Saturday, January 14, 2006

One More Reason

One more reason why friends should not read what you write until you're sure you know what you're doing:

I was-- as a kid--(and still am) greatly influenced by the things I read, and I read all the time. In my youth, my "literary" heroes were Nancy Drew, Harriet the Spy and Sherlock Holmes. In middle school I discovered the novels of Victoria Holt and spent a good amount of time daydreaming about the windswept coasts of Cornwall and crumbling mansions with secret passageways.

I was certain that I could, at the very least, write a short story. A story about a young woman in Victorian times who walked around a darkened house and down stairwells so that her long skirts trailed behind her. A woman with a secret.

It became necessary for my main character to relay her secret to someone else. Perhaps it was someone standing out in the woods just beyond the house. Maybe it was someone in the house next door. I've long since forgotten. Either way, I devised a plan for my character to stand at a window and send a signal by candlelight...using Morse Code.

No, I did not ride the short bus to school, nor was I dropped on my head shortly after I was born. I just didn't think things through and, as I said, my head was full of a mixture of impressions gleaned from differing books with differing plots. I didn't have an editor. I think I knew that Morse Code was a series of dots and dashes that you could hear and translate, but I never stopped to figure out how one might go about using it with candlelight. And, of couse, you can't.

That fact was made abundantly clear after my (then) best friend and one of my sisters were given my story for their inspection. They made a great show of pantomiming my character hurridly and repeatedly lighting a candle and then blowing it out over and over in a frenzied attempt to create the dots and dashes necessary to spell out ,"Someone is trying to kill me".
One faulty maneuver could have resulted in a spelling error that revealed the less critical message indicating, "Someone is trying to bill me." Annoying? Yes, but not thought to be life-threatening.

And many years later, when the planets line up and we're all get together, the old friend drag out that story and begin to pantomime someone lighting a candle and blowing it out. Some things people just won't let you forget. I just hope she doesn't do it at the reception when I win my Pulitzer.


Blogger Ditsy Chick said...

Your friends were a little hasty, she could have put her hand in front of the candle and then uncovered it to do morse code. I used to think it was morris code growing up, after morris the cat. I thought the cat from the commercials was speaking to us in his own code. You are not weird at all.

1:41 PM  
Blogger mama_tulip said...

LOL! I think it's a great idea, for a kid. ;)

5:10 PM  
Blogger The Gradual Gardener said...

Hey, "Someone is trying to bill me" sounds pretty scary to me...

8:05 PM  
Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

I can tell you that my family would be the same way. And, if I ever meet you I am going to totally pantomime lighting and blowing out my candle. That is hiliarous!

8:16 AM  
Blogger Arabella said...

I thought the same thing as Ditsy--she could have put her hand in front of the candle. I like the idea of the Morse code.

Your children are probably way too young to have watched "Small Wonder" on television in the 80's, but I always used to think that the Harriet character, a neighbor fond of spying, was based on Harried the Spy.

8:48 AM  
Blogger CISSY said...

Nancy Drew was always my favorite. If you are weird, so are the rest of us.

10:28 AM  
Blogger mrtl said...

HAHAHAHAHA! I loved getting stories from my middle school students like this. They were always such a hoot to read.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Shrinking Violet said...

Wow, Ditsy Chick realized a method that completely made it plausible!!! Tell your sister THAT!

3:46 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Sounds like an older sister to me, but it obviously didn't stop you from coming up with more original ideas!

4:23 PM  
Blogger wordgirl said...

Truly, I deserved the ribbing from my sister. I teased her unmercifully about spelling. (I'm the oldest sister) Plus, the sister was not the instigator of the teasing...the friend, who was older than me, took care of that. It was good-natured teasing and it remains so and I suffered no permanent scars. These days, I find the idea of candlelight Morse code just as funny as they did.

5:34 PM  
Blogger Tink said...

LOL. Friends are great for holding on to all your mistakes. Mine always remember the stuff I conveniently forget. Cute story!

8:32 AM  

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