Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Choosing your Pack:

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.


Edie said...

OMG, Zoe, this is a fabulous blog! I feel like the people I've hooked up with through Magical Musings are my community--my pack. What's great is that we attract positive people like you.

The nice thing about writers' packs is that if they start turning nasty, you can leave. With family it's a little harder.

I'm going to buy Blood and Chocolate. It sounds like a must read. And how can I resist a werewolf named Vivian? *g*

Liz Kreger said...

Excellent points, Zoe. I agree. Ultimately, humans are pack animals. Despite their individuality, they need that closeness, the sense of belonging. Even though writers tend to introverted, they still need to keep in touch with people of like mind.

Zoe Winters said...

hehe Edie, yes it's an AWESOME book! I don't know how positive I am. Lately I'm feeling downright snippy and really rethinking one of the groups I joined. Just way more drama than I care for. Plus people seem to think it's some badge of honor to continue to hang out in an environment like that. Like if you leave you just "can't take the heat." No, I don't want to watch people sling crap at one another, and then jump on me for pointing out that maybe we could be a bit more civil in an online forum.

Liz, Thanks! I'm not sure how introverted I am. I think I'm pretty extroverted, though I know I'm more introverted than I used to be. You can only be bitten so many times before you just start opening up less to people.

Cynthia Eden said...

Very insightful post, Zoe. And you know what? I think I'm going to have to read BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE now since it inspired you so much.

Anonymous said...

Haven't read the book or seen the movie. I've heard that if you like the book don't see the movie, it will ruin it like Eragon.

So, what about your geeky gaming pack?

Zoe Winters said...

Thanks Cynthia! Yes, this book is SOOOO good. The only trouble is...I'm having a hard time finishing it because I don't want it to end lol. It might not be like this for everyone...but for me, this is one of those books that has altered my perspective on life around me, not just given me a good story. And so it makes it that much more valuable to me.

Anonymous: (Mel) I know this is Mel because you are the only one who knows about my geeky gaming pack. ;) I heart my gaming pack heh.

And yeah...I know about movies and books, but I'm still going to watch the movie. ;) It might be my fanfic exposure but I can accept and appreciate two different versions of the same story. :)