I confess: I have a long way to go before I can consider myself a leximancer. Here’s one of the steps I took towards that goal.
But What is Leximancy?
It’s the near magical ability to capture the hearts and minds of others using only the power of words. Oh, I don’t mean it the way it was used in Lexicon by Max Barry, but close.
The truth is, anyone who wants to be a writer has to invest time in learning the craft. It’s that simple. Sure, some folks can walk out onto the the green, never having held a driver before, and whack a golf ball hard, true and straight and sink into the hole in one shot. That probably happens, but it’s pretty rare. It didn’t happen that way for me, certainly.
When I started writing, I was what folks call a “pantser”, and I didn’t even know what that meant. It’s a NaNoWriMo term meaning “fly by the seat of your pants”. I only had a 50,000 foot outline in my head, and everything below that level, literally thousands of words, I shot from the hip.
I asked an old (and wiser) friend of mine John to edit the first few chapters, and holy smokes… John was immensely helpful to my process. Most of that content radically changed as a result, but more importantly I learned a lot. One of the high level things John challenged me on was to identify, rather than pants, the psychological disorder of one of my main characters. It simply wasn’t good enough, so he explained, to simply choose symptoms, put them in a blender, and hope that the results were credible once I’d poured them all over the page. Again, you might get lucky, but I didn’t.
But I learned. I wanted to be a leximancer.
So, I picked up a book, a great book, even: The Writer’s Guide to Psychology, by Carolyn Kaufman.
What can I say about it? Well, it was clear, laid out in an easy to follow manner, and it was clearly written for authors by a person who had written. It talked about behaviors, proclivities, symptomology, medications, which diagnoses work together or against each other, and appropriate treatments.
If that was all that was in the book, it would be a great resource as is. It went beyond that though – it also pointed out many of the common misconceptions about the various disorders, it spoke of motivations and gave an overview of what it takes to become a therapist.
To wrap up, this book didn’t make a psychologist out of me, but it did go a long way to helping me become a credible writer – a leximancer.
Sad to say, Dr. Kaufman passed away suddenly, but she left behind something for which this writer, and probably many others, will always be grateful.
Was there one book that made a big difference in how you approached writing? Please tell us in the comments!