Even Santa has to “Go” now and then …
“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”
Proverbs 17:22, Holy Bible.
More than three years ago, I did a post discussing how so many of our stories have characteristics and qualities that are both generic and universal. That fact is so true that we’ve even cultivated phrasing and syntax patterns that fit specific themes and plots. The whole concept is fascinating to me. (Naturally it would be, considering that I’m not only a writer, but also a creative writing teacher.)
So I decided to experiment a little with writing a story using nonsense terms instead of normal nouns and verbs. — to demonstrate the fact that any avid reader would be able to understand the story with very little trouble. The reason readers will understand is that the pattern, plot, and emotional tone all fit a specific type of fiction. The experiment was fun, and I often use it in my writing classes as an example to my students that many times it isn’t just choosing the right word that matters. It’s also how we put those words together that makes the whole piece a good story.
I decided to share the experiment again on this site. Hope you enjoy it.
THE BONDO DELAFOR
The young delafor wandered through the cogem, wishing he could find a delafora to be his rhuba. He’d heard the fonders tell of bondo delafors who had won the hands of delaforas by zonering the terrible goganbulls. He knew the goganbulls were threatening the cogem, and many delafors were terrizon of them. He didn’t know if he were bondo enough to zoner a goganbull or not, but he hoped he’d have a chance.
One day the great kinba of the cogem announced that a goganbull had been spotted just outside the cogem. The great kinba porsayed that he would give the most beautiful delafora to the delafor who zonered that goganbull.
So the young delafor raced to his stetsa, hopped on, and took off to find the goganbull and zoner it. When he found the goganbull, it was maxma! It was so maxma that the young delafor’s stetsa reared up, threw the delafor off, and ran away. Now the only thing the delafor had was his pontier. So he looked the goganbull in the eye, stood up straight and tall and shumed toward him. Keeping eye contact, he shumed all the way to within two feet of him. The goganbull gloamed and hot smeltz came from his buzzle.
But the young delafor rememberd the beautiful delafora who was porsayed by the great kinba. The delafor wanted that delafora for his rhuba very badly. So he aimed his pontier and shumed the last two feet toward the goganbull; then he flumed his pontier right into the goganbulls corva. With one horrible gloam, the goganbull fell over, and black smoke roold from his buzzle. Then all was quiet.
The young delafor took his pontier and whapped off the goganbull’s henda and carried it back to the great kinba. That day the young delafor won the most beautiful delafora in the cogem to be his very own rhuba. And they both lived schnookumy ever after.
I dragged this story out of my archives this morning. I had totally forgotten about writing it more than two years ago, and I enjoyed it so much myself I decided to give it another exposure on this site.
The sun was low in the sky and to my back. I lay on the ground, looking up at the clouds and turning them into all sorts of things. One looked very much like a turtle. One like a smiley face, since it had two holes where the blue peaked through, giving it eyes, and another opening that really did look surprisingly like a grin on a child’s face. One of the clouds looked a little like an old school teacher I’d had who wore her hair piled high on her head in a beehive style. Boy, did that thought give way to pondering where time has gone.
Suddenly, I heard a branch crack behind me. Now, I’m not normally skittish, but this cracking sound was loud enough that I knew it must have been more than just the normal activity of birds or squirrels in the bushes. And, since I was in my own back yard, with a fence around the perimeter, there shouldn’t have been any other creatures – human or otherwise – setting foot beyond that fence uninvited. I didn’t welcome that sound.
I didn’t sit up immediately, but sort of rolled my head to look toward my left first – and saw nothing out of the ordinary. Then I rolled my head toward the right side, and on the ground beside me I saw the shadow of a huge head – not human – but obviously belonging to a beast of a different sort. My heartbeat went into double time, but I just lay there sort of frozen. As I watched, fighting down panic as well as I could, the shadow moved, coming forward and revealing the shoulder area, two legs, and an enormous frame.
I thought about praying, but the words stuck in my throat. I suppose I did manage a silent cry for help, but my primary thought was how to manage rising from my vulnerable position without seeming a threat to said beast and prompting a vicious attack on my person. I contemplated what I had available as a weapon. Well, there was a broken branch or two close by that had blown from a few surrounding trees during a recent windstorm. I glanced again to my left to see if I might be able to reach out for one without actually moving the rest of my body.
As I did so, I felt rather than saw the beast move closer to me. Frantically, I scanned the area to my left, but found no branches big enough to provide weaponry. Just small twigs and several old leaves. Not even a big rock. Finally, I decided that I couldn’t just lie there any longer. If I did so, I was obviously going to be dead meat, and just maybe my jumping up quickly would be enough to throw off the beast’s attention and give me time to start running.
