Crime of passion

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Paula’s Post #57  Happy 5writers New Year’s Eve!

In yesterday’s post, The Top 10 Most Overlooked Emotions, my 5writer colleague Silk closed out the year with a thought-provoking commentary enumerating ten under utilized emotions writers may wish to consider when seeking motivation for their fictional characters.

I’m sure Silk’s outstanding post caused many of you, like me, to pause and reflect on your current work in progress. Did you find yourself examining your literary characters’ motivations and how these motivations relate to your plot and character development?

What’s the verdict?

In retrospect, did your protagonist’s emotions seem real and genuine? Believable? Likely to enthrall your readers and keep them flipping the pages into the wee hours of the night?

I hope so.

But what about your antagonist?

I think we can all agree that here is where the real fun starts. If we 5writers learned anything this past year or so it is that we had a whole lot more fun with our antagonists than with our protagonists.

Many of you have been fortunate enough to attend a seminar, workshop or lecture given by literary agent and writing guru Donald Maass, the author of several bestselling books on the craft of writing including Writing the Breakout Novel, Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook and The Fire in Fiction, all available from Amazon.

If you’ve ever attended one of Mr. Maass’ workshops, you’re familiar with his oft asked question:

What could cause your villain to care deeply enough to… ________”

Go ahead. You fill in the blank.

Right about now, I can see you thinking about your carefully constructed character sketches… your convoluted plot… wondering if you’ve imbued your protagonist and/or antagonist with sufficient emotional triggers to carry your story.

If you’re writing a murder mystery, or even a thriller, your plot may revolve around a: ‘crime of passion’: the name given to any crime committed under circumstances that involve the compelling emotion of the perpetrator.

One usually thinks of murder or at least assault causing grievous bodily harm.  The ‘Love Kills’ garden variety type of crime where a jealous cuckolded husband takes revenge on the adulterous couple.

But even here, isn’t the writers’ magnifying lens required to determine the actual emotion at play? Did jealously provoke the act? Humiliation? Rage? Overwhelming feelings of inadequacy? What is the triggering emotion that caused such a loss of control? Some component of anger for sure, but here, the subtle differences are the writers’ paintbrush.

Take a closer look at the definition: ‘the compelling emotion of the perpetrator”.

No where is the word jealousy used. You, the author, have free rein here. Your imagination and the endless reach of the internet your very best friends. Check it out yourself by googling “crimes of passion” or better yet “odd crimes of passion” or even “bizarre crimes of passion”.

Having fun yet?

Getting some good ideas?

I mean come on! Who can forget the headline grabbing accounts of Lorena Bobbitt’s bizarre attack on her husband, John Wayne Bobbitt in 1993?

If you clicked on the “bizarre attack” above, you’ll notice that I’ve linked back to the Wikipedia account of the crime. I can already see some of you frowning. She does her research on Wikipedia? Seriously? ‘Lightweight’ you mutter under your breath.

But stop and think about it for a moment – if you’re seeking inspiration, if you’re writing fiction, does your source research need to be completely accurate? Isn’t it more important that it just be believable, or better yet entertaining? Your not writing a scholarly treatise here, you’re looking for inspiration.

In the Bobbitt case, I have no idea whether the contributors to the above wiki are correct or not when they report:

“After the incident, John Wayne Bobbitt attempted to generate money from his notoriety in a number of ways. He formed a band, The Severed Parts, to pay his mounting medical and legal bills, though the band was unsuccessful and failed to generate enough money.[12] In 1994, John appeared in the  John Wayne Bobbitt: Uncut, in another attempt to make money. In 1996, he appeared in another adult film, Frankenpenis (also known as John Wayne Bobbitt’s Frankenpenis).”

Frankenpenis?

Seriously? Is that true? The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) says it is, but who cares?

Yes, who cares!

I could go on forever with examples mined from the internet, but the point I’m trying to make is that perhaps for many of us, our background and training has fettered the way in which we approach our fiction. Are we too logical? Too dispassionate in our research?

Have you fallen into this trap?

If we writers spend too much time researching dates and places and facts and figures, if we get bogged down in a futile attempt to probe too deeply into the soundness of scientific theory, are we not perhaps missing out on the opportunity to entertain our readers?

