Lost Ideas

ideas trickle
through my mind and shatter
a tap’s steady drip

Good morning everyone.

I’m happy to say that since Wed evening my back pain has lessened and I’m able to walk upright now. Something, usually taken for granted, for which I am really thankful this morning! I’ve found the exercise sheets from past physio-therapy and intend to develop a new habit: taking proper care of the muscles that hold me up.

We’ve also had a nice rain over our land lately, needed and appreciated by all. It does look like summer in our yard. Bob put up a block of wood, hammered in a nail and impaled an orange, so we now have a proper oriole feeder. We can watch them from our dining room window. A flicker has discovered that our internet “dish” makes a satisfying rat-tat-tat and is working on his timing as I write this.

Last weekend, a long weekend here in Canada, I saw folks hauling boats to Diefenbaker Lake, not so far away. I imagine with today being warm and sunny, folks will be out boating, fishing barbecuing. 🙂

The haiku above describes the general state of the human mind, with many thoughts slipping through but few caught and used. My mind seems very much that way, but who can actually compare?

I’m dismayed this morning because I can’t find my cell phone. I’m sure I had it here at my desk yesterday, doing some “housecleaning” in my g-mail, but now can’t find it anywhere. So if you’ve been trying to call or text and I haven’t replied, sorry about that.

I tried phoning myself but by now the battery has come to the end of its oomph — and so far no one has put a locator buzzer on a cell phone. Some technological whiz should get on that! Granted, it won’t do much good when you’re out and about, but for situations like this, and people like me… Or would it not work if the phone battery is dead?

Thinking of haiku, and ideas slipping away, I was scheduling a verse this morning Tree Top Haiku, to be posted tomorrow — then forgot and hit Publish. Now there are two posts back to back.  Here’s the second verse I composed while thinking back to my own mud-pie-baking childhood:
sidewalk baker
stirs in pine cones and pebbles
fresh mud pies for sale

However you’re spending this weekend, I wish you all health and safety. Thanks everyone, for dropping in and reading this post.

I want to say a special thank-you to poet Judy Dykstra-Brown, who’s kindly agreed to critique some stories for my upcoming e-book of flash fiction. I’ve been compiling it this week, seeing as a lot sitting was in the daily programme. Once I have it registered and get an ISBN, I’ll post a picture of the front cover.

PS:
Oh, JOY! Cell phone found.
It seems to have slipped down between the seats in the car on the way home after I visited a friend yesterday.

Negative Self-Talk. Delete, Delete, Delete

A Reader’s Opinion

While I’ve been laid low with back problems this week, I took the opportunity to read a novel by P G Wodehouse. Like all his novels, Jill the Reckless is a great story! Six stars out of five. The author has created a memorable cast of characters and, like Agatha Christie, has such a delightful way with words and phrases.

Writers like D E Stevenson, Wodehouse, Sayers, Christie, etc., used strong story lines and an interesting cast of minor characters to showcase their heroes. There was a STORY in their story. Even in tales with a romance woven in, the overall focus was as much on the main character’s triumph over adverse circumstances as on their relationships.

Have modern genre formulas become like a corset, rigidly holding writers to a specific shape deemed to be attractive in our day? Stories tend to be so focused on the conflict between the two love interests. Furious outbursts, insecure characters full of negative self-talk, a lot of internal dialogue use up word count without adding variety. I read one novel awhile back where I’d estimate 75% of the word count was spent on the MC’s conversations with himself — basically why she’d never have him anyway so forget it.

I find almost no negative self-talk in those older novels. Miss Marple doesn’t constantly berate herself for snooping. Lord Peter may babble about his silly curiosity but the writer doesn’t devote long paragraphs to his self-chastisement. Wodehouse’s characters act and react in a lively way; they spend little time mentally rehashing their own actions and reactions.

In real life negative self-talk is usually destructive. It’s the devil on our shoulder that berates us for how we are without giving us any power to change. Sometimes we do need to admit faults and make changes, but negative self-talk rather tends to paralyze.

So, in our age of promoting self-esteem and ridding ourselves of guilt, why do we allow our book characters to indulge in so much self-criticism? Do readers really find it that appealing?

Imagine yourself standing in a long supermarket checkout line and striking up a conversation with the customer in front of you. You notice she has two boxes of Exquisite Caramel Ice Cream. You’re quite fond of it yourself. You say so, and she replies:

“I really shouldn’t be buying this. I know it’s not the best for me; it’ll only go to my hips and I really should lose weight. I can hardly resist the delicious taste but I know I shouldn’t indulge and it’s so foolish of me to be buying it. My best friend’s brother’s such a hunk and I wish some romance would take off between us but he makes fun of me for eating it and says I’m turning into a dumpling. Well I don’t like him anyway. But still, even if the taste is exquisite and I can hardly resist, I am just getting fat eating it every day. What kind of a wimp am I? I need to develop some backbone and not ever touch the stuff again. But then I might as well eat because no guy’s ever going to look at me anyway.”

Worse luck, every few days you visit that same supermarket, stand in line beside the Exquisite Caramel Ice Cream addict, with another two boxes in her cart, and hear her recite her insecurities again.

Welcome to the modern novel. No, not all. But too many. Recently read another one myself.

Let’s say you’ve been asked to edit some current book — your choice. So you open it in a new window, start at Chapter Two and delete all the negative self-talk. How much will be left?

Can you fill in those gaps with ACTION? An outside CRISIS they must deal with? Other issues going on apart from main character blow-ups. Maybe leave just a phrase here and there to let the reader know those feelings are still in the background. Once in every  chapter is often enough, IMO.