Okay. I squeezed my eyes shut and psyched myself to do it, but just as I opened my eyes, the huge shadow suddenly loomed right over my head, and I knew it was hopeless to try to escape. I could hear it breathing in my ear. Then I really did decide to pray, because if this were to be my home-going, I wanted to be ready. I squeezed my eyes shut again, bracing myself for the impact of the attack, when to my greater shock, something sloppy wet took hold of my right ear. The next thing I knew something else cold and wet nudged me in the side of my neck. And then my face was being slathered with slobber from my chin to my temple. What was it doing? Tasting me to see if I merited being eaten?
I put my hand up to try to cover my face, and when I did, this little furry body just sort of threw itself at my hand and started whining and wriggling, trying to get my hand away. Well, the body attacking mine was so much smaller than I had anticipated that I decided I could open my eyes and chance a look. So I opened one eye and squinted between my fingers, which I still had pressed against my face, and what I saw brought me into a sitting position roaring with laughter.
The little yellow lab puppy who was pouncing me and trying to give me a bath in his saliva couldn’t have been more than three or four months old. So this was the beast I’d seen in shadow form? Surely I wasn’t foolish enough to have made a mistake like that. But upon making the effort to sit upright fully and look around me in all directions, I realized that, sure enough, this little pup and I were the sole occupants of my huge back yard. He was little enough he could have squeezed under the fence if he’d had a mind to. And on further reflection, I realized that considering how low in the sky the sun had been, if it had been shining just right on that little fellow’s body, he would have thrown a shadow many times larger than his real size.
I grabbed the little guy and took him onto my lap, giving him a few good scratches behind the ears and a thorough belly rub. While doing so, I thought about how so many of the problems in my life had looked bigger than life and had threatened to destroy me. But, in truth, when I had finally decided to stand up to them and look them square in the eye and recognize them for exactly what they were and nothing more, I had forced them to show their true identity. And when all was said and done, they were always smaller than I was, and I had eventually defeated every one of them.
I determined to make a lasting mental note of my experience that day and to remember the lesson I’d learned from that little fellow with the monster shadow: Never judge a problem – or a puppy – by its fearsome shadow.
I was rambling through my archives today and came across this poem. Thought I’d give it a fresh airing — just ’cause I like it.
Oh, I wish I were in love.
How I love to be in love!
It’s so great to be in love —
Until you’re dumped.
Oh, but love is so exciting,
With emotions all igniting,
In the favored one delighting —
‘Til you’re dumped.
I believed in sweet romance,
Loving arms in which to dance,
Titillated by a glance —
Then I got dumped.
Now, I’m not so sure of love,
It’s so hard real love to prove,
And if I don’t fall in love —
I can’t get dumped!
Perhaps I should let my faithful readers know that this poem is not based on a true story. Actually it grew out of a brief experience I had today when I turned on the car radio and heard a song from my high school days. It took me instantly back to a restaurant where I was enjoying some time with a guy I “thought” I was semi-in-love with. Our relationship never did develop into anything serious, and for a short time, I was unhappy. However, by 5 years later, I was thanking God that I never got into anything more serious with him than a mere friendship. I do pity his wife a good deal. But as I thought about that experience, I just sat down to write a poem about how we tend to fall in love with love sometimes, and — well — this is what I ended up with.
At the grocer’s.
Just as I was all done.
My cart full of goodies is now
Am now soaked through.
Left umbrella in car.
Stupid and now paying for it:
Question # 1: Do you prefer eating foods with nuts or no nuts?
Well, of course, it depends on what I’m eating. Nuts are great in cookies, candy, salads, and even ice cream. But I can’t tolerate the thought of having nuts in my mashed potatoes, green beans, pork roast, lasagna, or chicken soup (yuk).
Question # 2: Do you sleep with your close doors open or closed?
I generally leave them open. Two of those doors belong to a walk-through closet between bedrooms. I leave them open all the time because it just doesn’t make sense to keep closing them only to open them to walk through again. And, frankly, I don’t see any reason to close bedroom closet doors at all. However, when I lived in a house that had closets in the front foyer or the living room, I did close those.
I used to be a little negligent about closing kitchen cabinet doors, until my Dad got onto me about it. He had a “thing” about closing cabinet doors, and I got pretty good about doing it. Now, every time I get something out of my kitchen cabinet, I think about hearing him say, “Close those doors.” I’d give a lot to have him back here with me to tell me that again.
