Saturday, April 3, 2010

Reacting Without Thinking

Do you think before you act or do you just react without thinking?

Many things in our lives we do on a regular bases to the point our actions are automatic. These things are part of our routine and to a degree who we are.

Routines are a good thing, right? Overall, yes they are. Routines help keep us on schedule and help to organize our lives.

But what happens to that routine, that automatic response, if someone unknown to us has touched our lives? Sound crazy? Let me give you an example.

I always put sugar in my cup before I pour my coffee. This action causes the sugar to dissolve without me having to stir it and I can better judge how much sugar I’m putting in the cup without a spoon. Simple process, regular routine done without even thinking about what I’m doing.

This works great until … until someone gets the last of the coffee leaving only enough for one swallow maybe. They do this without me knowing.

Following my usual routine, not thinking, not looking, just reacting. I go through the steps, lift the pot to pour and only a few drops fall out. There I stand coffee cup in hand with my one swallow of coffee that contains enough sugar for a full cup.

I have wasted sugar, as well as the last drink of coffee all because of automatic responses.

I’m trying not to have automatic responses when it comes to my reading. I’m trying to learn more about the author and the book before I automatically reject it.

Book covers draw me to books like bees to honey. It’s an automatic response that works well. But, what about all the great books that the covers aren’t quite so catchy. I’ve rejected them based on something that has nothing to do with the story. In most cases, authors have little input into their book covers. And even then those who do sometimes still have only a minor influence.

It should be based on the author’s writing that I select a book, not the cover. The plot and the characters should draw me in, hold me captive and only release me once the last line is read.

When writing do you have your characters responding automatically to a situation or another character? Do readers already know what’s going to happen to your protagonist by the end of the book?

One other note I wanted to touch on. This past week Thoughts in Progress went over 100 followers. I am amazed and speechless. When I began this blog on Halloween 2009, I never imaged reaching 100 followers. I am completely honored and humbled by those who have selected to be a follower. I appreciate it very much and it means more than I can say. In fact saying thank you doesn’t seem to be enough, but I do THANK YOU each and everyone for stopping by and commenting. I hope I can continue to host authors and giveaways that you enjoy and I’m always open for suggestions for anything you might think will improve the blog. Again thanks!!


  1. Mason - I am very happy for you that you've hit 100 followers; I'm proud to be one of them : ). You ask a really interesting question about reacting without thinking. We all do that to some extent, so yes, my characters do, too. In fact, that can drive the plot along. For instance, if a character gets a 'phone call and reacts in an automatic way because of the caller, readers can get a clue (or a "red herring" ; ) ).

  2. Congratulations. I enjoy your blog and YOU.

    I don't think routine is good for the brain. I think it makes our brains lazy and eventually less active.

  3. Congrats to gaining over 100 followers. I enjoy your blog and have discovered several new-to-me authors.

    I'm one of those who is drawn to book covers and have bypassed books with unappealing covers. However, if I hear a lot of good things about a book and I don't like the cover, I will pick it up because of word of mouth.

    Have a good weekend.

  4. Some new writers I edit do automatic responses. "Good morning. Good morning. Lovely day, isn't it? Yes, it is a lovely day today." That tells us nothing. Cut the mundane. Make the words count. Your characters only have 70 or 80 thousand words to tell the reader their fascinating, heart-stopping, funny, gut wrenching stories.

    Congrats on the 100 (as I type, 104) followers!

    Straight From Hel

  5. Congratulations. That's pretty darn amazing in such a relatively short time. You're doing a great job here.

  6. In certain situations, yes my characters react automatically. It's usually a reaction motivated by concern, or love, or emotion in some way.

    Congrats on topping 100 Followers, a coffee cheers to you!

  7. 100 followers! I wish you many more! As an author, I've had a few covers that weren't that great and my publisher didn't really care what I thought. So I try not to judge a book by its cover. And, Mason, I do that exact same thing with cream.

