Sunday, May 17, 2009


This is a word I loathe with such unbridled passion I think I actually grow fangs and my eyes turn to red at the mere mention of it. - In my line of work, (no, the other line) I'm told perception is everything.

I grow so tired of people jumping to their own conclusions about a situation before they even ask you or try to iron out any misunderstanding. I can't tell you how many times over the past 16 years I've been called into the office and reamed a new one for a perception someone had about me that was not only way off the mark that it landed somewhere in Albequrque, but was so far from the truth it bordered on slander. At no point have I been allowed to defend myself in a manner that I can honestly say my bosses believed me. No, for there is an unwritten rule, "whoever tells the tale first, tells the truth." - regardless if this is factual or not.

Which brings me to the topic of today's blog.

I've been thinking a lot about, well, that ten letter word I hate so much, over the last few days. It all started with a dream I had about a group of private investigators who all worked for the same agency in a rather large city. The POV character in the dream was being told by the IT person that no one in the company liked her and in fact they rather couldn't stand her. The conversation had started innocently enough over an assignment to go into the part of the city that made POV character nervous to travel in alone. Things escalated in the dream to where the POV character decided she could no longer work at the company - a place where she believed she was very well liked and had many friends. While she thought the good-natured joking and ribbing enjoyed by all members of the investigative team were friendly exchanges, her co-workers found her abrasive, irritating and annoying. (As you see, I sometimes have very detailed dreams, though oftentimes they're disjointed. I think the next scene in my dream was a bunch of extremely bored looking college students sitting in a classroom waiting for the professor to arrive.)

The POV character in the dream had been blindsided by a perception of her coworkers that was not only harsh, but untrue. I thought a lot about this character over the past twenty-four hours and wondered what she did next. How did she overcome the hurtful situation she found herself in? How did she face a room full of coworkers she now believed hated her?

For the purpose of this discussion, the next part of her story really doesn't matter. It's a jumping off point for all the conflict or wrong-thinking characters can have for each other in novels. The resolution of such things can take many roads that can have variable twists and turns throughout the journey.

Conflicts that revolve around misunderstandings are often thought of as taboos. How many times has it been drummed into novice writers that if the conflict can be resolved by a conversation, it's not a conflict? That's true to an extent, but I tend to pull back from talking absolutes when it comes to the creative process. Also, these perception-based misunderstandings are a big part of real life. People don't like to discuss problems, they like for them to fester and scab over for some reason I can't honestely fathom. But not all perception problems in stories are such a bad thing, especially if they are short in duration. You might in fact find an entire level of deeper understanding between your characters once the problem is resolved.

My paranormal novel, Scythe, which releases this week from Samhain Publishing under my MK Mancos psuedonymn deals with perceptions. Here's some blurbage for you enjoyment.

A hot chick. A golden blade. Dead bodies. It’s enough to make a cop crazy.

Keely Montgomery doesn’t spend much time thinking about death. She’s too busy working toward a Ph.D. in social work—her ticket out of a low-rent apartment in a New Jersey urban center. Until an angelic courier delivers a scroll from the Office of Death and Dismemberment that could take her career down a new path—as one of Heaven’s Holy Assassins.

Her? Become a Scythe? No thanks, not interested. But she underestimates how persistent Heaven can be.

Detective Josiah Adler has seen a lot of weird things during his time on the force. A hot blonde wielding a golden blade, standing over a string of dead bodies? That’s a new one. So is the fact that her grisly deeds leave no blood or marks on the bodies.

The woman’s effect on his libido is another new development. One that leaves him no choice but to nail her before she kills again. And before his heart no longer stands a chance…

So, do you embrace or avoid perceptions in your work? Do you cringe when you see them in books by your favorite authors? Tell me, I'm interested to know.



Sierra Wolfe said...

Great post today, Kat! I totally agree with you. Just because you can solve a problem with a conversation, doesn't mean that would occur. I know people who haven't spoken to each other for 20 years because of a misunderstanding. Yes, they could have solved it by sitting down to really talk, but once hard feelings are involved, it's not always possible to solve it that way. Because they won't believe it anyway. It would take an open-minded conversation. Conversation alone isn't always enough.

Anonymous said...

I'm going through the same thing in real life, and I tell you a simple conversation isn't going to fix what's wrong in the office.

How am I going to handle it? Part of me wants to say "I'm sorry" even though I'm right, and then there's the part of me that thrives on conflict and wants to stir the pot a little.

I like that second option in my situation. :)

Sierra Wolfe said...

LOL, RJ. Stirring the pot sometimes makes you feel better.

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