The Write Way
3 July 2009
You don't need me to tell you that the gap between what we'd like to believe and what is actually true can sometimes be a tad on the wide side, and nowhere is this more so than when it comes to our opinions about ourselves.
I was reminded of this fact of life last week when I inadvertently accompanied a friend on a visit to the home of a woman she had to see on a business matter ... I'd actually quite literally bumped into this friend at the local shopping centre as we both reached absently for a bag of avocadoes-on-special while our separate minds were engaged elsewhere. Startled at feeling warm fingers where we'd expected to find firm fruit, we both pulled back, laughed in recognition and, shopping forgotten, set off together in search of coffee ... as you do.
Refuelled and caught up with the latest news, my friend offered to drive me home since the rain clouds were threatening to make liars of the weather forecasters who'd predicted fine, fine, fine for the rest of the week. And while I'd taken notice when I observed all our neighbourhood ants building high nests and had come on my walk equipped with an umbrella, I'm not one to pass up the opportunity for a longer chat with a mate, so I hopped in.
As we were driving out of the car park, she made one of those slap-your-forehead cartoon-like gestures that indicate something forgotten suddenly remembered and asked if I'd mind if we made a slight detour while she delivered some item to a customer of hers who lived only slightly out of our way.
Of course I had no objection, and when we pulled up outside the house, and my friend asked me to help her carry in the large, bulky item, I agreed.
Greeting my friend with a squeal of delight, our hostess dragged us into the house and shut the door, exclaiming over her happiness at the contents of the box, which turned out to be one of those massive decorative objets-d'art that simply take up space and gather dust and serve no useful purpose. She bubbled about how well it would look in her living room and how it would contribute to the ambience of the room ... and on and on in a similar vein.
She then proceeded to lead us through to this living room, and I muttered one of those one-size-fits-all platitudes along the lines of, "You must be very proud." And as we negotiated our way between teetering towers of toys, around mounds of dirty washing and past piles of household fluff that would make an Eider duck weep with envy, she turned to me, adopted a serious look, nodded and announced, "I'm a meticulous house-keeper."
"Ah!" I thought, "real and professed values clash again."
Because we all do it.
"I think women should have equal opportunities ... the little pets!" says the male employer who doesn't have a clue.
"I respect your right to worship all your crackpot gods," says the tolerant man.
"I'm very health-conscious and always watch what I eat," says the shopper, loading her trolley with fat-free donuts, salt-reduced pre-packaged crumbed manufactured meat products, cheese in a spray can and two dozen cans of diet soft drink.
"We value our family time together," says the father, settling in front of the telly to watch a DVD while his wife buries her nose in the latest whodunnit, his daughter sends frantic text messages to her friends and his son plugs himself into his latest game.
Got you thinking yet?
Here's a little exercise for the next rainy weekend ... Get a piece of paper and draw up two columns. On one side put the heading Professed Values then underneath, jot down all the things you think you believe in.
The next step is to go back to the top of your page and on the second column, write in Real Values. Now go through your list and jot down an example of something you've actually done that illustrates each quality or value you've listed.
Interesting exercise, isn't it?
You can also do this with your characters if you're writing a novel or story, because it's this 'fractured perfection' that makes characters (and real people) so fascinating.
No, no, don't thank me ... Shucks ... Just send money!
This week's Little Something Extra has some more advice on creating believable characters ...
And some housekeeping tips for my friend's customer ...
1. It's time to clean out the refrigerator when
something closes the door from the inside.
This week's quiz:
Here are some words to describe your different characters ... or people of your acquaintance:
pusillanimous, sequacious, tatterdemalion, perfervid, recalcitrant, macroscian, rident, pertinacious, oscitant, pococurante
1. person in ragged clothes
2. stubbornly resistant to authority
3. unthinkingly following others
4. one who casts a long shadow
5. stubbornly unyielding; holding resolutely to a purpose, belief or opinion
6. lacking courage; timid
7. yawning, gaping from drowsiness; inattentive, dull, negligent
8. laughing; cheerful
9. indifferent, apathetic, nonchalant
10. extremely or excessively passionate
And did you know that one of the more important of the Patron Saints is San Andreas, the patron saint of generosity? In fact, people say he was generous to a fault ...
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Last week's quiz:
aardvark, spelunk, pumpernickel, plunk, floccinaucinihilipilification, hornswoggle, ennui, polliwog, rutabaga, hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia
1. to swindle, cheat, hoodwink, or hoax - HORNSWOGGLE
2. nocturnal burrowing mammal of the grasslands of Africa that feeds on termites - AARDVARK (This has the added bonus of looking funny as well as sounding funny)
3. a brassicaceous plant, Brassica napobrassica, having a yellow- or white-fleshed, edible tuber - RUTABAGA
4. to explore caves - SPELUNK
5. the fear of long words - HIPPOPOTOMONSTROSESQUIPPEDALIOPHOBIA (Ah! Another of those wonderful ironies!)
6. a tadpole - POLLIWOG
7. a feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from satiety or lack of interest; boredom - ENNUI
8. a coarse, dark, slightly sour bread made of unbolted rye - PUMPERNICKEL (dictionary.com explains why we have extra reason to find this word silly: an opprobrious name for anyone considered disagreeable, equiv. to pumper(n) to break wind + Nickel hypocoristic from of Nikolaus Nicholas (cf. nickel ); presumably applied to the bread from its effect on the digestive system.)
9. an act or instance of judging something to be worthless or trivia; the estimation of something as valueless - action or habit of estimating as worthless - FLOCCINAUCINIHILIPILIFICATION (dictionary.com tells us about the origins of this wonderfully silly-sounding word: "c.1741, a combination of four Latin words (flocci, nauci, nihili, pilifi) all signifying "at a small price" or "for nothing," which were listed together in a rule of the well-known Eton Latin Grammar. The kind of jocular formation that was possible among educated men in Britain in those days. Just so, as in praesenti, the opening words of mnemonic lines on conjugation in Lilley's 16c. Latin grammar, could stand alone as late as 19c. and be understood to mean "rudiments of Latin."
10. to pluck (a stringed instrument or its strings); twang; to throw, push, put, drop, etc., heavily or suddenly; plump; to push, shove, toss, etc - PLUNK
Some students of indeterminate hair colour in a class at University were given an assignment to measure the height of a flagpole. So they went out to the flagpole with ladders and tape measures, but they fell off the ladders, dropped the tape measures and pencils -- the whole thing was just a mess.
An engineering student walking past saw what they were trying to do. So he walked over, pulled the flagpole out of the ground, laid it flat, measured it from end to end, gave the measurement to one of the students and then walked away.
After the engineer had gone, one student turned to another and laughed, "Isn't that just like a dumb engineer? We were looking for the height, and he gave us the length!"
A Little Something Extra
Did you know that what your characters eat is important? No? Then find out why you should consider food when creating characters.
How to create good characters
How to really get to know your characters and their environments
Word of the week: Subdolous (adj) Sly; crafty; cunning
I'm sure you know a couple of subdolous individuals ...
And a Latin phrase I guarantee you'll be able to use this weekend ...
(What time is lunch?)
Recommend this page to other writers by clicking the Recommend it! button below, then see what pages others are recommending here.
Did you know that you can have your very own Latin reminders? How about undies proclaiming, Bene est rex esse? (It's good to be king) Or a shopping bag that warns, Emptrix nata sum (Born to shop)?
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Copyright Jennifer Stewart 2009
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Copyright 2009 Jennifer Stewart Write101.com