Imagine you are in an airport bookstore. You have a long flight and nothing to read. There are only two books on the shelf. Which one would you buy?
Cynthia wakes late on a beautiful, sunny morning. She runs downstairs only to find her children have gotten themselves up and dressed, made a nutritious breakfast, packed their lunches and cleaned the kitchen. They are lined up at the front door, book bags in hand, smiling at the clever joke they’ve played on their lovely and lean mother.
After Cynthia drops the kids off at school, she takes a wonderful yoga class then has a delicious lunch with a good friend. That evening her handsome husband, Paul, comes home and informs her he got a raise. Paul, Cynthia and the kids are going to be able to take that European, dream vacation after all. One happy day follows another in this delightful four-hundred page novel.
Cynthia wakes late on a murky, gray morning. She has slept in because it’s quiet. Too quiet. She races through the house, but can’t find her three children anywhere. The kids aren’t at school, not at the neighbors, not at friends’ homes. They’ve simply disappeared.
Through a series of bizarre incidents, Cynthia and her husband Paul come to believe their children have been taken by a demented Yoga instructor who deals in trafficking the very flexible. This suspenseful saga follows Cynthia and Paul across Europe into the steamy world of underground circuses as they search for their missing progeny. Will they find Lillie, Lonnie, and Larry before they are permanently contorted? This page turner will keep you guessing all the way to its twisted conclusion.
Which book do you buy?
My guess is the second. Why? Because the first would be incredibly boring. Every burgeoning fiction writer is taught there must be conflict on the page in order to hook the reader.
Life without conflict is just as boring. We might not want to live through anything as extreme as having our children stolen and turned into contortionists, but one sunny day after another sounds like a snooze fest. Tweet: Our brains are wired to solve problems. If we don’t have any, we’ll invent them.
It’s true. The rich don’t have to figure out where their next pay check is coming from, how they’re going to pay the doctor, or worry about pleasing their impossible employer. If things are uncomfortable in one place, they can hop on a jet and go somewhere else.
As a result, they often invent their own drama. As a group, the ultra wealthy are less moral, more fearful of things the rest of us don’t worry about, and their children are more prone to self-destructive behaviors.
I just read a section of my critique partner’s (Dr. Diane Rogers) work-in-progress where she tells the story of an West German friend who came to visit her in sunny Southern California. The trip was a disaster. The fraulein—used to going without, gray days, and political oppression—couldn’t handle the superficiality of our cushy culture. Difficulties can make you dig deeper.
When bad things are approached with the right attitude, they cause us to grow.
Having a load of crap dumped on your front lawn, may look terrible and smell worse, but give it a chance to work it’s way in and down and magic happens. But, we must believe in the magic. Too many of us drag out our shovels and try to get rid of the very thing that could help us.
When we allow the bad news, not to define us, but to become a part of who we are, it can strengthen us.
There are many phenomenal athletes who’ve had diseases, disorders, or disasters that should have prevented them from participating in life, never mind sports. I’m sure their problem initially overwhelmed them like our proverbial blanket of poop, but through time and effort it was absorbed and became food for their souls.
Here are just a few stories:
Bad news leads to breakthroughs.
Daniel Kish’s mother got some bad news. Her little boy had cancer and had to have his eyes removed. To make matters worse, she wasn’t able to lavish time and attention on him like most parents of blind children do. She was too busy trying to avoid her drunk husband’s fists.
Daniel was left on his own to learn how to navigate the world, and he did. He developed a method of elocution in which he uses clicks like a bat uses sonar. Daniel learned to hike, climb trees, and even ride a bike. He knows not only where objects are, he can often tell you what they are.
Doctors found the areas of Daniel’s brain that normally control sight were activated by elocution. And, he does claim to see things in his mind. He says it’s like looking at the world through your peripheral vision. He can see shapes and forms but not details. He now teaches the blind to see.
The good news about bad news is it makes both fiction and life more rich and interesting.
Don’t get me wrong, I hate fighting my way through the fertilizer as much as the next person, but I’m learning to hold my nose and get on with it. If my characters can handle embarrassing failures, ghostly apparitions, and serial killers, I can buck up and deal with the difficulties of the publishing business.
So, back to the airport. Which book would you buy—Sunny Daze, or Contorted Kidnap? Vote below.
Photo courtesy of Hartwig HKD https://www.flickr.com/photos/h-k-d/