  8. I usually know what's going to happen but sometimes my character surprises me. Congrats on the followers.


  9. Congrats on your many followers and the many more to come! I sometimes struggle with too little routine -- it's a funny balance, working at home (but, like Deb, I always put the cream in my cup first ; - >). And covers can draw me in, but recommendations are more likely to affect whether a particular book hits my TBR pile.

  10. Yes, I'm one of those who judges by the cover...

    Many of my characters have patterns, but I throw enough at them that the end isn't totally predicatable.

    I put sugar and creamer in first before adding coffee, too. I'm the only one who drinks it, so if there's none left, it's my own fault!

  11. I'm too impulsive, especially when speaking. I need to learn to have more patience and keep my mouth shut.

    And congrats on the follower milestone.

  12. Congratulations!

    I think the worst thing is when I find a cover that I'm drawn to and the book just doesn't measure up to what I expected.

    As far as routines go, I lived by them when my kids were little. Everybody was "off" if the routine got disturbed!

  13. Margot, you're so right about the red herring being thrown in because the character reacts automatically. I hadn't thought of that, but it does make for an interesting twist to a plot.

    Teresa, thanks for the kind words. We do need to keep our mind active or it will get lazy.

    Dru, we can't help but be drawn to a book covers can we? It does help to know what others are saying about a book. A friend's suggestion will go a long way with me.

    Helen, I have read some of those stories where the writer seems to get bogged down with the mundane. They definitely could have used you for an editor.

    Karen, thanks for the kind words and support.

    Joanne, I can see where are some situations that an automatic response is necessary. Appreciate the coffee cheer.

    Deb, I'm learning that a cover isn't always the best way to judge a book. As for the cream, adding it first does help dissolve it better.

    Ann, the characters that surprise even the author are the best kind. Thanks.

    Cricket, recommendations for a book always win me over. If someone has read the book and likes it, that says it all.

    Diane, I had to laugh at your comment. I'm not the only one in the family that drinks coffee, but I drink more and during the day. The reason I laughed, I have been the one to empty the pot and forget but remember as I start to pour and there's very little there.

    Terry, if you learn patience please oh please share with me how to do it. And, if it helps me keep my mouth shut more my DH would love you for it.

    Janel, I have found a few of those books myself. The cover looks like the book would be a fun read and come to find out, it has nothing to do with what's on the cover. Routines are handy for keeping up with everyone and getting everything done that needs to be.

  14. Automatic responses are fun to write about. I've tripped up a couple of my characters based on their reactions - it's fun :)

    Congrats on the followers. No surprise - you have such a fabulous blog!!

  15. It is a testament to you, Mason, that you have over 100 followers.

    Frankly, I think you deserved a truckload more, but hey, but they will come :)

    As far as book covers go, I used to be like a moth to a flame. Now, I couldn't really care less as long as the blurb on the back interests me. After all, it has been said - don't judge a book by its cover :)


  16. Congrats on all the followers! It's all because you and your blog are so great : )

    As for book covers--it's wrong to judge that way, just as we judge potential mates by their looks at first, but we do it anyway. It often takes something extraordinary (a chance encounter, a good review--talking about books not guys here) to make us look deeper.

  17. Congratulations on a 100 followers. But you deserve many many more than just a hundred.

    I do exactly the same thing with my sugar - put it in the mug first, and pour the tea in later, so I don't have to stir. Luckily, I have never run out of tea yet.

    And yes, book covers draw me in too. Though I try not to be as automatic in my reading as I am with other things in my life.

  18. in India, they call automatic responses "Vishanas" or habit energies, and much of our lives are shaped by these (and, according to some beliefs, our fates when reincarnated). Becoming enlightened is the journey toward understanding and being aware of our Vishanas--you probably know all this already, I'm just agreeing with you. It is the things we do automatically that endanger our understanding at many levels, large and small.

  19. Great post! Very interesting! Ironically, I was searching for Vishanas and habit energies and it brought me here.


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