Thursday, August 12, 2010

Just A Little Advice

--Adrienne Miller

There are a lot orphans in the world of romance heroes and heroines. It’s one of our favorite tricks, along with creating enough dukedoms and viscountcies to make a volume of Debrett’s thicker than the unabridged OED. We just love killing off a backstory parent or two. We’re not cruel. It just makes good story sense.
Cut down a character’s parents and you have severed their anchor to the world. Do it before they have established strong roots, and you take away their source for easy answers about who they really are and where they fit into the world. Then just set them adrift on the sea of life and watch them stumble around, pouting and raging. Good fun.
Not a single character of mine has had two, relatively sane and happy parents still living, which is kind of a shame...or would be, you know, if they were real. 
My own mom always blamed me and my sister for her going gray early. She also used to threaten to sell us to gypsies at least once a day, though I can’t imagine the going rate for a couple of suburban low-level miscreants could have been all that high. But they both gave me advice that I’ve tried to follow to this day.
“Swing early and swing often.”  Yeah, I know it’s from the whole Chicago voting style, but this one I know from my dad. My poor dad always ended up as the coach of my softball teams. He never signed up for it, but about three practices in to the season it always became crystal clear that none of these suit and tie dads knew the first thing about playing ball, and in stepped the reluctant hero. I could fill a whole book just with his batting advice.

“Nobody likes walks. They’re boring. So swing early and swing often. Sometimes you’ll strike out and you’ll hit homeruns, but you’ll never be boring.”
“Just tell them to go eat shit and die.” Yeah, that's still my mom’s favorite, and I should mention that for her it was more of a hard earned revelation than a simple profanity. See, all kinds of people tried to judge her for decisions she made earlier in her life, and I think one day she realized that the only person she really had to live her life for was herself and anybody who wanted to give grief for that, well, they could just go eat shit and die.
“Some days are just too nice to be spent indoors.”  I was in the fifth grade when a sorrowful looking secretary came to get me out of class. She wouldn’t tell me what was wrong, just that my parents had come to get me. My parents, looking terribly distraught, signed me out and walked me to the car. Once we had driven off they told me they had decided that it was too beautiful of a day to be spent inside, so we were off to a baseball game. Turns out, they had told the office that some horrible tragedy had befallen my grandmother--sadly, not the last time my poor grandmother had some terrible and completely fictional accident. 

Caution: Use this one sparingly, but use it.


Rachael Herron said...

ARE YOU SERIOUS about the taking you out of school for the nice day? You know this is the fantasy, right? For the rest of us? That the 'rents come and save us like that? Ahhh. I'm glad it happened to someone.

Sophie Littlefield said...

You know, I too killed off a lot of fictional parents for convenience' sake. I've thought about it some in terms of the Disney heroine (sorry A!) and how convenient it is to take away her mother so that she'll be so f'ed up that she'll go for that bland, saccharine prince...but truly if they exist then there must be holiday visits and phone chats and, worst of all, people to prop them up when they are at their lowest which is, of course, when fiction gets really interesting...

Adrienne Bell said...

Rachael - Oh yes, it happened. And I remember every moment of it. It was back in the late '80's glory days of the A's and Jose Canseco and Mark McGuire were the Bash Brothers. And it was way before there was a jaded, cynical thought in my head about steroids and cheating. And we had frozen malts at the end of the 7th inning and they played Celebration by Kool and the Gang at the end, so we must have won the game. Seriously, there was never a better day for a 9 year old.

Sophie - I see I'm going to have to compose my "In Defense of Walt Disney" post. *rubbing hands together* ;-)

Martha Flynn said...


Oh man, Sophie, you have just set off something you can't control re: this Disney business.

Juliet Blackwell said...

My mom threatened to sell me to gypsies too! Or sometimes she just thought I'd come from gypsies, because I was so odd. I also love that your mom swore -- this warms my heart, since I'm a pretty profane mom myself. Great memories, Adrienne!

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