If you’re a fan of Tom Clancy’s techno-thrillers, I can already hear you grumbling. But just for fun, give it a try for yourself.

My challenge, for this last post of 2013 is to ask each of you to do a little internet surfing of your own. Research the phrase ‘Crime of Passion’ or some variant thereof. Mine one or two little gems from the internet and concoct your own ‘pitch’ for a story.

A one line story idea that sparks your imagination. I cannot tell a lie, I got the ‘one sentence’ idea from onesentence.org a fabulous site inspired by the concept of brevity. The idea that most of the best stories that we tell from our lives have one really, really good part that make the rest of the boring story worth it.

So, have some fun. Think up a crazy crime of passion. Tell us the story in just one sentence. Maybe you’ll find your inspiration on the internet, maybe in one of Silk’s 10 most overlooked emotions.  Don’t be shy. Post it below! A real writer could never resist this challenge.

Happy 5writers New Year!

The top 10 most overlooked emotions

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Silk’s Post #66 — It’s New Year’s week, and as everyone who’s ever read a newspaper or magazine, watched a TV talk show, or surfed the web knows … that means it’s the season for holiday-weary writers everywhere to fulfill their obligations to readers and viewers by coming up with “Top 10” lists.

Okay, it’s a bit of a cheat, a cheap filler. Top 10 sports bloopers; Top 10 political gaffes; Top 10 heartwarming stories; Top 10 weather events; Top 10 celebrity break-ups. It’s not really writing, it’s packaging. But let’s face it: people eat it up. The urge to add one’s own picks is practically irresistible.

So I’m giving in to the Top 10 urge. If it’s enough fun, I may even devote all my January posts to Top 10’s for Writers. This week’s Top 10 is a reminder of some perfectly good emotions that I think writers neglect too often when animating their main characters.

EMOTION, to quote the Oxford Dictionary, is “a strong mental or instinctive feeling such as love or fear; a passion, sentiment, sensation.” Wikipedia calls it “a subjective, conscious experience” that is associated with “mood, temperament, personality, disposition and motivation.” 

In the service of the writer’s twin holy grails – TENSION and CONFLICT – we cram in the obvious basic feelings like LOVE, HATE, FEAR, HOPE, ANGER, HAPPINESS, IMPATIENCE, RESENTMENT, DOUBT, and EXCITEMENT. 

But it’s the subtler shades of emotion that help elevate characters from bland and predictable to spicy and complex. Without these grace notes, emotions can come across as cartoon-like as emoticons. Here are some to consider …

1. SCHADENFREUDE – You have to love German literature, so full of capital letters and long, jaw-cracking words for complex states of mind. Schadenfreude is a combination of the words for harm and joy. It describes the “pleasure derived from the misfortune of others,” even those one ostensibly cares about. Everyone feels it sometimes, but nobody admits it. Nice people immediately feel guilty afterwards. Why is this rich source of conflict so underused in commercial fiction? If you’re looking for a character flaw for your overly-saintly protagonist, maybe you should forget those irritating faux flaws like eating crackers in bed and give him a dose of Schadenfreude.

2. EMBARRASSMENT – This is an underrated emotion. It sounds almost frivolous, but is a powerful de-motivator on the fear spectrum. Apparently, fear of speaking in public (stage fright) comes up near the top of many people’s lists of experiences they most wish to avoid. Even seasoned performers have been known to puke before going onstage. In everyday life, it’s amazing what lengths people will go to to avoid embarrassment. Why are we so afraid of ridicule and rejection? Perhaps because it’s a kind of shunning, thrusting us outside the safety of the tribal circle. I’m just guessing here, having absolutely no training in psychology, but I know it’s common, it’s strong, and it creates inner conflict. What more could you ask for as a writer?

3. GENEROSITY and its companions FORGIVENESS and COMPASSION – Generosity makes any character bigger. Sometimes we torture our protagonists so thoroughly that they seem too besieged to feel much generosity, but if you want a relatable character you have to give him a heart. You don’t have to create a do-gooder caricature. Generosity can be demonstrated in the briefest of flashes. When I was a little girl, I remember my Aunt Raggy taking me on a big adventure to New York City to see the natural history museum. We were riding through the Bowery – a terribly down-at-the-heels neighbourhood in those days, populated by what we then called ‘bums’ and now call ‘the homeless’. When we stopped at a light, a ruined looking old man in rags with few teeth and red-rimmed eyes banged on our window. I was scared and repulsed. My Aunt looked at him with sympathy and a smile. “The poor soul,” she murmured to me. In that one moment I learned everything I’ve ever needed to know about generosity of spirit.

