Time Out Tuesday – A New Life

My whole new life is now finally underway, and I’m pretty sure that I want this space to have its place here. That means dusting things off and straightening things around. So I made a plan. Because I love plans. Plans are fun. Plans are helpful. Plans help me feel calm and peaceful. I know. Control issues. But here’s the plan anyway.

Monday: Story of the week. It’ll usually be based off of something my kids said. Nothing sets off the imagination like the crazy, random things kids say.

Tuesday: Time out Tuesday I’ll review good books I’m reading, talk about writing, or whatever else suits my fancy.

Wednesday: From the Box Series of stories inspired by little things we’ve found along the way.

Thursday: Poem of the Week Silly poems. Mostly just because there aren’t enough places in life to use those valuable rhyming skills.

Friday: A Thousand Words Stories inspired by photos. I have some talented friends, so I’ll be riffing off of some of their shots, as well as anything else I can find.

Behind the Curtain

My kids and I are going to write a story about this picture. This is a challenge I’m hoping to do every week with a different picture. This week’s picture is from my good friend Tara over at The View Finder. She’ll probably be giving me a lot of them. I love the possibilities in pictures. I can’t take good ones to save my life, but I still love them. I won’t put you through the long (boring?) process every week, but this time I thought I’d get my kids in on the action and record our brainstorming session. Final story to come tomorrow.

What could these be?

apples with popcorn
bombs disguised as apples
cherries in the snow
little children that a witch changed into apples

Who could have put them there?
We did
a witch
a princess
a prince
an alligator

What could someone do with them?
eat them
play with the sticks
throw them at someone
use them to stick to the wall and climb it
hit people over the head with them
feed them to someone else

What happens if you eat them?
you turn into an apple
you turn into a popcorn
you turn into popsicle stick
you turn into cherries in the snow
you die
you get sick
you get mad
you get sad
you turn red
you become invisible
you become invincible
you can fly
you can run really slow, then really fast, over and over

I have about four possible stories brewing in brain from all these ideas.  We’ll see which one comes out when I sit down to write tonight.

Time Out Tuesday – Tune Out TV

So here’s the thing: I end up writing stories at night after my kids go to bed. As in after 9 p.m. As in during my only kid-free time of the day. But I don’t want to give up doing other stuff I like during that precious kid-free time. It’s my time with my husband. It’s my time to relax. It’s my time to watch TV. So the husband gets my undivided attention, but most often the TV and the blog have to share time. It means it takes three hours to write one silly little story. But dang it, I like my TV. In fact, I’m watching TV right now.

Type Away, You Won’t Miss a Thing I never watch these ones without multi-tasking.

Easily the most missable of all the shows we watch. I get more done while “watching” Psych than any other. That’s because it’s only barely watchable television. But it does provide great background noise and the occasional laugh (which I almost always feel guilty for).

“The Office”
Why is this show just not as funny as it used to be? I used to love it, now I just put up with it. And those painful Michael Scott moments are just getting more painful. It’s a relief to have my computer to distract me when it’s just so awkward it hurts.

“30 Rock”
Still one of the funniest shows on, in spite of mostly not being exactly my kind of humor. Did I hedge enough on that last bit? Tina Fey is kind of a genius. In any case, something about the style of the show makes it easy to check in and out. But I will hand it to them, sometimes I get distracted and the computer becomes nothing but a lap warmer.

“The Event”
We’re checking this one out. So far, I like it. But “Lost” burned me pretty badly, so I don’t trust it. I don’t trust it to actually have answers to all the improbable things they’re asking me to buy. In any case, I’m happy to work while I watch it, so I can keep my suspicious distance from it.

I could work, but I don’t want to. I still type while watching sometimes, but it always feels like a waste.

“How I Met Your Mother”
I love this show. I can’t help it. I love it. It’s like hanging out with friends. I always laugh. It doesn’t require a great deal of attention, but I like to give it attention anyway.

It just makes me laugh. We watched the first episode last year, and I hated it, so we gave up on the show. Someone recently told us that it was worth watching, so we tried again. Oh man, every single episode is hilarious. I know my love of this show probably won’t last. No doubt it will go the way of “The Office.” But for now, I’m enjoying myself too much to want to work.

If I blink, I might miss something. I just can’t get anything done when these shows are on.

I know, I know. We are the last people on earth still watching “Smallville.” But we love it. We have always loved it (with a few notable exceptions…I’m looking at you, Lana.). Here we are in the last season, and I just feel like I shouldn’t be missing anything. We have too long of a relationship for me to be neglecting it now. When it’s time for Smallville, I put the laptop away. And, okay, usually get out the brownies instead.

We just started watching this not long ago, and it’s really enjoyable. It’s not my favorite show ever, but it’s smart and interesting. I’m into it. It’s just that kind of show that you have to pay close attention to. I’ve tried working at the same time. There’s no point in watching it that way. Too many things to miss.

