Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Side of Backbone, Please.

So, I picked Maya up from school on Monday. We chatted about all that she'd done that day, and whether she could have an Oreo or a 'cold cookie' (that's the frozen cookies you just pop in the oven) for snack at home.

After all the administrative issues had been addressed, she said, "Isaac told a lie on me to Miss Gabby."

I said, "What? Really? And what did you say to him?"

She glanced out the car window, then said, "I said, 'Why are you lying on me? Stop lying on me.'"

I gripped the steering wheel tighter, thinking about my own reaction to Isaac's accusation. Really, the worse things you can accuse me of are lying and not working hard. I may be dishonorable in other things, but I ain't a liar. And my girl may have Princess Syndrome, but when it comes to school, and Miss Gabby, and behaving, she scores a perfect 10.

So I asked her. "Did you do whatever Isaac said you had done?"

She shook her head. "He always says that stuff."

"Next time he says that," I said, glancing at her in the rearview mirror, "say, 'You're a liar', then walk away from him. You don't have to beg him to stop lying on you. Tell him that he's a liar and leave. Okay?"

She smiled and nodded.

"So what will you say next time?"

"You're a liar," my girl said.


What does any of this have to do with writing, you wonder?

Using words to convey power, that's what.

My heroine in the story went from being needy {Isaac, why are you lying on me?) to empowered (Isaac, you're a liar). It's the same situation - Isaac accusing her, Maya being accused, but now the heroine has confidence. The antagonist may come back later with something because she's just blown him off (as all villains do), but the heroine now has the backbone to deal.

In The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler, our talk in the car would've been Meeting with the Mentor.

In your writing, use strong verbs. Give your hero some room to grow. Give her a mentor to learn from. Get rid of passive words like are, is, will. Make us care.

Will our heroine Maya tell Isaac off next time? Will she turn on her heel with her nose in the air, and return to her coveted position as Miss Gabby's helper? Tune in next week for another episode of "My Momma Says You're a Jerk."

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