Tag Archives: Carol Lunch Williams

Finding Yourself in Fiction

I just received an advance copy of Carol Lunch Williams forthcoming (May 1, 2012) novel titled Waiting.    It’s intense, of course, and packed with emotion and interesting characters doing interesting things.

One character, however, stood out above all the others:  Mr. Crowe.

Now this is not the first time an author has based a character on me (see last week’s post about Edward, Xander, and the gang).  The first such instance was in Louise Plummer’s delightful first novel, The Romantic Obsessions and Humiliations of Annie Sehlmeier (1987).  In that novel a charming, sensitive teacher is named Mr. Crowe.  The conncection is obvious.

Here’s a section from Carol Lunch Williams’ newest novel:

I tap on the glass again, and Mr. Crowe strides over and swings the door open.  “Yes, London?”

How did he know my name?

I’m mute.

Now, it’s a good thing this is only an advance copy because, as both of you have noticed, Carol needs to rewrite this scene—or more likely, to re-insert the material that certainly was there in an earlier draft.

Here’s how it should read.

My hand trembles when I tap on the glass, hoping for a glimpse of Mr. Crowe, the Adonis of my Florida high school.  Though my heart is pounding with anticipation, I know that it’s unlikely that he’ll notice me.  His students hang on his every word, scribbling notes furiously and pausing only to snatch glimpes of the man they idolize.

By some sort of miracle, though, he does notice, and he glides over, looking every bit like Mr. Darcy, and with a flourish, swings open the door.  My hands have turned cold and clammy.  I’ve never been this close to anyone as kind, generous, and stunning as Mr. Crowe, and I have to place my hand on the doorjamb to steady myself when he says, in that melodious baritone, “Yes, London?”

I am mute, completely overpowered by the magnificent man standing before me.

I’m confident Carol will make these changes.

So here’s a reading-writing challenge for you.  Find your name in a novel or short story, select a scene that has your namesake in it, and rewrite that scene in a way that portrays you in the properly positive light.

It’s good practice for characterization, and it’s fun to find yourself in someone else’s fiction.

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Embarrassing Confessions

OK, not everyone can be Carol Lunch Williams or Andy Ellis.  I know I can’t be, and believe me, I’ve tried.  These two are a special breed of writer, the kind that can write regardless of life circumstances,  Nothing seems to slow them down when it comes to their writing.  They’ve proven they can be productive no matter what.

I am quite a different breed of writer, the kind who’s blown about by every wind of distraction.  The biggest distraction, of course, is my job.  I am deeply grateful to have a steady job, and I’m deeperly grateful that it’s a job I love.  The downside, of course, is that it’s a full-time job, and it gobbles up lots of my time.  The upside, in addition to a regular paycheck, is that I get to work with some terrific people on a regular basis.

But it’s not just my job that gives me an excuse not to write.  I have children and grandchildren, a house and yard, leaky faucets, plugged gutters, a TV, an appetite, and a lovely wife, and all of these provide wonderful reasons to find something other than writing to do.

But I do, from time to time, manage to pull myself away from the distractions and head down to my windowless, internetless, soundproof room in the belly of the BYU library to write.  And I have to admit, I’ve gotten a lot of writing done in that writing dungeon.  But even down in my dungeon, distractions exist.  And I’m ashamed to admit this, but here it is: solitaire  I realize that I am perhaps the only writer in America who has to overcome the pernicious attraction to Microsoft solitaire.  I’ve tried to convince myself that it’s a prewriting device, a problem-solving device, a brainstorming device, but it’s really just a plain old time-wasting device.  Fortunately, help is available, but I’m yet to the point that requires a 12-step program to Solitaire.

Other than sitting at my writing desk and staring at my computer screen until words start to appear, I have found one Pavlovian method that helps me get the writing done, even when I don’t feel like it.  When I’m up against a deadline or in a deep funk, I use a token reward system to motivate myself.  Butter toffee peanuts are the token,   Every time I finish a page, I allow myself ten sweet crunchy toffee-covered peanuts.  Unfortunately, this method has serious and visible side effects that are only exacerbated by the sedentary writer’s lifestyle.

So, dear reader (I know there’s now only one of you), unless you’re a Carol or Andy clone, what do you do to motivate yourself to write?  And what are the side effects of your method?  I welcome your suggestions.