Question # 3: Are you usually late, early, or right on time?
I refuse to answer this question on the grounds that it may incriminate me.
Question # 4: What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?
I really appreciate Angela Fehr’s watercolor instruction videos. She’s a watercolor artist from Canada and very down-to-earth and unhurried when she explains techniques. I watched several of her videos this past week. Here’s a sample of one of them in case you’re interested:
Visit Cee’s Photography to get the scoop on how to participate in this weekly challenge.
She had a winsome smile and quite a winsome way.
Her voice so musical refreshed the air.
Her winsome little dimple and her twinkling eyes of blue
Caught all the young and callow fellows unaware.
She captured their attention neatly, one by one.
And beckoned them to step within her door
And sample tastes of tea and pastries, succulent and sweet,
And promised, if they were behaved, she’d offer more.
So each one stepped inside, expecting much delight,
And ate his fill at ample table spread.
Then while each gazed and swooned and pondered more delights to come,
Her poison worked its magic until each was dead.
Sorry I missed a few weeks of my “Friday Funnies,” but there’s just been too much to do. Anyway, I’m back again and have a good one for you. This is one of my favorite Don Knotts scenes from the Andy Griffith Show. I’ve loved this show since I was a kid, and I have more than 200 episodes in my own collection. But I wanted to find a version on YouTube so it would be easy to share.
Now, this is probably not my ‘all-time’ favorite Don Knotts scene. I think that award would have to go to the one where Aunt Bee goes into the office and says she’s about to faint. Barney gets all nervous and says “Oh no, you can’t do that.” Then he starts jumping around her, almost touching her, but holding back, and finally says, “We need to loosen something. You got anything we can loosen?” Of course, it isn’t as funny when you can’t see Barney, but I couldn’t find that one anywhere on a video I could share. So here’s the runner-up for my favorite.
If you’d like to share your own “Friday Funnies,” just post on your own site and hop over here and leave a link to that post in my “Comments” section below.
And remember: God’s Word promises, “Laughter doeth good like a medicine.”
If we were having coffee together today, I’d tell you that I need about 3 more cups, along with a huge piece of chocolate cake and a handful of potato chips — you know — for that ‘sweet & salty’ touch. It could be that I’m just hungry because I’m writing this at suppertime. But I’m not fixing supper right now because I’m waiting for my nephew to come and move a very heavy appliance for me. So I’m probably just really, really hungry period. But boy, the coffee and chocolate cake would make a great supper, if you ask me.
I’ve had a very busy week, but it’s not the kind of stuff I really want to spend time going back over, so instead of telling you about my week, I’m going to do something different this time around. I’m going to give you one of my stories from what will soon be an anthology of short stories from the Elixir of Life Coffeehouse. So put your feet up and have another cup on me while you read.
AS THE PLOT UNRAVELS
“I don’t know what to do,” Neville groaned, rubbing his hands roughly over his face. Then he pushed his laptop out of the way and leaned both elbows onto the coffeehouse table, propping his chin in his hands.
“What’s wrong?” Clarence, the waiter bussing the table next to Neville’s, turned to question him.
Neville looked up, startled. “Oh … blast … I didn’t realize I had said that out loud. Sorry,” he added looking sheepishly around the room to see if other customers had heard. He was relieved to see that Elixir of Life Coffeehouse was having one of its quieter days.
“No problem,” Clarence answered and walked over to Neville’s table. “Can I get you a refill?”
“Yeah, that would be great,” Neville answered, handing the boy his cup. “It’s been a rough writing day.”
The young man returned in record time with Neville’s refill and stayed to talk a moment. “Do you have what they call writer’s block?”
“No.” Neville shook his head and continued. “No, Clarence. This isn’t writer’s block. In fact, I almost wish I did have that dreaded condition. My problem isn’t that I can’t get the story to move along. This story is moving along at an incredible pace. The problem is that it’s writing itself, and my original plot is unraveling as fast as I can put my fingers to the keys.”
“You mean you’re not in control of your own story?” Clarence looked at Neville as if he had lost his mind — just a little. And that made Neville laugh.
“Don’t worry, my boy,” he said. “I’ve not gone bonkers yet. And … thanks for making me laugh. It helps. But to answer your question, no, I’m not in control of my own story.”
“Wow … how does that happen?” Clarence asked, really into this new information he was being exposed to.
“Well it’s not too unusual for a writer to get into a novel and find that one of his characters seems to gravitate in a direction other than what he had originally planned — or that the story seems to be flowing toward an ending that’s different from what he jotted down in his outline. But what’s happening in my story is different.”