4. LONGING – We’re always told our characters, especially our protagonist, have to have a ‘want’ that drives them forward towards a goal. It’s critical to make that ‘want’ explicit and front-of-mind. But if you want to create more depth, add some longing as a deeper, back-of-mind ‘want’ that persists. The presence of a yearning desire, a longing that may be unfulfillable in the literal sense, adds a kind of haunting texture and makes characters more memorable.

5. STUBBORNNESS – There’s a whole cluster of head-in-the-sand emotions that relate to stubbornness: skepticism, reluctance, pride, fear of change, unwillingness to admit that something previously believed is wrong. Doesn’t everyone have a little bit of this in them? Well, so can a protagonist. A character’s stubbornness can be a very handy obstruction to add complication and conflict to a plot, or a relationship. It doesn’t have to be reserved for hopeless mules. It can be used as a hurdle to be overcome in a positive character arc.

6. ADVENTUROUSNESS – Perhaps the opposite of #5, this doesn’t necessarily mean taking up mountain climbing and bungee jumping. There’s a kind of adventurous open-mindedness that prompts people to try new foods, seek new kinds of friends, explore new knowledge, and maybe once in a while do something a little wild and crazy. However, it’s as easy to turn the adventurous character into a cartoon as it is to turn the stubborn character into one. If you’re writing an epic, this is fine – otherwise it may be unhelpful. However, adding an adventurous streak is one way to help a character find a bit of trouble, which is always a good thing. Because then they have to get out of it.

7. JOY – This is a word that seems to have been somewhat captured by religion (wasn’t “Joy to the World” the first thing that popped into your mind?), and that’s kind of a shame. For me, joy is deeper, more exuberant and less passive than happiness, and it does have a spiritual tinge to it. For my money, a character’s emotional range is incomplete if they can’t manage to demonstrate some joy and some sorrow – or at least I want to know a protagonist is capable of feeling them, even if they stay in the background of the story. These are grown-up emotions, yin and yang, a natural part of life’s experience.

8. INTUITION – This emotion is a writer’s playground. It should probably be used thoughtfully unless you’re writing in a genre like paranormal, but I think a whiff of the ‘sixth sense’ – animal instinct – brings a whole intriguing dimension to both plot and character. While it’s a writing sin to use an unexplained ‘hunch’ to get out of a plot jam, there are lots of tasty treats in the intuition basket that can add flavour to a story, be it visceral or ethereal.

9. DISDAIN – Another word that’s somewhat fallen out of favour, but the meaning: “to regard or treat with haughty contempt; despise” still paints a rich picture of a character. This is a complex emotion that combines a sense of superiority, entitlement, judgement, fear of the ‘other’, and a lack of empathy. Hmm, makes you wonder why we aren’t citing it more often, given today’s ever-widening gap between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.

10. WONDER – This is the return-to-childhood emotion. What we feel when we stop pretending that we know it all, and give in to our sense of awe at something inexplicably impressive. It’s what makes us say “wow!” For me, it goes hand-in-hand with adventurousness and joy. I love the idea of using this emotion to humanize a hard-boiled character in an unexpected plot turn. When a character who’s slightly cynical or world-weary experiences wonder, it really amplifies the point that something special has happened.

Given that emotions are the fuel that gives light and heat to conflict and tension, every story depends on them at a deep level.

What emotions would you put on this list? Which ones have you used? Is your palette of emotions wide enough for your story? Complex and subtle enough?

And, yes, I’ve completely skipped the really hard challenge regarding characters and emotions here: how to convey their feelings through actions, rather than spending endless, brutally boring, pages inside their heads. Maybe that’ll be my next list?

Joyful New Year to you!