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Irony

Here’s my new year’s wish: to climb at least one rung of the corporate ladder: to be promoted from junior assistant co-blogger of Throwing Up Words, Inc.  Some people (viz. Carol Lunch Williams) would justify my lowly status by pointing out that it’s an honor to hold any kind of position in such a prominent [ http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/blogs] blog, so “Quit your whining!”  Or if she were in a better mood, “You oughta be paying us!”  Other people (viz. Andy Ellis) would point out that I had nothing to do with creating or promoting this blog, so “Quit your whining!!”  Or if she were in a better mood, “You oughta be paying us!!”  [Andy likes exclamation marks more than Carol does.]

The co-CEOs of Throwing Up Words, Inc. might also point out that since I joined the blog, the weekly readership has declined from 5 readers to 4.  In my defense, I would argue that an even number is always better than a prime number, especially when it comes to blogs about writing, but the money-hungry Blog Bosses who run this blog like it’s their own private pirate ship would tell me “You don’t know nuthin’ about readership, blogs, or numbers, so just shut up, keep your nose clean, and post your weekly, mealy-mouthed blog, OK?  OK?”  Then the Blog Bosses would shake their finely-manicured fingers at me and beat me over the head with their same, worn-out threat.  “Do you know who USED to occupy this position at Throwing Up Words, Inc.?  Do you have any idea who you replaced?”  And I would hang my head and mumble the name of the fabulously successful and wealthy authoress whose position I inherited, and the co-CEO Blog Bosses would narrow their fake-lashes eyes and say, “Darn right, that’s who.  So don’t come crying to us about a promotion until you’ve done something worth promoting you for.  And besides, you know the real reason we recurited you as her replacement, right?”  And then I would nod, fighting back tears, and admit that, yes, I knew that I’m the token male in Throwing Up Words, Inc. That I’m a mere statistic.  That I’m a gender balancer.  And of course, seeing me in such a humiliated condition would send the Blog Bosses into fits of cackling because they knew that I knew that they knew it was totally true.  “Quit your whining!!!” they both would shout.  “And get back below-decks and man that bilge pump.  We run a tight ship around here, Crowe!!!”  And red-faced and trailing clouds of shame, I would slink down the ladder into the dank, dark, depressing pit of the good ship Throwing Up Words, Inc. and grab the sticky, grimy, brown handle of the bilge pump and start doing what the Blog Bosses ordered.

And somehow, it would all seem ironic.  Painfully, terribly, honestly ironic.

And one of the Blog Bosses would screech, “Ironic?  What do you know about irony?”  And I would flinch at her screeching and cower in the darkness of the lower deck, my eyes watering out of fear—and the stench of the bilge—and I would say, “What do I know?  What do I know about irony?  It’s like rain on your wedding day, a free ride when you’ve already paid . . .”  And the she-boss would throw back her head and cackle some more.  Then she’d turn on her ruby-red stilletto heel and say, “I don’t have time for this, Crowe.”  And with a toss of her well-coiffed head, she’d say, “And you got lots of bilge to get pumped out of here, so quit worrying about irony and get back to work.”  And she’d strut away and back to the captain’s cabin, leaving me alone in the dank, dark, depressing pit of the pirate ship Throwing Up Words, Inc. to meditate on the true meaning of irony.

And here’s what I’d think:

I’d think it’s ironic, painfully, incredibly ironic to write a smashing bestseller and never know it.  I’d think it’s ironic beyond belief to write three novels, hand all three manuscripts to my editor, in person, and go back to my apartment feeling an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and anticipation, punch apartment building elevator button for a ride up to my 7th-floor apartment only to find out that, dang, the elevator’s not working, and then, fueled by the high of having just turned in three promising novel manuscripts, decide to jog up the seven flights of stairs.  And it would be ironic to swing open that apartment door, breathless and sweaty from running up those seven flights of stairs, and feel a burning clutch of pain in my chest, and to drop dead, right there on the floor of my own apartment.  And then, a year or two later, it would be terribly, painfully, wonderfully ironic for those three books to sell more than 65 MILLION COPIES!  Yep.  That is one writer who would know the true meaning of irony.

Happy new year!

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