Some conversations seem to consist almost entirely of quotes from movies, tv, and other media - the fourth person. John didn't make any disparaging remarks about this practice (he was talking to college students after all), but I have often recalled it when I've been trapped in a conversation that is almost devoid of wit and originality. Other people seem to be totally engaged as all the pop culture buttons are pushed - but why?
I am an advocate of getting words on paper quickly, of not worrying about getting every fact right, about filling out all the descriptions, or about writing scenes destined to be cut. Creator first, editor second. But with this license comes responsibility. When you get words flowing, it is easy to begin spouting shopworn, secondhand material. A little of this isn't fatal. Too much is, at best, a waste of time. At worst, it can feel close enough to right to lead to self delusion.
I have written whole chapters and complete short stories in the fourth person. Luckily, I was called on it, and I had the sense to admit my mistakes. I have a sixth sense for the "this is really easy" feeling now. So good friends can help you. (Note, the kind of plot borrowing that writers do all the time is not the issue here.)
How do you avoid this?
- Prepare properly by reaching for emotions before you begin to write. Acting techniques help.
- Make it a habit to take risks with your writing.
- Journal your own experiences and do primary research, so you have authentic material to draw from.
- After you finish an especially easy and painless session, make a note. Then look the next day to see if the work is shallow and lacks honesty.
- Imagine reading the writing ten years into the future, and see if anything is too much of the current era.