Love and Squalor

Helga’s Post # 64:

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It’s the day after Boxing Day. Presents  are opened, turkey, sprouts and pie digested, and the mess cleaned up, more or less. Life is returning to normal, albeit slowly. I delight in knowing that I’ve pulled off another reasonably successful Christmas celebration, circumnavigating the potential disasters that loom this time of year – family gatherings that occasionally trigger emotions, tears, and hurt feelings. That too is Christmas after all.

But, as I said, none of that happened. Teenage girls do eventually outgrow their evil personalities after a certain age, and by extension their parents and grandparents don’t get riled. Or it could be the advancing age of parents and their diminished energy and gusto for taking up fights that blunt said disasters. No matter. Peace prevailed, if not yet on earth, at least in our living room.

My reward for survival of the season is to sit back, no slump, in a cozy stuffed chair, books in easy reach. Not just one book. I first pick up one that was under the tree. Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food II, Recipes, Flavor, and Inspiration from the New Kitchen Garden. Before you stop reading, let me tell you that this is not a cookbook in the traditional sense. It’s so much more, as you can tell from the link. I can’t wait until planting season arrives in a few months. Because Alice grows her own veggies and berries, and she demonstrates how everyone can do it, no matter how small a place you have. She is the owner of Chez Panisse, a Berkeley, California restaurant famous for its organic, locally-grown ingredients and for pioneering California cuisine (one of my favorite restaurants in the world). Whether you reduce your lawn area, or plant in containers, or run a trellis for tomatoes up a sunny wall, you can have salad greens and produce all season. If you don’t have a space of your own, use a schoolyard. Or a neighbour’s. If you have a flower garden, plant veggies and herbs in between your roses. You get the drift. My challenge will be to steal enough time away from my writing. But I’ll cross that bridge later.

The next book on my pile is a biography. I wonder if you can guess whose. Some hints, from a book review:

Growing up on Park Avenue in Manhattan, he was 15 when he first longed to be published in the New Yorker. Over beers in his 20s, when he was churning out little yarns for middlebrow “slicks” such as the Saturday Evening Post, he would brag that he was better than all the greats, from Dreiser to Hemingway (though he allowed that Melville was pretty good). Tall, suave and handsome—“like a candlestick, a Giacometti statue,” recalled one admirer—he swanned about, declaring that he would one day write the great American novel. The problem was what happened when he did.

Love and Squalor

Love and Squalor

He spent ten years writing “__________” and “the rest of his life regretting it,” observe David Shields and Shane Salerno in a new biography and related documentary. Since it was first published in 1951, the book has sold more than 65m copies. With its vulnerable, jaded, teenage anti-hero, he touched countless readers who were startled to discover an author who knew just how they felt. Like pilgrims, many sought him out, craving time, answers, friendship and approval. They stalked his remote cabin in Cornish, New Hampshire, where he struggled to lead a private life until he died in 2010, aged 91. “I’m a fiction writer!” he once complained to a needy fan. “If I’d have known this was going to happen, I don’t think I would have started writing.”

But he loved to write. As a child he scribbled by flashlight under the covers at boarding school. As an adult he referred to his creations as if they were real people. He seemed to prefer them to his own children, according to his daughter Margaret (who aired her grievances in a bruised memoir). And they kept him company long after he published his last story in the New Yorker in 1965.

His alienation from the world and his mania for privacy became part of the myth surrounding his life. His fiction and retreat from society were largely informed by his traumatic experiences during the WWII. As a staff sergeant he fought in some of Europe’s bloodiest campaigns, and pounded away at his novel in foxholes. Apparently he kept writing nearly every day until he died.

You know by now, of course, that this is the biography of the man who gave us Catcher in the Rye. A fascinating, unsubtle look at a complicated author. The book is Salinger by David Shields and Shane Salerno.

If you are a Salinger fan, you will be delighted to learn that he left instructions “authorizing a specific timetable” (starting between 2015 and 2020) for the release of unpublished work, including five new Glass family stories; a novel based on his relationship with his first wife, Sylvia Welter, a German he married shortly after World War II; a novella in the form of a counterintelligence officer’s diary entries during the war; a story-filled “manual” about the Vedanta religious philosophy; and new or retooled stories fleshing out the story of Holden Caulfield, known to generations of readers from The Catcher in the Rye.pbs-preparing-j-d-salinger-bio

If that won’t keep me busy enough, I am yearning to bury my nose in John le Carré’s latest novel, A Delicate Truth. It’s about a counter-terror operation codenamed Wildlife, mounted in Britain’s most precious colony, Gibraltar. Its purpose: to capture and abduct a high-value jihadist arms-buyer.