Neville shook his head and sighed. “I’m not sure how it’s happened, but every character seems to be taking on a brand new identity and making his own decisions. The guy I had pegged as the hero has suddenly become the villain, and the woman he loves is rapidly developing feelings for his best friend — which means he will probably end up killing his best friend — he’s already entertained the idea — and maybe even offing the woman as well.”
“But does it matter who ends up being the villain and the hero — I mean — as long as you have one of each, it’ll come out even, right?”
Neville chuckled. “Well, it’s not quite that easy. My publisher assigned me a contract to do a specific kind of story. One that will be a believable sequel to my last three novels. They were moneymakers, and I’d hate to mess up a record like that. I spent the money I made on them, and now I need more.” He rubbed his face agitatedly again. “Besides that, I’d be breaking my contract if I didn’t give them what I guaranteed.”
“MmMmm, you do have a problem,” Clarence said, so engulfed in the conversation now that he just sat right down at the table beside Neville. They both sat in silence for a moment, Neville stirring his coffee and staring at it as if he could somehow find an answer in the dark liquid. Finally Clarence asked, “Why don’t you just delete all that part that changed and go back to your first chapter and start over on the story you intended to write. That would take care of it wouldn’t it?”
“Unfortunately, I’m not able to do that.”
“Why not?” Clarence asked, his face showing his obvious confusion.
“Well, Clarence … as strange as I’m sure it sounds to you … the truth is that I’ve totally lost track of the story I intended to write … and besides ….” He paused and glanced off to the side, lost in thought for a long moment. Clarence waited, figuring Neville was trying to work out a plan.
Suddenly Neville looked back at Clarence with a smile on his face. He looked serene now, rather than agitated, and Clarence leaned toward him across the table to ask, “You figure something out? How to stop this runaway story?”
“Nope,” Neville said, grinning wider. “I’m not going to stop this story, Clarence.”
Neville reached over and rested his hand on Clarence’s shoulder. “Clarence, my boy, I’ve made a decision. I’m going to give this story my whole heart and soul and let it lead me wherever it wants to go.”
“But what about your contract and all?”
“Blast the contract,” Neville said, beginning to close up his laptop and slip his notes into his briefcase. “If that publisher can’t see the truth about the value of this story, then he can sue me.”
“No more ‘but’s‘ my boy,” Neville answered, rising from his chair, laptop under his arm. “This is the best damn story I’ve ever written in my life, and I’ve just decided I’m free enough to give my creativity its own head and let it take me to my destiny.”
He slapped down his last five dollar bill as a tip for Clarence and headed out the door, whistling.
If you’d like to take part in the “Weekend Coffee Share” posts, hop over to Eclectic Ali’s site and get the details about how to join the group.
Several years ago, I took part in a 100-word story challenge based on the photo below. The photo had no copyright identification, so I can’t give any either, and I’m sorry about that because it’s a great shot. But over the years, my imagination kept going back to that story and enlarging on it. In the updated and enlarged version of the story, I’ve taken a good deal of license with what scripture actually says about angels, but, hopefully, God being the good sport that He is, I can plead journalistic license for this particular piece and get away with it.
WENDELL’S ANGEL NEEDS A RAISE
Angel #47,000,000 smiled at Wendell, lumbering through the museum, camera in hand. Wendell Avery loved coming here on his day off work. One of those people who couldn’t seem to create art himself, he had an amazing appreciation of other people’s talent.
Number 47,000,000, whose nickname was Swoop, had been Wendell’s guardian since birth – about twenty-seven years. And what a ride it had been! In fact, it was working with Wendell that had earned #47,000,000 this nickname, because on any given day, he had to literally swoop in and out of awkward situations in order to defray one kind of catastrophe or another.
Wendell loved life! Though heavy and awkward – right at 300 pounds — he liked doing everything and seemed totally unaware that his large frame could be dangerous when he wasn’t careful. And he had a big, compassionate heart. Swoop was proud to see how generous Wendell was, especially to little kids and elderly people. The angel heaved a sigh now as he expressed his thoughts aloud: “If Wendell could just learn to be more careful how he moves!”
Even today, just visiting the museum for two hours had totaled up a pretty impressive list of incidents that added significantly to the stress of Swoop’s job. So far, he had rescued a $100,000 sculpture Wendell had accidentally jabbed with his elbow, a $60,000 clock that had skidded to the edge of the table it sat on – when Wendell had stepped aside to let an elderly lady pass him – and a glass case holding $200,000 worth of rare jewels which Wendell had bumped with his rump.
