Friday, March 25, 2011


Heroes. Most stories have 'em. Charming heroes, flawed heroes, heroes who are cruel, or brave, or young, or old.

I see a hero as a dark silhouette on a foggy hill, grasping the hilt of a sword and drawing it from stone. A frightened boy who no longer has to live under the stairs. A mole who saves his friends. A woman who defies convention and rides to war. A rascally smuggler who returns after everyone has given up on him.

What makes them heroic? We sympathize with them, want to be them. Often they are heroes because they defy expectations. They look at a situation, weigh the soft whisperings of temptation, and say: no. I will not go gentle into that good night.

I am hungry, I am scared, I am alone. I am in the dark, in the attic, in the cave. Nobody knows me; everybody needs me. I will probably not survive. This will hurt. I could still escape. But I will not go gentle into that good night.

Is it only defiance, then? No, I think there's more to it than that. Often the heroes who are most compelling are the ones who didn't start out that way. Because, really: what good story starts out with Once upon a time there was a total bad-ass who destroyed all evil.

Defiance; sacrifice; growth. And we have to know the hero. Feel their uncertainty because we've felt it ourselves in the school hallway or lunchroom or cold and distant wilderness. Feel their fear, the anguished choice ... and their resolve.

Even if that resolve is beyond us -- or especially if it is beyond us. Heroes do what we cannot or will not do. Maybe that's why they are so compelling.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Corpsey the Squirrel

Hi! I'm Corpsey the Squirrel! I got run over by a car about a week ago, or maybe more. It's kinda hard to keep track of time passing when your head is half an inch thick, ha ha!

Anyway, ever since "the transition," as I call it, I've been hanging around on the side of the road, just kinda watching the world go by, you know? At first crows picked at me, and once they even flipped me over so I could see out of my other eye. Just kidding, I don't have any eyes.

Oh, Corpsey, I told myself. You may not be a "living" squirrel anymore but chin up! Oops, never mind, you don't have a chin either. Well, stay positive, Corpsey. You may be talking to yourself but something is sure to come along sooner or later.

Then one day it rained, and what did old Corpsey do? Well, I drifted over to the gutter and hung around under the leaves for a while. Then IT happened! A big friendly dog found me and we became best friends!

By "best" I mean "delicious" and by "friends" I mean "a chew toy." This was great! And boy, was this dog happy! He carried me all the way home, chewing away. It would have tickled but those things don't really bother me any more. I think he was going to take me inside the house. Maybe even wipe me on the couches and people's faces: delightful!

Then there was some sort of commotion and I was drenched with a stream of water. Some blasted human was spraying my dog-buddy with a hose! Disaster for Corpsey! The dog -- Benedict Arnold, I'm calling him -- eventually dropped me and was taken firmly inside. "Hey!" I called out, sort of. "What about Corpsey?" But they ignored me.

So now I'm stuck in the leaves, waiting for my next adventure. Where will I end up next? Maybe another dog will come along and save me!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Think of the one

I recently read that one in ten manuscripts sees success. I say: ignore the nine and be the one.

Or is it one in fifty? In three hundred? In ten thousand? One in ten thousand? "So you're saying I have a shot!"

Each of us thinks we're that one. Why bother doing anything if you assume you're in the group of nine who get ignored? Half-effort is a waste of time.

No: you have to believe. And then get to work.

Because, sure, patience is a virtue. But so is diligence. After all, to paraphrase Steve Martin, how else can you "be so good they can't ignore you?"