While I am waiting for the book, I am dusting off le Carré’s first and most famous novel, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. To mark its 50th Anniversary, Penguin have released a beautiful special edition featuring archival material and a special cover design.

It is 1962: the height of the Cold War and only months after the building of the Berlin Wall. Alex Leamas is a hard-working, hard-drinking British intelligence officer whose East Berlin network is in tatters. His agents are either on the run or dead, victims of a ruthlessly efficient East German counter-intelligence officer.

I never get tired of re-reading this breakthrough work. It’s the reason I wrote my first novel, Closing Time, a cold-war novel set in Vienna in 1958.

Which reminds me that perhaps I should work on my own writing. What a unique idea.

Christmas Writing

shoes at christmasJoe’s Post #75

Writing in the 2013. For Christmas.

chirstmasIn the old days, it used to be Christmas Cards. You know, those funny things made of paper that look like birthday cards. You’d have a long list of friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances, evil clowns, teachers… whomever, and you’d sit at a chair with a glass that was 90% rum and 10 % eggnog and you’d hammer them out.

They’d begin nice enough. “Dear Auntie June, missed seeing you this year but I hope you’re doing great. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”  After 5 glasses and 50 cards, you tended to get a bit punch drunk…. or just plain drunk. “Yo, yo, uncle Don, wuzzup? Why doesn’t that Santa dude have any children? Because he only comes once a year, and when he does, it’s down the chimney. bahahaha!”

Now, however, the fine art of writing and sending Christmas cards is nearly lost. Today, we send text messages, emails and post on Facebook. I’m not saying it isn’t nice to wish everyone a Merry Christmas on your timeline, but have we lost that personal touch?

In some cases, maybe, yes. If you just post on your time-line or mass send an email or put up a picture of a tree on pinterest, with or without a picture of you wearing pumpkin underwear, it’s not really making it personal. Unless it’s personally insulting to someone which does actually count.

santa 2However, most of the wishes we send via some form of electronic media are just as good, if not better than the old card method. They can be personal, intimate, naughty or nice (as requrired.)

So, despite the fact I managed to get out a ton of christmas cards this year (sorry, Paula, you’re new address arrived too late), I’m thinking electronic may be the way to go. No more licking envelopes. No more buying a truck-load of stamps. Next year, it’ll be some form of electronic seasons greetings.

May Santa forgive me.

How does everyone else feel about this trend away from pen and paper and towards cyber communications?

A very 5writer Christmas card.

 

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Paula’s Post #56 – Silk’s Christmas high note post from Monday touched all of us, I’m sure.

While I knew my 5writer colleague Silk came from a musical family, I had no idea she was that talented!

Bravo Silk!

What a gift to be able to travel back in time to 17-year-old Silk’s high school Christmas performance, all those many years ago. Thank you for sharing that audio file with us, it really helped me get into the Christmas spirit.

But hey! Did you have to set the bar so high?

As one who is totally tone-deaf, I could never follow in Silk’s footsteps. Never, ever, ever. Well, I could, but I swear the resulting  mad cat screech would cause our followers to flee this blog, never to be seen or heard from again.

Silk would kill me if that happened, wouldn’t you Silk?

We’ve all worked hard to build a following for this blog, web-mistress Silk most of all.

So.. no Tigger singing… no Tigger dancing.

Darn!

I knew I had to come up with a different idea for my pre-Christmas post. Something seasonal and fun. Something totally Tiggeresque.

My actual 5writer post day isn’t until Tuesday, but I decided to post this little 5writers Christmas Card a bit early, with a little help from those kooky folks at JibJab.

I hope it brings a smile to your face on what I suspect is a hectic day for many of us.

Merry Christmas to all!

A seasonal high note

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Silk’s Post #65 — Christmas is not a one-note season. It has a lot of different moods.

There’s jolly, and hectic, and merry, and sentimental, and excited, and relaxed, and uplifted, and joyful … and sometimes even a little blue.

