All Roads Lead to . . .

crossroadI worked with a guy who should have had his own version of Six Degrees of Separation. Every time I’d mention someone, he either knew that person or knew someone connected to that person. So, if I ever grew angry with my co-worker and wanted to vent, I had no one to talk to about him, because he’d eventually hear about it. I don’t dare mention his name, because you might know him.

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A six-degrees of separation flowchart

Know someone like that? If you read Malcolm Gladwell’s nonfiction book, The Tipping Point, you know about connectors—people who have an innate ability to connect people to other people. (Read this if you want to know more about connectors.)

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I am probably the only connection-impaired person in a family of connectors. I’m usually the person who goes, “I saw What’s-his-name the other day. You know. He’s married to What’s-her-face.”

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This is me, sort of. Actually, it’s Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice (2005). But I relate to the posture of standing alone, or at least standing in the wind trying to recall someone’s name.

Connectors know lots of people. My older brother was one of the most popular people at our high school. He’s always naming people he heard from recently. (To which I usually reply, “Oh yeah. I sorta remember him,” knowing that I’m drawing a blank.) My younger brother was popular at his university. Do you know how difficult it is to be popular at a university which boasts tens of thousands of people? His birthday parties are usually populated by at least 40 of his closest friends. Now, I’ve known my younger brother all of his life, but at a recent party he threw, there were people who came that I did not know.

My dad knows tons of people. My mom always manages to connect to people who know everyone. My parents are used to the connecting way of life, because they’re from large families with a combined total of over twenty siblings (though, sadly, several are dead now). My in-laws also know everyone. I remember being in a mall in Houston with my sister-in-law, only to have her run into someone she knew. (We don’t live in Texas by the way. You know you’re a connector when you bump into people you know while traveling.)

Many bloggers are connectors: Andra Watkins; Jill Weatherholt; K. L. Schwengel; Charles Yallowitz; Marylin Warner; Laura Sibson; Sharon Van Zandt; Lyn Miller-Lachmann; the Brickhousechick; T. K. MorinCeline Jeanjean; Mishka Jenkins; Sandra Nickel—just to name a few. And I have several classmates (besides Laura, Lyn, and Sandra, and Sharon) who are born connectors. Whenever I want to inquire about agents, publishers, marketing, or anything else, I head straight to them for advice.

We look to the connectors in our lives, especially when we need to network, don’t we? It’s nice to know someone who knows someone else trustworthy. Connectors seem to love to match you with people they know. Need your car fixed? They know the perfect place to take your little Yugo. (Remember those?) Need your roof fixed? They know the people you should avoid calling. The only awkward thing about some connectors is that they think they know your taste when sometimes they don’t. Like when I was blindsided at a dinner by a well-meaning connector who tried to match me up with someone who also did not understand that this was a matchmaking meal. Talk about awkward, especially since we had no interest in each other.

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A Yugo

Authors are the ultimate connectors in a way. If you’re a fan of Charles Dickens, you know that in many of his books, he often reveals hidden connections between his characters. Then he adds a connector to connect the dots. Don’t believe me? Read Bleak House or see BBC’s adaptation of it. I won’t spoil the mystery for you.

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The challenge for an author comes with connecting characters in a noncontrived way—and by that I mean beyond shock value. Oh, I know. There’s something fun about the “Luke, I am your father” announcements. Have you explored the connections between your characters in ways that might surprise or delight a reader (or a viewer)? I’m reminded of a movie, Whisper of the Heart, written by Hayao Miyazaki, in which the main character, Shizuku, checks out library books and constantly finds the name of another character on the checkout cards. (This movie was made in the 90s, so checkout cards were used then.) He becomes an important connector for her. Knowing your characters’ back stories really helps. I’ve been a bit lazy in regard to back story with some of my characters. Some seem too isolated ala the Lizzie Bennet photo above. I’m trying to rectify that by providing more connecting points (i.e., interactions with friends, family, acquaintances, and enemies).

Connectors are a reminder of the richness of being in a community. I’m grateful for the threads like connectors that link us together.

Who are the connectors in your life?

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Gratuitous chicken photo

Crossroads photo from amersrour.blog.com. Six degrees diagram from commons.wikimedia.org. Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet image from pinterest.com. Yugo and chicken photos from Wikipedia. Book cover from Goodreads.

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38 thoughts on “All Roads Lead to . . .

  1. Haha I’m totally also connection-impaired. I’m always envious of people to which that skill comes so naturally, not in a fake networky, getting something from someone kind of way, but a genuine, warmhearted manner.

    • I know what you mean, Isaac. No one likes to be used. And that “fake networky” aspect is like being used. So, yes, I appreciate a genuine attempt by someone to connect.

