Friday, February 11, 2011

Look Mom, No Hands



Gabriella Herkert

Catnapped and Doggone





What would Sara do that I wouldn’t? Should we start with the dirty weekend that ended up with a stranger-husband and a quickie wedding? Do we have to discuss that little bigamy mix-up? Felony assault by computer keyboard? Okay, that would needs to go on the maybe list. What can I say? Wireless technology lends itself to the occasional frustrated hurl with or without human targets in the cross hairs.

We have plenty in common and plenty of differences on the surface. We share bad hair, a hatred of girl shoe and smart mouths. Sara is more politically correct (it’s a relative thing, neither one of us is going to be invited on FOX News anytime soon) and she’s slower with a sarcastic retort than I am. I’ve got a more impressive resume. She has a more interesting one. Sara is attracted to a nice, normal guy. Okay, we’ll call that one a difference.

Superficialities aside, Sara is simply fearless in a way I’m not. It may be because she’s younger than me or more open minded than me or more confident than me. After all, she’s a big believer that things will work out eventually. Maybe she’s a closet Buddhist who believes in karma but whatever the reasons, she’s had plenty of reinforcement for being a big risk taker. The husband turns out to be a good guy not an ax-murderer. The simultaneous husband loves her and a good scandal. And she’s never shown up on the doorstep of anyone with a keyboard in hand unless they deserved it.

In contrast, I wish I’d never heard of a cost benefit analysis. I pro vs. con decisions to death. I have plans A – Z on flip cards trying to anticipate every contingency. I spend so much time in planning, execution sometimes comes at a distant time and place. Often, it comes after I’m locked into a strategy. For example, I’ve grown into the big girl’s salary. Taking a big chance to pursue a crazy dream, which Sara would do in a heartbeat, comes at a precipitious price for me. It’s not that I can’t. It’s just that I have to plan and plot and worry myself gray before I can attempt the circus leap. Sara was born for Barnum and Bailey’s.

I sound like I wish I could be more like her and maybe I do. I think we all write some version of our best selves whether protagonist or antagonist. It’s tempting to answer hypothetical questions as if we actually know the answers. We can’t, of course, until the moment actually, factually arises. I imagine myself as the fearless heroine, tilting at windmills without frustration or consequence dulling my appetite for the battle. The real me carries more scars. I hesitate because happily ever after aren’t always the last three words for the real stories. By the same token, cast as a villain, I’d like to think I would get away with it instead of ending up on an episode of stupid criminals. But you never know until they clamp the cuffs on you. Or so I’ve heard. Sara would know.

Thanks for reading.

Gabi

21 comments:

Michael Wiley said...

I loved the post, Gabi. I think you hit the issue one the head: with crime fiction, the fear factor is crucial. Our protagonists put fear aside and fly into situations that any rational person would hide from.

Lois Winston said...

LOL! Love Michael's comment. I guess that's why it's called FICTION.

Shane Gericke said...

Big girl salaries are nice, aren't they? I hope to have a big girl salary some day. But not cranky hair ...

Terrific post, mon Gabi.

On a serious note, do you think protags need to be fearful to seem real to readers, or do readers want characters who aren't afraid of anything--a la Jack Reacher, Dirty Harry and your own lead character--and just shove themselves at bad guys?

Shane Gericke said...

And, who HASN'T had a weekend with a stranger-husband and bigamy and felony assault? Why, just last Saturday at the mall, I had to . . .

Gabi said...

Michael,
I love how you make us (the authors) sound rational. Our fictional characters may have leapt into the unknown but we have our moments when we put our inner thoughts on the page for all to read. What sane person would do that?

Gabi said...

Lois,
We call it fiction so our parents don't worry/lecture/throw their hands up and rattle on about how they raised us better. Or maybe that's just me.

Gabi said...

Shane,
I don't think Dirty Harry really works anymore (I know he's kind of a guy thing). Maybe fearless was the wrong word. Sara is only in the dark alley alone in the middle of the night because the "feelings" conversation with Connor scares her more. Our frailties make us interesting. Which makes me fascinating and you know how I love that.

Gabi said...

Shane,
Remember those mall cops make a pittance. They have to find job perks where they can. Nothing worse than getting caught with your pants down but an eighty-year old asthmatic with a tin badge and a 9 millimeter cannister of pepper spray.

Shane Gericke said...

Why, yes, Gabi, you ARE fascinating, as I was just saying to the mall cop who ordered me to assume a wide stance so he could spray my fascinating bits with pepper gas whilst drinking Orange Julius . . .

Gabi said...

Oh God, does he remember me?

Orange Julius is one of those mall job perks but all that sugar can turn those pepper can holsters into OK Corral challenges.

Joshua Corin said...

I think I may have been born during a circus...

Gabi said...

Josh,
Better than being conceived in one. That clown car thing has always had an element of the lewd about it.

Ellen Byerrum said...

All I can say, Gabi, is: So True. In general our characters have more fun. On the other hand, I've never had to defend my life with whatever tool may be at hand, like scissors or hairspray.

Gabi said...

Ellen,
Don't you sometimes look around your bathroom and think what if I was trapped in here with an intruder in my apartment? What would I use? I've got a hand mirror with heft. I'll risk the 7 years bad luck if I have to.

Meredith Cole said...

You said it, Gabi. Our characters are always more than us. Bigger than us, in good and bad ways. I've never had to defend myself with anything in my home, either, but when Lydia was locked in a bathroom with a killer outside, I had to think about what in the bathroom (plunger, brush, etc.) could be used as a deadly weapon. I'll never look at bathroom fixtures the same way again.

Gabi said...

A plunger? If I'm a thug, I freeze in place at the absurdity of it. Ever read Donald Westlake? Those guys could make the toilet paper role work.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Great post, Gabi! That Shane! If I had a nickel for every time I've bailed him out of jail, watched him drink gin smoothies for breakfast, and consoled those second wives. Well, Id have a nickel anyway.

They just live large in Chicago.

Reece said...

Great post, Gabi! Judging by some of your recent posts, I am confident that if you were cast as the villain, you would definitely get away with it.

But I think you may be missing an opportunity by having Sara be slower with a sarcastic retort than you are. It's pretty satisfying to create a character that can deliver the instant, dagger-like snarky comeback. I know I can never pull that one off in real life.

Gabi said...

Rebecca,
They live large and are very careful to spread the one phone call around. Your nickel and my nickel might be the start of the GDP of an industrialized nation.

Gabi said...

Reece,
I once tried to give up sarcasm for Lent. I'm pretty sure the afterlife's going to be toasty.

Shane Gericke said...

Rebecca! Shhh! You said you'd never tell that story ...