Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Write What You Know

© Dana Rothstein | Dreamstime Stock Photos
People tell fiction writers to “Write What You Know.” This works for maybe your first five stories. After that, you need to do research.

The classics of fiction are mostly a mystery to me. Once in a while I decide I need to raise myself “above my raisings,” so I get a library copy of something archaic and boring and immerse myself in a little literary stew. The stage doesn’t last long. Like my diets.

One of my characters suffered through the same literary self-abuse, deciding to read James Joyce’s “Ulysses” in an attempt to impress his librarian wife. Of course, for him to accomplish that, I needed to read the book.

I called the local library. This was before you could request books online and find them on a special shelf with your name on it. I love that feature. I want my grocery store to operate that way, and I want both places to have a drive-through. I can’t decide if that makes me sound incredibly lazy or incredibly efficient. (Butt out. I’ll be the judge of that.)

Me: “Do you have a copy of Ulysses?”
Librarian: “Ulysses?”
Me: “Yes, by James Joyce.”
Librarian: Silence. “You say that was Grant?”
Me: “No, not Ulysses S. Grant. Ulysses by James Joyce.”
Librarian: “One moment.” Silence. Crickets. “Would that be in fiction?”

For the same novel (as yet unpublished—and stop rubbing it in) a character decided to try to save her marriage (i.e. change her husband) by reading one of the Dr. Phil books. So I found a copy of Relationship Rescue and slogged through it. Don’t get me wrong. I purely love Dr. Phil. But if he had to work through his own checklists and therapy exercises even he would simply divorce the jerk and try his luck with the next person.

So, as a writer, my education is ongoing and wide-ranging. Ask me anything.

Better yet, read my stories. Please.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Angels Among Us

I have angel figurines in my home: cute cherubs, faceless collectible angels, even a “forgetful” angel with a necklace of car keys and glasses on her nose and head. These were all gifts, usually given for special days. (Why did Denise give me the forgetful angel? I don’t remember.) Our Christmas tree never felt right until we got rid of the gaudy lighted star John chose and replaced it with my choice of a beautiful, lace-bedecked angel with, for some reason a wand. The treetop angel is as much like the one I grew up throwing tinsel at as I could find. As long as I’m happy, right?

And then there are the real angels. In the Bible, when an angel shows up, it’s always a male. And scary. The first thing out of his mouth is “Be not afraid.” Jesus, the Son of God, walked the earth and people flocked to see him. Angels show up and everyone cowers in terror.

Yet we persist in wearing doll-faced angel pins and dressing our daughters in winged white costumes for the annual Christmas pageant. As my daughter sometimes accuses me when I’m telling a funny—and always true!—story, never let the facts get in the way.

A friend of mine is comfortable only with the truth. He never passes on an email without checking the facts. He backs up his religious beliefs with Scripture, both chapter and verse.

Cute little cherubs with dried flower wreaths have no place in his world.

I’m more flexible. Pretty angels given when someone knows you’re going through a rough patch? Great! Silly angels with three pencils stuck in their hair? Perfect! A dollar store snow globe angel given by a grandchild? Best. Gift. Ever. 

I love my little angel figurines. But if one of those big, scary angels ever shows up bearing a message from God, I’ll be down there on the floor, cringing and petrified, with everyone else.

You can bet your wings on it.