Right now, it’s late at night, I’m far behind on my Christmas “to-do” list (as I typically find myself every year) and my Christmas mood of the moment is reflective. And maybe a bit nostalgic.

They say Christmas is for kids, but really we’re all still kids somewhere in our hearts. Sometimes you have to dig pretty deep to find your inner child, but it’s there. It’s that part of you that still believes. Not just in Santa, but in everything. Every wonderful possibility, every kind of magic, every dream that might come true.

Personally, I stopped believing in Santa at a pretty young age – around five. Maybe I was born a Nancy Drew wannabe, but the evidence just mounted up and it led me to the inevitable conclusion. First, it was clear to me that our chimney would not accommodate a largish man whose belly was described as a bowl full of jelly. Even more problematic, how did he get into the houses and apartments that had no fireplaces at all? Were those kids to go toyless? There were many other clues, such as the obvious fact that there was more than one “Santa” swanning around, and the doubtful idea that he could fly around the whole world in a single night. (Strangely, I never questioned the reindeer-powered sleigh.)

Yet, for several years I went along with the Santa fiction, mainly because it seemed so important to my parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles that I believed. I actually remember not wanting to let them down. And now, 60 years later, I still think my instincts were right. Adults wish children to believe what they can no longer believe themselves. It reawakens their own hopes.

Some people feel Christmas has been ruined. Commercialized to death. It’s hard to defend the spectacle of the shopping stampede that the season of joy and peace has turned into. Others feel that the “true meaning” of Christmas as a celebration of the birth of Christ has been lost in the shuffle.

Now, I won’t touch the topic of Christmas being Christ’s birthday with a ten-foot pole. (If I stopped believing in Santa at five, I’ll leave it to your imagination what I believe about the coincidence of Jesus having been born at just exactly the same time as the celebration of the ancient pagan Saturnalia festival).

But I definitely do feel the spirituality of the season. It’s a time for us all to remember how to believe, how to hope, how to abandon our acquired fear of disappointment and care deeply about things that matter to us. About people we love, and even about people we can’t relate to … or might call our enemies.

Though I’ve taken a lifelong detour away from any organized religion, there’s one small part of the Bible that says it all for me. It’s called the Beatitudes and it comes from the Gospel of Matthew, at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. I remember every word because I once sang it as a solo with my 160-voice high school chorus behind me. You’ll remember it when you hear the opening words …

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Tonight I dug out the CD an old high school friend had made for me from the LP that was recorded of that performance back in 1966 (thanks, Bill). I was 17 when I sang this and I hadn’t listened to it in years.

It conveys all the hope I want to share with anyone who might be reading this. Here’s the audio file link if you’d like to listen, and I wish you the season of your own dreams.


“The Beatitudes”
North Shore High School Chorus – 1966

4:17 minutes

Baby it’s cold outside

Helga’s Post # 63:

Sorry to be so tardy with my post this week. This supposedly quiet season creates havoc with my commitments. Not that many of you will have had time to check our blog.

The 5 writers have spoken. The all-inclusive wish lists are out. Santa will be busy delivering all those writing tools, that include (but are not limited to) more writing time, discipline, an upgrade to the mental operating system, a thicker skin, courage to fail, focus, writing hardware and software upgrades, an agent who believes in our writing, and so forth.

All great suggestions. As for my own list, I know it’s getting sort of late, but I’ll make a dash for it.

There is one big wish on my list (You know what that is, Santa). After that, how about something a little different? Such as, getting homes for the homeless (after all, isn’t that what started Christmas all that time ago?), help the hungry get some decent food, and reach across the ocean to bring clean water to all those folks over there. So do something about that, will you? You’ll feel better about it too, I promise, than buying sacks of toys year after year for those spoiled kids and new gadgets for grownups who don’t really need all that stuff.tumblr_lwabmc8Pxw1r1uk35

So there’s a challenge for you, Santa. Live up to your reputation and use that magic of yours to make it happen. To make our world more balanced, a little bit more fair. You can start by educating us to ‘give’, instead of ‘want’, to share, not hoard, to look beyond our own needs and realize how very lucky we are to live in this part of the world. Make us care enough to do something to make it better for all those less fortunate. Not just saying it because it’s the right thing to say. So, take a clue from Nelson Mandela when he said:

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

But I am straying from issues about writing. Maybe I am too greedy, or too much of a romantic to believe it’s all hopeless and there’s nothing we can do to change this state of affairs. It must be this time of year, this reflective season, that makes me pause and stops me from looking the other way. I am taking time to give thought to those larger issues, those beyond myself, my house, and my community.

