intersect in a lot of places. It's going to be part book review and part personal observation and by the end of it you may wonder what it has to do with writing, but I hope not. ;)
I'm reading a fantastic book right now called: "Blood and Chocolate" by: Annette Curtis Klause. I started reading it last night and if not for sheer exhaustion, probably wouldn't have put it down. A movie has been made about it and I was intrigued. It's a coming of age story, but that's not what makes it great. What makes it great is that it's about a werewolf named Vivian.
The last lines on the back of the cover sold me completely on this book: "What is she really - human or beast? Which tastes sweeter - blood or chocolate?"
I've always felt that vampire stories weren't really about "supernatural beings" but are about humans. What we long for: immortality, no sickness, power, youth. What we fear: those stronger than us, what lurks in the shadows, our darker selves. etc.
But until "Blood and Chocolate," I didn't really see werewolf stories as being "about people." Reading this though, I see that they are. Even the werewolf main character notes the pack mentality of human beings. And yet the central werewolf story in this novel...I read it and I get a sense of "otherness" but also a sense of "sameness."
It seems to be a giant mirror of what humanity is. Essentially, we are pack. We boast about our individuality while following trends set by others. We often "do what we want", but we deeply care what others think. Even those of us wearing the mask of "I don't care" cares what someone thinks. To not care what anyone thinks on any level is to separate yourself completely from society and not be a part anymore. And what is society? If not a large pack?
Human beings are incredibly complex in our social interactions. We have many units of social structure, ever widening circles that encompass different levels of human interaction. And yet this pack mentality exists and exists strongly. It goes by many names and has many philosophies attached but it is there. We don't long to be lone wolves. We long to connect but not lose the pieces of what makes us ourselves.
There are many packs. There are family, work, religious, and purely social units. And there are writers. Writers, while so solitary in our endeavors, seek very strongly to connect with others of our kind. We run in packs, be it critique groups or online groups.
I've noticed this pack mentality even more strongly in many online groups recently (both writing and nonwriting.) It seems usually small online groups that have known each other for awhile tend to see each other in terms of "family." And this word, family, it's comforting to us. Because we are so strongly social.
But "family" alone cannot be a selling point for the packs we choose to run with. There are many abusive families out there, many that will seek to tear you down rather than to build you up. Immature, emotionally stunted, and unhealthy families are a dime a dozen.
Like me, as a writer you probably feel almost compelled to interact with other writers, to have that connection and sense of community. But choose your pack wisely. So much of how you see yourself and others in this business will depend on it.