All three times, the alarm had blared, and the museum doors had locked down. People froze in position, some of them with fear in their eyes as they looked around wildly trying to figure out what was going on. Each time, the museum curator had made his way to Wendell as quickly as possible, fairly certain that the source of trouble lay in that direction. After all, the security cameras had recorded a number of such incidents almost every time Wendell visited.
But the museum directors – so far – had not seen fit to bar Wendell from the premises. It was a public museum, after all, and Wendell’s taxes helped pay for the expositions. If truth were known, the curator had a soft spot in his heart for Wendell, but he was facing a board of directors who were becoming more and more worried. In fact, Number 47,000,000 had been called into the main office in Heaven and encouraged to keep a tighter rein on his charge for everyone’s peace of mind.
But, at least, things would be settling down for today. Wendell wanted just one more picture – a hand-painted vase that had just been put on display this morning. So Number 47,000,000 took a deep breath and finally started to relax.
Wendell found the vase, prepared his camera, and then bent for a close-up.
Wendell’s rump had made contact with the pedestal behind him, and one Ming vase was going down!
“Heaven help us!” cried Number 47,000,000, and he did indeed mean it as a prayer.
“Whew! Nice catch, even if I do say so myself,” Number 47,000,000 whispered. He gingerly set the vase back in place and looked over at Wendell, who was checking his watch. Wendell nodded to himself. “Yep, time to go.”
Number 47,000,000 sighed with relief and fell in step beside his charge as they exited the museum. As they walked down the sidewalk, Wendell started checking the pictures in his camera. He got excited about the great shots he’d gotten and didn’t notice when he walked right off the curb into the path of an oncoming semi.
“Heavens, that was a close one!” Number 47,000,000 whispered. He’d actually felt the heat of the exhaust as the truck brushed by within an inch of him. Wendell, unconcerned since he hadn’t realized he’d been in such danger, kept walking and concentrating on his camera.
Number 47,000,000 lovingly spread his right wing around Wendell, took a deep breath, and smiled. The truth was that he really did like his job. He wouldn’t want any other angel to have responsibility for Wendell. However, all things considered, he decided that as soon as he got Wendell safely home, he was going up to the head office and have a talk with God about a raise.
If we were having coffee together today, I’d tell you that I had the funniest thing happen concerning my writing this week. One of the students in my creative writing class stopped to talk with me after our recent class and told me that he had just finished reading one of my novels. He said he had enjoyed it, but he had discovered a discrepancy that he thought I’d want to know about.
He referred me to the scenes in question and explained that in an early scene I had mentioned a bathroom not having a window at all (something important to the plot), and then in a much later scene I had referred to the size of the “bathroom window.” My mouth fell open as I listened to him, and my response was what you might expect: “You’re kidding!!!” And then, of course, I thanked him for telling me and told him I’d check it out immediately.
Well, sure enough, folks. He was right. Not only did I say there was no bathroom window in one scene, but later, in two different scenes, I mentioned there being a bathroom window. So … unless I want to bring in a construction company and allow them to remodel the house as part of the plot, I need to rewrite my description of that bathroom.
Now, the funny part is this: I had written the first four chapters of that book a few years ago and had gotten bogged down with it and just put it on a shelf. Last year I decided I really wanted to finish it, so I promised my website readers that I would post the story one chapter a day on my site in order to force myself to finish the story in a timely fashion. So people from all over the world read that story, one chapter at a time, and commented on it. A few got very involved with it. And of course, the book had two different editing sessions before it went into publication as a complete work. Yet not one person noticed that a bathroom window had suddenly appeared in a bathroom that had no window.
I told my student that he is the only living human being who caught that mistake. I also suggested that maybe he should get a job as a proofreader. 🙂 But I’m so glad he didn’t hold back, afraid to tell me about the mistake — particularly since I was his writing teacher. There are some people who probably would have been hesitant to say anything. And I’m glad that I no longer publish that book with the original publisher, but I currently have it published through a self-publishing platform with Amazon. So that means I can get into the system, correct my mistake, and make sure only the corrected text gets published from now on.
The whole episode was a tad embarrassing, but it was also a great teaching tool, in that it serves to re-emphasize the truth that editing and re-writing are, without question, the most important part of writing any book.
Hope you’ve enjoyed our coffee time. Would anyone like a refill? I think I could use another cup. I have some rewriting to do …
Thanks to Eclectic Ali for hosting our coffee share.