A Portrait of a Deranged Writer

January 18, 2011 § 10 Comments

There are certain stereotypes floating around about writers. A crowd of eccentrics, that’s what we are. Loners. Mad beasts closeted all day and all night with our pens and our paper (or more likely our laptops), haggard from lack of sleep, feverishly forcing word after tortured word onto the page. Eyes alight with the maniacal obsession that drives us.

True or not? ย There’s some truth in there, probably, though in all likelihood most of us aren’t so… unhinged. The above portrait of a writer is hugely exaggerated, right?

That’s almost a shame, however, because by far my favourite portrait of a writer in film or fiction is Emma Thompson’s character Karen Eiffel in ‘Stranger than Fiction.’ Completely tortured, eccentric to the point of outright derangement, and wittily acerbic. Her idea of researching a novel is sitting by the motorway in the pouring rain, imagining car crashes.

Penny the publisher’s assistant: Sitting in the rain won’t write books.

Karen Eiffel: Well that illustrates exactly how much you know about writing books.

When I grow up, I want to be her.

Everyone thinks about jumping off a building.

(The film script can be found here).

Does any of this sound familiar?


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§ 10 Responses to A Portrait of a Deranged Writer

  • Actually your portrait fits me like a glove… NOT ๐Ÿ˜€
    Though at times I might look haggard from lack of sleep, with slightly wild eyes when interrupted…
    Lovely post!

  • Some of us writers keep mad beasts in the closet, just to keep the bill collectors at bay.

    Mad beasts eat a lot though. I’m not sure it makes fiscal sense.

    Enjoyed your musing,

  • The problem with being a tormented writer, though, is how much time you spend actually being tormented. Not nearly as much fun as being the acerbic, sardonic eccentric.

    • Charlotte says:

      It’s rather a shame that being tormented requires so much effort, energy and concentration. If one could only handle the being tormented with ease and grace, one could satisfy this requirement with little disruption to the acerbic, sardonic eccentricity. It is a disobliging characteristic of torment that it tends to monopolise.

  • It fits me and I’m including the imagining car crashes bit, though it tends to be more that I spend time at work considering different poisons and the different plains of reality. Stranger Than Fiction is brilliant as is Karen Eiffel.

    I just hope none of my characters are real considering the torture I’ve put them through.

    • Charlotte says:

      It’s a hideous idea, isn’t it, when you’ve been cheerfully putting your characters through the proverbial wringer? What if that’s real pain you’re inflicting? It’s interesting to think of it that way, though, to appreciate more that what you’re writing is not just fiction but an echo of reality.

      Now, I understand entirely why you might spend time at work considering different types of poisons, but I’m always amused at how bizarre behaviour like that would appear to someone who doesn’t write. It’s partly why I like the character of Karen Eiffel so much – it’s a great portrait of how a really dedicated – even obsessive – writer would appear to someone who isn’t also a writer!

  • Marloe says:

    Such a <3ly post!

    It's my favourite movie, and I love it even more after reading this post.
    Inspiring, that's what it is.


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