Can you add some ENVIRONMENT? In one story I read, the female MC and her parents had joined a wagon train. Though they would have been crossing amazing new territory, scenic description was scant. (Saves research, I guess.) Pages were filled with how she was attracted to/ couldn’t let herself fall for/ the scout or he was attracted to/ couldn’t let himself fall for/ her.

What about adding a new CHARACTER? A jolly old auntie or uncle to give readers a break from the intense focus on the lovers’ spats. Wodehouse added the smooth-talking, conniving Uncle Chris who squandered Jill’s inheritance in poor stock market investments, but was always ready to fleece some new lamb. The author devotes some paragraphs to Jill’s assessment and acceptance of her uncle’s nature and weaknesses; these in turn show Jill’s compassionate nature.

Maybe you could add a nosy neighbor? If the story already has one, write in another and have the two interact with each other and with the main characters. Sprinkle in their WRY COMMENTS ABOUT HUMAN NATURE and each other. Have them play “Pass the Rumor.” Display your hero’s nature in the way they deal with these minor characters.

I believe these subplots are what made novels so memorable and writers so successful in years gone by. As a reader, I’d like to encourage all writers to loosen the constrictions of formula and put more STORY in your stories.

Looking on the Bright Side

“JUST BROKE”

by Edgar Guest

Nothing’s the matter with Me!
I can see,
I can hear, I can sing, I could climb
up a tree.
I am well, I can eat anything that’s about.
I can run, I can dance,
I can laugh, I can shout,
and I’m blamed if I’ll travel around here and croak
that I’m broke!

My arms are all right;
I can fight!
I can still romp around with the kiddies
at night!
I haven’t neuritis; I haven’t the ‘flu;
I still have a fairly good
foot in each shoe;
I am able to gather the point of a joke;
I’m just broke.

Nothing has happened to me
that I see!
My appetite’s good and I’m strong
as can be!
The wife hasn’t left me, the children are well.
Things are just as they were
when the stock market fell.
I can work, I can play, I can eat, I can smoke.
I’m just broke!

From the book, The Friendly Way
© 1931 by The Reilly & Lee Co.

Do You Know Your Neighbor

by H Howard Biggar

Do you know the neighbor who lives on your block;
do you ever take time for a bit of talk?
Do you know his troubles, his heartaches, his cares;
the battle he’s fighting, the burdens he bears?

Do you greet him with joy, or pass him right by
with a questioning look and a quizzical eye?
Do you bid him “Good Morning” and “How do you do,”
or shrug as if  he were nothing to you?

He may be a chap with a mighty big heart;
and a welcome that grips, if you’d just do your part,
and I know you will coax out his sunniest smile
if you’ll stop with this neighbor and visit awhile.

We rush on so fast in these strenuous days,
we’re apt to find fault when it’s better to praise.
We judge a man’s worth by the make of his car;
we’re anxious to learn what his politics are.

But somehow it seldom gets under the hide,
the fact that the fellow we’re living beside
Is a fellow like us, with a hankering too,
for a grip of the hand and a “How do you do!”

Note about the author:
Harvey Howard Biggar (1886 – 1965),  was born in SD and died in Chicago, IL. He was an agronomist, an instructor in agriculture, and a poet.

An Un-Fun Haiku

pill by pill
I put my pain away
prickly spines

Where I’m at today. Not feeling the greatest Sunday afternoon and woke up yesterday morning with something “out” in my lower back. I could hardly walk. Thankfully I’m a little more mobile this morning, but not out of the woods yet.

If you’re young and your spine is supple, do take time every day to keep it that way. This is no fun! 😦

Curiosity

Curiosity quote

On April 1st, 1899, thirteen-year-old Christina Young recorded the following in her diary:

Sara Murphy and I came near catching it today. She is one of my chums, but she lives one and a half miles from here. We sit together in school.

The teacher was standing with his back to our seat and we were seeing how close we could come to his back with a pin without his knowing it. Sara had the pin almost through his coat, and I didn’t hardly know I was going to do it, but all of a sudden I gave her arm a shove.

The teacher jumped about a foot high, and turned around and brought his strap down BANG on the desk. We were pretty scared, but he just looked at us pretty sharp for a minute, and then turned around quick and didn’t do a thing to us. We behaved after that.

 

The Typhoon

omiri-gate-story.jpg

Photo by Nicki Elisha Shinow

The storm lasted four days. At first the rain poured down in buckets, later it sounded like the whole heavens was pouring down on the surrounding mountains. Villagers huddled together all through the typhoon, covering their possessions as best they could, praying they wouldn’t be washed or blown away.

The oldest of the elders remembered a deluge like this back in their youth. They recalled the year of hunger and poverty after. But most of the people living in the area had never seen such a storm. They wept to see their precious soil washing down the mountain. The small plateaus that sustained them were sliding into the lake down in the valley. Where would they plant their crops?

It would take many months to haul earth back up the mountain in baskets. The elders nodded. It would be so.

Finally the storm passed. All over the mountain folks shook off their stupor and wandered out to survey the damage. So much had been lost! They were shocked to see how the lake had swallowed up so much of the valley below. Even the Omiri gate stood in water.

They shook their heads. This would bring hardship. Every summer visitors came in droves to stand in this gate where the great prophet had once stood and shared his wisdom with his disciples. The locals had always welcomed the pilgrims. Their coming brought much income to the surrounding villages that hosted and supplied them.

Some despairing, some tearful, the people made their way back to their homes. They could see the churning clouds of hunger on the horizon.

The elders nodded. It would be so.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Story written in response to today’s The Write Practice exercise. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com, a site for free images.