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Quite the come-on.
But actually what she wanted was for me to kill a wasp. I don’t know why she needed me for that. She was armed to the teeth and in a killing mood. But when a woman wants you, you go.
I dumped out a cup full of paper clips and grabbed a piece of junk mail.
“What are you doing,” she asked.
“I’m going to get your wasp.”
“You’re not going to kill it?”
I answered as I always do whenever people ask me that: “I don’t kill things.”
I really don’t. I trapped the wasp (which, actually, was just a bee) and set it loose outside. It was bothering no one. It was minding its own business. Like I always try to do until some idiot with a flyswatter runs up on me.
To be fair, that rarely happens. But it used to happen all the time. I grew up in Trenton, NJ (pity accepted), where a little guy minding his own business, far removed from everyone else, became the sudden focus of people who needed to make a statement. You see, killers need to kill. Moreover, they need to control. And one lone person who is neither part of nor interested in the pack and its mentality, standing apart and being content with his own company, is not something killers can just let be.
Sadly, most people are killers, which explains a lot. In fiction it explains why bestsellers involve guns and death but never compassion. Well, not never, but certainly not often.
In terms of what insights such an incident as the wasp scene above offers to fiction writers, it’s a lesson in paying attention to details. What conflict does the scene represent? Irrationality (seriously, who doesn’t know the difference between a bee and a wasp?) vs. reason? Sure.
Mainstream, unchallenged, life-in-the-Matrix, programmed, ingrained thinking (there’s an insect loose, it must die) vs. you, know, not mainstream, unchallenged, life-in-the-Matrix, programmed, ingrained thinking? OK.
Compassion and personal conviction vs. reactionary panicky idiocy? Why not.
But what does it tell you about the deeper subtext? Maybe a guy who feels no need to hurt a little bee who’s minding his own business somewhere far removed from the flyswatters is a metaphor for a guy who himself prefers to be left alone and to not be approached by people who need to fuck up his shit.
Maybe it’s just one little bee’s attempt to remind people about the value of mercy. Which is having the power and the provocation to hurt and not hurting.
Maybe it’s a little bigger than just fiction.
Once upon a time, in the Land of Make Believe, there lived the Little Dilettante, who resided in a mighty tower made of finest ivory. And from his tower, the Little Dilettante looked down at the pedestrian horde below. Toiling fools who, day in, day out, go to and from their pedestrian jobs, while he passed his time reading the great and popular works of novelists who wrote about novelists who live fabulous lives.
Read the rest of Scott Morgan‘s original fable at www.Write-Hook.com
It’s the perfect phrase. Just perfect. Sums up everything you want to say in three or four marvelous, pithy, asteroid-strength words.
That’s why you’ve just spent 381.43 hours and 12,000 words writing a build-up to it. Only to find out the writer’s No. 6 nightmare — your perfect sentence doesn’t fit.
If you have never looked your once-in-a-lifetime, manna-from-heaven phrase in the eye and whispered to it a sweet good-bye, you haven’t yet earned your stripes as a writer. Little is harder for a writer to let go than a block of words that actually makes some of his naughty parts tingle.
Do us all a favor. Let it go. No sentence or title or description of a tree is worth the cost to the rest of your story. You’ll just end up chasing the prom queen, which means that even if you get her, you’ll end up losing your self respect for one chance at satisfaction. And you’ll find out soon enough that she wasn’t worth the trouble.
There’s an easy way to tell when you’ve been infected by the perfect-phrase bug: You fall in a sort of adolescent love with a small grouping of words that do not make up an idea on their own. They just sound good together.
Typically, great lines that don’t fit in end up slumming in mediocre poems. Don’t do this to good writing. If you write frequently enough, your patience might one day be rewarded. But don’t push it. I promise you it will never work if you push it.