Daily Writing Tip 51 of 100, Misfits Don’t Fall in Love

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Misfits Don’t Fall in Love

Source – Burning Down the House, Essays on Fiction by Charles Baxter

The distrust that many Americans harbor for any community except the family has helped to make us a nation of politically misallied misfits. Misfits don’t want to join political parties or fall in love. They want to light out for the territories, proclaim their belief in purity, acquire some firepower, and stay clean. They think of themselves as heroic. The quest is secondary and often incoherent and unintelligible. It is undertaken in the condition of cheerfulness – think of the recent crazy-rictus candidacies of Ross Perot or Steve Forbes. Cheerfulness, as Robert Bly has argued, is a deeply Puritan emotion, frozen and static, as opposed to joy, which is transfigurative. America, as visitors never tire of pointing out, is full of vaguely sinister cheerfulness. Your murderer smiles at you when they shoot you. Robert DeNiro caught this quality in his performance in Taxi Driver. The crazier Travis Bickle gets the more he grins.

I don’t think this is a writing tip as much as it is an example of how a writer can look at characters in a complex, unique, and multi-dimensional way. I think there should be at least one Misfit in every story – actually, I think every character should be a Misfit in their own idiosyncratic way.

Oh, and this is interesting in how it illuminates our present political predicament. Today, Ross Perot or Steve Forbes would be considered the sane candidate. I think I would be less afraid of Travis Bickle than I am of Donald Trump.

What Machine Is It That Bears Us Along So Relentlessly?

“What Machine is it that bears us along so relentlessly? We go rattling thro’ another Day,- another Year,- as thro’ an empty Town without a Name, in the Midnight…we have but Memories of some Pause at the Pleasure-Spas of our younger Day, the Maidens, the Cards, the Claret,- we seek to extend our stay, but now a silent Functionary in dark Livery indicates it is time to re-board the Coach, and resume the Journey. Long before the Destination, moreover, shall this Machine come abruptly to a Stop…gather’d dense with Fear, shall we open the Door to confer with the Driver, to discover that there is no Driver…no Horses,…only the Machine, fading as we stand, and a Prairie of desperate Immensity…”

― Thomas Pynchon, Mason & Dixon