Thursday, September 6, 2007

"Come on, dear!" and "Yes, Honey!"

We all know Them. Maybe you are one of Them. I'm talking about Take-Charge People (TCP). My favorite example is this scene: We are on a cruise ship, at port, and everyone wants to get off the ship at once. Major people jam in the stairways. Sister-in-law sees an opening in the crowd and says, "Come on, dear!" To our surprise (and delight, we we've relived this many times) about thirty men say "Yes, dear!" and line up obediently.

I have a Take-Charge Character in my soon-to-be-published novel, Don't You Marry the Mormon Boys. Her name is Miss Carolina and I love her dearly. When she walks into a room, people unconsciously straighten their neckties and sit up the way their mothers taught them, with proper posture. When she talks, people listen. And she says what's on her mind.Then she brews peppermint tea for them, as "sour stomachs" are common ailments in her experience.

Aunt Lucile from Denver was a TCP in our lives. Once we attended a play with her. She stepped up to the Will Call booth and got our tickets. "Come along now," she said briskly in her Teacher Voice (she taught junior high PE for many years), and when we reached the usher, we found that a line of people had assembled behind us, happy to be told what to do.

Husband of 35 years is now reading my book. I thought it might be a good idea if he at least knew what it was about. His favorite reading material is nonfiction but he agreed that it might be a good idea to read my novel one of these days, too, in case anyone asks him about it. He's just not one to join the Book Club, if you know what I mean. It's just not what he does. I should add that he's a terric support and I depend on him in many ways. Not to mention that he advises me on contracts, free of charge. And when I need a lawyer as a character, many of his qualities will show up. He's my Atticus Finch.

Propped up on pillows at bedtime, he methodically selects two chapters or so from the stack of loose pages, and quietly reads them, poker-faced (or, should I say, lawyer-faced)? When he finishes a page, he neatly stacks it on the previous one, face down, on his lap.

As he finishes Chapter One and places it on the floor beside the bed and turns out his lamp, I turn to him (dying for SOME reaction) and say, "Well?" and he says, "It's good." Then he rolls over and in 30 seconds commences to snore (in a gentlemanly, lawyerlike fashion).

Every night, as he reads, there is no comment. I'm used to lots of comments on my writing as I belong to a critique group and online writing groups, and we as writers love to give and receive comments. We need feedback. But he's a Lawyer and keeps his thoughts to himself, as a proper Lawyer should do. As a former Stake President should do. Sometimes he forgets to take off his Lawyer and Former Stake President hats at home. And maybe, as Husband, he doesn't want to hurt his wife's tender feelings.

Anyway, one night I ask him how much he has read so far.

"Chapter Nine."

"You'll have to give me a hint. I have no clue what happens in Chapter Nine." Chapters to me are just necessary breaks, and I don't think of my story in terms of numbered chapters. I learned the hard way that I should only number my chapters when my book is really, really done. Just ask my technical writer sister, who had to fix the numbering when I got out of sequence.

"He's just met the Healer," Husband says, and turns off his lamp.

"Does the Healer remind you of anyone?"

A pause.

"Aunt Lucile?


Yahoo! He recognized her in my writing! Score one for all three of us (or should I say six?) - Author/Wife, Reader/Husband, and Miss Carolina,/Healer. I'll keep you posted.


Shirlene said...

You amaze me, Janet! Reading your blog is, believe it or not, making me miss Primary! Probably because Primary means being tutored and led by you. And I am getting antsy to read your book!

G. Parker said...

I love it. Aren't husbands wonderful? grin. Can't wait to see your book.

Candace Salima (LDS Nora Roberts) said...


I feel your pain. My husband only reads my stuff when I get the galleys. Otherwise, he wouldn't consider touching it.

So when the galleys for Out of the Shadows . . . Into the Light came, I started reading and making note of punctuation problems. He asked if I'd like him to go behind and catching anything I missed. "Absolutely," I replied.

I was ahead him by sixty or so pages and decided to take a nap. I don't know how long I was asleep but he came and woke me and told me to get busy, he wanted to know what happened. It cracked me up. I simply told him he should have read the numerous times I'd asked him to and rolled over and went back to sleep.

Janet Jensen said...

Candace: talk about role reversal! You're the one who got to roll over and go to sleep! Sounds like Alvin was very engrossed in your story, finally! Glad to hear not all husbands are not involved in all aspects of our work, but they do seem to come through in the end!