Tuesday, March 8, 2011

An apology, Dickens, and how hubby slammed the Cadburys

First off, I must apologize for the mixed metaphor as title for my last blog post. I hope it bothers all my readers less than it bothers me. The truth is, I could go in and change it, but I choose to leave it there as a twisted form of "writer's punishment" for myself. Possibly as a motivator never to do it again. (Fodder and data-mining. One is food. One is mining. Honestly. I could have made an effort.)

So, I was reading (again) the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities the other day. I say "again" because I've read the beginning a LOT of times. I don't mean just the "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" part. I mean the first three chapters. Much as I love Dickens, (and I seriously do love Dickens and many of his contemporaries), this words on the pages of this book begin to swirl before my very eyes. I love the movie, I love the characters, it's magnificent. I just get stuck somewhere about halfway through.

I WILL conquer it, however. Someday.

In the meantime, I will continue to reflect on this little gem of writerly insight from the beginning. Dickens muses at the beginning of chapter three to this effect:

"A wonderful fact of nature to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other."

He goes on, and waxes eloquent in expounding on this theme. I love it. You can read it here. I have reflected on this idea dozens of times, and probably mentioned it to YOU (if you and I speak on any kind of regular basis because I'm like that, repeating myself everywhere I go). Even someone I think I know very well, like my husband, or my sister, or my bestest friend, still houses secrets I will never know. The thoughts, dark and light, will only come to my knowledge if the person allows me in.

It's a gift God gives us.

And, a friend commented Saturday, "Plus, do we really know ourselves?"

This struck me. And suddenly I realized something about fiction, and why we love it, why we crave it, why we almost need it: fiction allows us a window into another person's soul.

The writer slits open the character and gives us a view of deep feelings, of motives, of fears, of doubts and misgivings, of anger, hate, jealousy, love, longing, despair. The list goes on. And the more expertly the author delivers the emotions, the greater the connection the reader will feel to it, and the more satisfying it will be. Perhaps this is because we long to understand others, or ourselves. The writer conveys a full banquet of emotions we ourselves have felt, and probably not expressed to anyone. It comes as a relief to us to recognize those same emotions lain bare in someone else, even someone fictional. It doesn't matter if it's fictional, because the more real the emotions, the more real the character is to the reader.

Readers read for character. Character revelation is plot. We feel a connection to a character, we're most likely going to read that book. The greater the connection, the faster we read the book. Period.

Connection. A glance at the secret inner workings of the soul. Sometimes the character expresses the feelings, and sometimes the author can convey emotion that the character himself cannot recognize honestly in himself. Both deliveries can be valid, if done well.

And now, I need a new delivery: another bag of Cadbury Mini-Eggs, if you please. The one I bought just over 24 hours ago is officially empty. I even shook the little candy shards left in the crevices into my hand and popped them in my mouth. Did I share with the children? Maybe one or two. When Gary tasted them, he disparaged them (is that the root of the term "dissed?") and was thereafter forbidden, even while we were watching Hulu retreads and mindlessly popping candy in our mouths. Instead, I tossed him mini Twix bars in pastel mylar wrappers.

I know, I know, I am leaving out important detail, as in how Gary slammed the Cadburys. (Shame on him!) It's not nice to repeat low gossip. But since it's about chocolate and not a *person*, fine. Fine! He said the chocolate wasn't quite right. It was of low quality. How DARE he!

He's a chocolate snob, though. And I'll love him through thick and thin(mint) of it all. So, I guess I need to go buy him a Dove Dark Chocolate Bunny that he can chip the ears off and leave melty shards (speaking of shards) of on my bedspread during Hulu marathons while I hog the Cadburys. But he better keep his mitts of them. They're mine.


  1. Love your blog and this post! You are hilarious. I understand about Dickens. My french teacher gave me Two Cities in Junior High and I finished it in 2009! Sheesh. And you have not helped my chocolate cravings one bit.

  2. Thanks, Tamara. I love your blog too. So inspired by the fact you finished A Tale of Two Cities! I hope no one who LOVES it reads this and becomes a Jen-hater now. I bet I'll love it too-WHEN I finish it. Someday...

  3. How Funny. A Tale of Two Cities is the only Dickens novel I actually finished! It took me a few chapters (about 3) to get used to the writing, but after that--I ate it up! Thanks for your comments about character development because I'm thinking a lot about that as I'm editing. By the way, Cadbury Eggs are holy at our house-- feel free to come and enjoy them anytime you want! :)

  4. "Thick and thin (mints)" LOL! I actually saw "Thick Mints" at the store the other day. I didn't know they existed. They were right there alongside the Thin Mints and the Raspberry Mints. Yum! (except I didn't buy any)

  5. That is SUCH good news, Marsha. I am going to find those Thick Mints. Or die trying! (How's that for character motivation expression?)


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