So here is what you can do for me personally, Santa: help me create characters in my book that reflect those struggles in their quest to make the world a better place. Characters that struggle mightily and never give up. Like, among others, Jodi Picoult’s characters. She puts it this way:

“It’s certainly my honor to be able to, hopefully, change the world a tiny bit, one mind at a time.

To all, Merry Christmas, and lasting peace on earth.

Photo courtesy: Susan Goetter

Photo courtesy: Susan Goetter

Dear Santa

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Joe’s Post #75

Text 2013

Joe: Hey, Santa. How’s it going, big guy?

Santa: How did you get my phone number? You want to get on my naughty list?

Joe: Talk to the Easter Bunny. He said I could txt you any time.

Santa: That little assail.

Joe: What?

magicSanta: Damn autocorrect. Nevermind. You’re not going to ask me to make you look like one of the Magic Mike guys again, are you? I can only do so much.

Joe: Nah, don’t worry, that kinda backfired. All that exercise equipment you sent remains unused. But thanks for the thought.

Santa: So what do you want this year?

Joe: I want to thank you for all that you did bring me. You brought me a girlfriend, which was awesome nice of you and even though she didn’t arrive until Feb, she’s the most amazing present ever.

Santa: Well, actually that wasn’t me.

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Joe: And I want to thank you for giving me the courage to do a whole bunch of things this year that I’d never thought I’d do.

Santa: Listen, Joe, I think you’re mixing me up with God or fate or whatever you writers believe in these days.

Joe: And I’d like to thank you for all the great friends in my life who support and believe in me.

Santa: OMG. Stop it. It wasn’t me.

Joe: Anyway, for this year, I’d like only one thing.

Santa: Here it comes. I’m going to ducking kill that bunny.

Joe: So here’s the thing. I want no more rejection letters. I want an agent who believes in me as much as my friends do, as much as my writing group does, as much as my dog does. 

Santa: Are you kidding me?

Joe: Nope.

Santa: OMFG! Will you nut up already?

Joe: Santa! You sound kinda angry.

imagesSanta: I am. You think you’re the only one who has to deal with rejection? Try being me. As soon as kids reach a certain age, whammo, they don’t believe in me anymore. Talk about in-your-face rejection. Like I suddenly cease to exist. They stop sending me letters and singing songs about me, and leaving cookies and milk for me, but do I get all mopey and whiny? No. No I don’t. Cuz I’m ducking Santa. I keep on doing what I love to do.

Joe: Urhm.

Santa: Just don’t give up. Keep on trying. I mean, hellsbells, man, you managed to get an amazing, beautiful women. The raindeer had a pool that listed the odds agianst that happening at 200-1. So believe me, if you can do that, you can do anything. 

Joe: You think so?

Santa: I know so. Listen, trust in the process. Write. Send. Repeat. The rest will follow. I told King that and look what happened, but holy hell, the things that kid wanted for Christmas, I still have nightmares.

Joe: I hear what you’re saying fat man. But now I want something else.

Santa: You greedy little…

Joe: I want this to be the best Christmas for everyone, especially for my girl and her two boys.

depp againSanta: Well, I guess that’s something I can try and do. Now duck off, I have Johnny Depp texting me that he wants to find someone named Corinne. Apparently he’s in love. Ich.

My Christmas unlist

Karalee’s Post #58

I’m going to go wild and throw out a new use for a word out there. It’s unlist. You can now unfriend someone on Facebook, so why not unlist your Christmas To-Do list? You know, the other list that’s not the Wish List.

In my unorganized system of “adding to the list,” I have pieces of paper stashed here and there, and if I crumple up the lot I could easily free up a good couple of weeks of  writing time and heat my mother’s home for an hour or two via the fireplace.

For others in my 5Writers group this saved time would be very high on the Wish List, but truth told, I enjoy preparing for the holiday celebration. To me it isn’t a chore and I look forward to thinking about presents and wrapping them (more than shopping for them) and I love having my family together as most of us do.

