skip to main |
skip to sidebar
When my son was quite young, we had to take him for a
neurological evaluation. The intern who
was asked to help with the testing reported that he thought something was very
Already alarmed about the whole situation, we asked
what he meant. As an example he said
that our son’s response to one of the questions was bizarre. When asked, “What is the opposite of dog?” he
told the intern there was no such thing.
The intern said that most children will answer that question by saying
We were perplexed and not a little bit surprised that
there was an answer to that question, but waited until the neurologist finished
reading the report before asking how bad it was that our son did not have an
answer for the opposite of dog. The
doctor put our minds to rest when he said he agreed with our child that it was
a silly question.
Aside from in the above situation, silly doesn’t
bother me. I live in a house where playing with words is a common occurrence
and witticisms run rampant. Double entendres
and puns are the order of the day. Once started, the ridiculousness can go on
for several long minutes until tears are running down our faces. I’m often left
behind, rolling my eyes, pondering how to catch up with my clever family. So
it’s no wonder that odd things occur to me.
The latest is this one and it hearkens back to the day
of that intern: Is the opposite of
writing wronging? I know that the
spelling of write doesn’t lend itself to being the opposite of wrong, but
sometimes when I write it does come out very wrong. I can go on for pages in the totally wrong
direction, down roads best left unplowed (sorry, there’s been so much snow here
lately that all I can see is a brilliant white, like the blank pages that taunt
me when I’m having trouble figuring out what to write next) and develop minor
characters that do not even need to be in a story. The character I have the most trouble with,
invariably, is my heroine, who is often a muddled mess of inconsistency and
contradictions throughout the first draft.
My writing group is very good at sending out the
scouts to find and encourage removal of erroneous material, but they can’t help
me clarify my character’s motivation.
The best they can do is wonder where it is, which of course sends me
back to the computer to correct the wrongs I’ve committed and hopefully get the
Have you ever found yourself going somewhere in
your mind that is completely familiar, vividly detailed, and filled with
memories only to realize that the place is not one you have actually ever
visited? I quite often do, many times to
the lab in the basement of the English home in Daphne du Maurier’s The House on the Strand. It wasn’t a very exciting place in the book,
and in my mind it is dusty, with old fashioned chemistry equipment, little
light, and whatever molders in old English houses.
It is obvious that I was never actually there
but for some reason, a combination of the story, the character, and emotion,
the place is as real to me as some I visited long ago. It is not a form of déjà vu, at least I don’t
think so, but the feeling of having been in that place is as close to real as
it can be.
As vivid is the church rising out of nothing in
Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth series. Before I saw the video of it, I had the place
firmly in my mind. The same was true with Manderly, in du Maurier’s Rebecca. I could see it ablaze as
vividly as if I were standing beside it, listening to the roar of the fire and
smelling the smoke. But, I can also see
it intact, with the unnamed character, the poor suffering second wife, trying
to keep her head high in the face of what she perceived as inferiority on her
part. It is so dark, with overstuffed
sofas and antiques and that horrible housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, undermining her
It was sunnier on the porch where the main
character in Lad: A Dog by Alfred
Payson Terhune liked to lay his head.
This ability to turn fictional locations into reality has been with me at
least as long as I was a child, reading that book, crying my eyes out when I
read the ending. The island where Walter
Farley’s The Island Stallion lived is
also as vibrant, especially the entrance to it.
Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, Sherlock Holmes
stories, all stick in my mind, not as vividly, of course, as my special
favorites, but easily recalled. The halls and rooms in Harry Potter books were
all fully visualized way before the movies were ever made. I can see and feel the Sorting Hat. It was the same for me with The Hobbit books,
but also for the houses in The Help, Gone
with the Wind, and The Red Tent. The Outlander books and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are now vivid memories of places I
have visited, as is the Moon, in The Moon
is a Harsh Mistress.
Authors create new worlds for us and allow us
to travel there. But in many ways it is
our own imaginations that furnish the details and let them imprint themselves
on our brains. When we get “lost in a
book” we can find our own way out, or we can let a piece of ourselves live
there forever. Then we can visit anytime.
It lets us keep enjoying the feeling we had at the time we read the
The room in The
Mirror Crack’d haunted me for years.
My second book, Vengeance Tastes
Sweet, is in a way an homage to Agatha Christie. So many books over the years have had such an
impact on my mind that I feel as if I’ve gone into them myself.
Maybe, instead of saying “I read that,” I
should be saying “I’ve been there.”