      • I so love that movie. I usually recommend it to people who want to write for young teens. I thought it was spot on. That’s the age I taught while I was in China. Such an age for change. Everything’s so delightfully messy. 😀

  2. My wife always resisted the Star Wars hype growing up. Sci-fi wasn’t her thing. When we got together I got her to watch them with me. You know what? She loved them. The “Luke, I’m your father” part particularly excited her. “Oh my God! He is, isn’t he?!! He’s Luke’s father!!! ” I said “Calm down Jen, I found out thirty years ago!”

  3. I have an uncle who is amazing at connecting to people. My best friend from 1st grade is similar and always has a large gathering of people for events. I’m rather stay-at-home and keep to myself. So it’s weird to be on that list. 🙂 Maybe authors are great at connecting with people through stories and social media, but I know many who fail at the physical world interactions. Myself included.

    • Some people have that ability, don’t they? We can connect in other ways–as you said, through stories. Sometimes those connections are more long lasting anyway. I’ve never met most of my favorite authors. But I feel connected to them all the same. 🙂

  4. The first person who posted said: they’re always extraordinary people, aren’t they? And that’s how I see you, Linda. You are one of the most natural connectors that I know. This blog is a testament to that fact. Just like the countless emails you respond to and the way that you are present in the lives of the people around you. Thank you for being a brilliant connector.

    • Aww. Thank you. I never really thought of myself as a connector, though I could wish I were better at it. It’s nice to be able to point people in good directions, as others have done for me (like you).:-D

  5. Hi L.Marie. I just met you on Jill’s blog. Like you, I’m not a connecter. As a writer, I wish I had more connections. I’m going to my first writer’s conference in October, and hopefully, I’ll make some connections there. Nice to meet you.

  6. I’m flattered that you think I’m a connector, Linda. You are one of the biggest connectors I’ve met online. I wish I knew a few more connectors and a few of those mavens. Mavens would really convince people to read a book. It’s so funny that I read The Tipping Point a couple of weeks ago to help me craft a better marketing plan for my coming memoir.

    • Me? I’m nothing compared to you! I’m just so in awe of how you stay connected to so many people, Andra!
      It is nice to have some Mavens and Connectors in one’s arsenal. I know several Mavens, then.
      Did you read Outliers????? I really loved that one!

  7. It’s interesting, you don’t think of yourself as a connector and I don’t think of myself as one, but in reality, perhaps we both are. All I know is I’m happy I connected with you and many of your followers, L. I enjoy reading the wide variety of comments.
    I work with a police officer who is a MAJOR connector. She’s know everyone in Charlotte…at least it seems like she does. 🙂
    Thanks again for your wonderful spotlight post. xo

    • I know so many people like that, Jill. They’re constantly on the phone. Half the time, I can’t even find my cell phone! Like now. I hope it’s in my purse!

  8. I’m not good at the whole connector thing either–and oddly I find it almost more difficult online than in person. I’m not really sure why that is. Sometimes I can reach out and make those connections, but other times I’m far too isolated and independent. And yet connections are fun and helpful and life-giving. I have a friend who really specializes in connecting people–and even describes herself like that.

    • There are always challenges to connecting, even online. I wish I liked social media more. I tend to leap on Facebook only if I have to. But many other people are on it often.

  9. “I don’t dare mention his name because you might know him”, ha,ha,ha! So funny, Linda. Although I do consider myself somewhat of a connector, I never get the names right. I just say, yea I know that person or i recognize that person but have no idea what their name is. It is kinda fun to make the connections and help other people out.

    I can see what a challenge it would be to try to make these connections with characters of a book. A lot of remembering needs to happen. Yikes! 🙂

  10. I love connectors. They’re the ones I go to whenever I need someone to do something for me. I know they’ll know a name or several. 😀 I like helping people that way myself, but I don’t consider myself a connector. Glad I came by to check out your blog, L Marie. Enjoyed my visit.

  11. Thank you for the shout-out! And I’m sorry I’m late commenting–I was in a minor accident on Saturday and laid up for a couple of days. My son is the ultimate connector–he puts me to shame for sure. I remember looking at colleges with him and trying to get him to consider Macalester and Carleton because he wanted to see a different part of the country. He said, “I’m going to know everyone there by the end of freshman year, and then what?”

  12. A great post. I really enjoyed it.

    Unlike your parents, mine were not great connectors. My mom wanted to be, but she was shy. And my dad loved to work more than anything. I’m not a good connector either. I do have a long Christmas card list, but that’s because I’ve moved a few times from country to country. My late husband was an excellent connector. He invited friends from all over the world over for dinner and organized trips to the beach with groups of friends. All I had to do was plan the food, enjoy myself, and try to remember everyone’s name.

    • I think a long Christmas card list makes you a connector. I used to have a long list back in the days when I sent cards. But I confess I got out of the habit when the postage kept increasing.

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