Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Using (Minor) Adversity to Breathe Life into Fiction

Picture this scene:

On the back porch of a house in a suburban Texas neighborhood, one small, brown snake lay curled around itself in the warm afternoon sun. A twelve-year-old boy spies the snake and alerts his brother and cousins. Soon, five children clamor around the reptile, pointing and hollering loud enough to attract the attention of the two middle-aged moms—my sister and me—who are inside the house. We shoot out the front door and run full-speed to the backyard.

“Josh, is its head triangular or round?” I ask, thinking that it looks round.

The group consensus is that it has a round head—it’s probably a garter snake—but I don’t want a snake in my yard, even if it’s not poisonous. I grab a shovel and a bucket.

Who am I kidding? The snake isn’t going to cooperate. It’s going to lunge, and I’m going to scream and fling the shovel.

We need a container with a larger opening for some wiggle room. I put down both the shovel and the bucket and pick up a cooler. “Let’s try this. Wait . . .” I peer at the drain spout. “Remember, the plug came off. That’s a pretty big opening. Do you think the snake can squeeze through here?”

“No,” my sister answers, “but even if it can, we’ll find something to plug it up.” She picks up the shovel.

Five barefooted children huddle around us like we need their help. Okay, I had asked my son if he thought it was poisonous. Now I remember that I’m the adult and responsible for their safety. I make swooping arm motions. “Y’all get back.”

I’m still worried about the opening in the cooler. I want to stuff it with a plastic bag, a stick, something. But there’s no time.

My sis has slid the shovel across the cement. Oops. The area isn’t smooth and she’s not able to slide under the snake easily like a spatula lifting a brownie.

The snake quickly slithers toward safety in the grass. Like a mother bear, my sister protects our young and attacks the reptile.


She strikes, but misses.

I shriek, which helps so much.

She charges the snake into the grass.


Another miss.

Another whack!

And another.

We no longer see the snake, so I suppose I can stop shrieking.

Whew! Hopefully, it has hightailed it to Austin by now. I really don’t care where it is—as long as it’s not on my property.

As the scene unfolded in my yard, I knew this little drama was worth it because someday it would play a small role in my fiction.

So when you face trials, even small ones, instead of getting upset, grab a piece of paper and jot down notes. With a simple change of your attitude, you can allow “all things to work together for good. “ Not only will you make lemonade out of your lemons, you’ll find that you have great stories to tell.

Seems like I’m adding to the list every day. Oh, well. They’re only inconveniences, like a snake on the back porch, but they’re going to become conflicts for my characters.

Join me in using adversity to breathe life into our fiction.



Anonymous said...

What a hoot! Reminds me of a few very similar situations at our own house! Thanks for the reminder about turning adversity into opportunity :)

Diane G said...

Wow! That sounds straight from a book, plus a lesson as an added bonus. Great job! I am looking for someone to look over my high schoolers writing papers, because I have no clue what to look for.

octopusmom said...

It sounds a whole lot better when you write it than when we lived it! I look forward to seeing this in one of your future books.

Lisa Jordan said...

~shudder shudder~ There is no such thing as a good snake. I have such a phobia of snakes that I scream over rubber snakes.

Roxanne, I admire your bravado and pray your snake has hightailed it to Austin.

In Lori Copeland's book, Mother of Prevention, her character finds a black snake in her attic. It was challenging for me to finish that scene and still be able to visit my attic.

You're so right about using adversity in our writing. Not only does it add depth to the scene, but you're able to minister to someone else who may be going through something similar--even if it is ridding your yard of snakes.

Loved the spatula lifting a brownie analogy!

kb said...

that story was hilarious...I think I remember similar reactions from my mom. Especially the day that the snake got out and my mom got to put it back in it's cage. She has never let my brother live that one down!

Heard your interview a few weeks ago. Thanks for sharing your story. It was powerful.

Eileen said...

Adversity-good fiction. Hmmm, what a great point. I need a spiral notebook on my hip!

sue said...

my favorite topic, adversity as opportunity!:) Again one of the many reasons I'm glad to have you as part of my life.

Learning from children too! How do we go from the desire to attack evil to complacency about evil, now that we're older and more mature?


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