This is one of the ways that I write. I’m told it’s a vignette rather than a story because there is no real conflict. Also, it’s describing more than it’s following the action. I’ve seen books that do that very thing, at least intermittently, but that’s no excuse. The rule is show, don’t tell.
Of course that only works if you stick to the surface of events and/or if you stick to people and social conventions that are like the people who will be reading what you’ve written. Or, rather, like the stories that they’ve heard. Most people don’t really know themselves worth spit, myself included, let alone really know other people. We know the stories that we tell or are told. We know the excuses that will fly.
We are full of fallacies and glosses, although I’m not sure that’s the right word. I like the sound of it, though: glosses. I’m not going to look it up, either. For now I will treasure my ignorance.
One definition of gloss is a footnote or sidenote added to a book in annotation. (1) Another, in the phrase ‘to gloss over’, means to hide by obscuring. And gloss means shine. So it feels like I’m saying that we have a shining explanation on the top, that’s hiding a very different truth underneath.
Sometimes I wonder what would happen to children who were taught all of the fallacies and glosses (I’ll come back to this idea several times over this month, and I hope I’ll work out a good explanation of what I mean by it) that humans are prey to. Just as every grade rubric includes milestones for language and arithmetic, etc., there would be a rubric for how the human brain (backed by the rest of the body) works. I think of it as Primatology 101, bit I know that wouldn’t fly.
I also know that whatever was taught would not be applied to what any individual self was doing. It might get applied to things that others were doing. But more likely it would be dismissed by crap by the kids’ parents, so that the kids would know to dismiss it themselves. Oh, well. I’m still going to come back to the idea.
If you don’t think that any of this has much to do with Red and his story and to the way that I wrote his story, you’re completely right. Although this may explain, at least partly, why I don’t put enough conflict in my vignettes to turn them into stories. One, I lost focus. Two, conflict makes me nervous. I’d rather spend energy figuring out a way to avoid the conflict. Three . . . well, maybe if I knew of a third thing holding me back, I could lick this thing and crank out rip-snortin’ yarns.
Or maybe not. Feel free to comment and criticize. Or to psychoanalyze me. Not that you’ll be seeing ME, here. You’ll only be seeing the surface. Just little vignettes.
(1)When I was young, I used to call my Mother’s sister Anno. Because when I had been very young, I hadn’t been able to say Aunt Ethyl, and the adults in the near family had thought it was cute. So I was encouraged to continue and it wasn’t until some adult (2) had, with pleasure, informed me where the nickname had originated. I began to use it less after that.
It hadn’t immediately felt wrong, or felt like an error being perpetuated. It’s just that I was conscious, every time I said it, that it was something that I had started and that others had continued. And there were other, younger children, now. And no one was picking up their mistakes and playing catch with them.
(2) I was the first grandchild on both sides of the family. Everyone got to experience being the Mommy/Daddy/Aunt/Uncle/Grandparent/Older Second Cousin through meeting and interacting with me. When my younger sisters and cousins came, the adults had all adjusted to their new roles. So they were just babies and then children. They weren’t the harbinger and catalyst of change.
They got corrected when they mispronounced things.(3) I did, too, actually. It was what my Father Believed In. Possibly Mother would have believed it, too, but it was hard to tell. Often, she withheld Believing until Father had stated his preferences. I’m sure it saved irritation.
The Anno thing was an exception. It tickled everyone, or at least, everyone who talked to me.
(3) My youngest sister Shirlee had her tonsils out somewhere around two or three because her adenoids were blocking her Eustachian tubes and interfering with her hearing, which was slowing her speech acquisition and throwing some of the sounds off. It was a very young age to have them out, even then, when yanking tonsils was the going thing.
The morning after she came back from the hospital, Mom tried to give her soft things to eat, but the only thing that she wanted was this half a piece of leftover toast, which she chewed slowly and thoroughly before swallowing. You have to know what a point of virtue the bread in our house was in order to really feel the import of that. While other children whose parents didn’t know any better and didn’t think rather than just following along with the herd (one of my Dad’s favorite pejoratives) ate Wonder Bread, we had to eat Orowheat Wheat Berry Bread. It was dense and chewy and you could probably use toast made from it as temporary building material.
Shirlee eating the toast on her first day back from the hospital became one of those family stories that get repeated once or twice a year. There was also the story about Sheree crying so hard that the tears leapt forward off of her face, dropping to the floor half a foot in front of her. And the story of me and the banana on the ceiling.
But I won’t tell you about that right now. I’ve dithered enough to show you the ramifications of my tendency to diverge from my topic. (waves)
Up to 3,222 words.