Actually I rather like my To Do list:

  • baking and listening to Christmas music and doing the odd dancing and singing (hey, I’m alone so I can do what I want)
  • share my baking with my running group at coffee (after our run of course. We need to replenish our energy with carbs)
  • Christmas lunch with friends and sharing more baking. This usually means a few lunches out, which is a rare occurrence the rest of the year so it is a big treat for me. I love the girl talk too.
  • see a live seasonal play and support our local actors. Again, a real treat.
  • listen (and sing) to Christmas music while I drive to do my shopping. I’m in a great mood by the time I park.
  • think of my family as I shop for them. I tend to people watch too, so it is also research for my writing and more often than not, quite amusing.
  • think of friends and family as I give to charitable donations on their behalf. I’ve been doing this for a number of years now and choose charities that, to me, really can make a difference and most of the money goes to the cause. This has included goats to Rwanda (through a friend that has visited a village there and knows the situation), education to women through plancanada.ca, the Canadian Cancer Society (who doesn’t know someone that has suffered with this disease?), and the SPCA.
  • reminisce about the year as I write our Christmas letter and cards. Yes, I do enjoy this and I still use real paper and cards and support our Canadian Postal Service. This has the added benefit of adding to my writing words that must be approaching one million by now, so I’m anticipating becoming published any time now.
  • celebrating all of the above with a nice glass of wine or two.
  • look forward to seeing our friends as I cook a Christmas dinner for them. We are usually in different cities over the holidays so make a point of connecting and having a fun evening together.
  • walking my dogs with their jingling bell collars. It sounds so cool.
  • decorating the house and thinking of what my children have made over the years or where I got this and that. The house feels warm and cozy.
  • watch the men in my family put up the outdoor lights and congratulate them when they are done.
  • fill the stockings Christmas Eve. I love this and hope my adult children don’t outgrow it.
  • eat my Christmas baking. I love this too and the calorie count is the only down side to my baking.
  • have a glass of wine and enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Now I’m sure most of you have a similar TO DO list if you really think about it. For most of us though, I would bet that your frame of mind (POV) is that the list is a chore and would read more like:

  • go to the store and buy the ingredients for all the Christmas baking I have to do. (thoughts of pushing a cart through throngs of people and waiting at the check-out and being impatient with the poor lady ahead of you pushing her walker) Bemoaning the time spent stirring and measuring and cooking. Bemoaning even more that you are alone and watching Dr. Phil with no one to drink a glass of wine with.
  • What? Running? No time for that at this time of year!
  • Lunch with friends? How can I fit that in with everything else? Lots of stress followed by a speeding ticket trying to get there on time.
  • A seasonal play means rushing home, throwing pizza in the oven while you tear a pair of pantyhose in your rush to dress, so now you need to wear pants instead of a dress….
  • Driving to go shopping. Damn traffic. What Christmas music??
  • Shopping? That damn list never gets smaller. And there are SO many people I can’t wait to get out of here.
  • Donations to charity? More to do on the damn list. Pull up the sites on the computer and get it done quick. Computers are man’s best friend. Now that’s done. Phew. What’s next?
  • Christmas cards and letter? No way! A quick email if they are lucky. And copy paste it, just don’t forget to change the name.
  • Wine? Give me the bottle!
  • Hosting a dinner party? What could possibly be more stressful?
  • Dogs? What dogs? It’s reindeer season, right?
  • Decorating the house means getting  those boxes out of storage. Then the time it takes to put everything out. Where is that wine?
  • Outdoor Christmas lights. Thank the heavens above someone else is responsible for that!
  • Christmas Stockings? But first the kids need to be in bed. Then the cookie I have to take a bite from. I’m exhausted and have to stay up how long??
  • Eat Christmas baking? No thank-you. I’m watching my waistline. (Don’t divulge that I’ve had a dozen cookies and four butter tarts while they were putting out the Christmas lights!)
  • Wine? The bottle is empty. Damn! I forgot to put the Liquor Store on my To Do List!

Now think about it. It really is all one’s POV. The lists are the same, but who’s list do you prefer?

christmas bakingI really don’t want to unlist my To Do List.

Do you?

Merry Christmas preparation.

Happy writing too!