Time Out Tuesday – What We Learned

Yes, I know it’s not Tuesday. What’s your point? This is what I was thinking about today, and since it’s the last day of SASS, I’m going with it. If you are looking for the comfort of familiar routines, I’m afraid you’re in the wrong place.

Well, obviously we can’t say that SASS was an unqualified success. I didn’t achieve my goal of writing a new story every single day of September. I’m not sorry I tried it (though maybe sorry that I picked September to do it…more on that later). I was able to get some answers to my questions about what it would do to my writing. I wanted to know if creativity is something I have a limited supply of (so that when I use it up, it’s gone until it regrows) or if creativity would breed more creativity (so that the more I write, the more ideas I had). There probably isn’t a definitive answer to that question, but here’s what I did learn.

1. For me, the ideas come easy and the words come hard. It wasn’t coming up with the idea for each prompt that wore me out. It was the time it takes to write it all out. Giving up every single evening to write made me feel a little resentful some days. I know, resentful of whom? No one was making me do it. I don’t understand feelings. I just have them sometimes.

2. Creativity doesn’t get killed by using it up. Creativity gets killed by the stress of real life. As I mentioned above, it was already getting harder to write, but I didn’t start having trouble coming up with a good angle for the stories until my life kicked into overdrive during my kids’ birthday week (two within four days). I just happened to get the flu that same week, so I was barely keeping up with all the parties and cakes and special birthday nights out. I was so stressed out and exhausted that I finally stopped even trying to write for a few days there. Hence the failure of SASS. But back to the creativity part. I think I learned that creative ideas grow out of a relaxed mind. When the brain is crowded full of crazy details and/or so tired that it doesn’t function right, how is it supposed to come up with brilliant ideas? So for now, my new theory is that creativity doesn’t “run out” nor does it breed more creativity all by itself. Creativity grows out of the rest of life…as long as it isn’t trampled by the rest of life. That will give me something to think about for a while.

3. Too much production does reduce quality. Even though I think I was able to come up with some cool ideas this month, I didn’t totally love anything I wrote. There was a lot that I was satisfied with, but nothing that shone. It wasn’t because the ideas were weak. I just didn’t have the time to put into each one to develop it and take it to that next step of quality. Knowing there was a new one to write tomorrow, I had to just throw out whatever I had and let it stand. I don’t mind doing that. This is a storytelling blog, after all, and I do tell stories to the kids on the fly from time to time, but those stories are usually quite shaky. I think I prefer to have a couple of days to think it over and get it right, or at least to have the chance to recognize that what I’m doing is sub-par and put it aside in hopes of a better idea coming along later.

4. Everything I write is personal. Even when I look at something and know that it is crap, getting criticism from someone else feels like a stab wound. It makes me want to give up forever. Melodramatic? Um, yeah. And I hate myself for being melodramatic. I’m not a fan of drama. But it’s the truth, just the same. No need to explain how I found that out this month, but let’s just say I had to erase a story I posted and it hurt to do it. It was just a silly little story on a silly little blog that no one reads. I hated that story, and it deserved to be erased. But it still felt like a failure when someone else confirmed it. Ouch.


Because of everything I learned this month, I feel a shift in the way I think about this blog. At first I really hoped to use this space to connect with other storytellers, but that doesn’t seem to be happening, and I’m okay with that. Maybe someday. For now, I’m going to make this a place to try things out, to test my theories and experiment a little. I’m working on a novel right now (in my other spare time). It’s the second in a series, and I love writing it in a way that I can’t love writing shorter stories. I’m hoping what I do here will help improve what I do there. Oh, and I do still hope someone is out there getting some enjoyment out of this craziness. Things are more fun when they’re shared.

New experiments on the horizon:
-Saturday Words of Wisdom
-Prominent Plot Poems
-Build a world month

Stay tuned. It should be fun.

Time Out Tuesday – Bringing the SASS

That’s right, I decided to officially name this experiment SASS. Super Awesome Story September. Because that’s my idea of a catchy acronym. Of course, my idea of a cute thumbnail picture of myself was me wearing this princess hat at a little tea party we had with the girl cousins during our big visit last month. I thought it would be so cute and fairy tale and mommy-ish. Instead, every time I look at it now it just says sad medieval fair. And I can’t replace it until I get a better picture, and that is unlikely to ever happen. My point? A week from now I will probably be looking back at this acronym with shame. And yet it stands. I’ve already come to grips with the humiliation that comes along with attempting to create. Sort of.

So here’s what SASS is all about:

1. Every day in September I’m going to post a new story or poem.
2. I’ll be trying to keep all the stories under a thousand words so you don’t get too bored while reading them day after day.
3. I have a preset list of prompts that tells me what I have to write each day. I did make the list myself (though many of the ideas came from my kids), but I haven’t prewritten any of the stories.

Here is the list of prompts:
1. The slowest elephant on earth
2. Talking flowers
3. A spy and a bomb
4. A giant alligator
5. The tree that holds up the world
6. The case of the disappearing socks
7. The yellow dog
8. What’s happening inside the fridge
9. My best friend the robot
10. Dust riders
11. Super hero duck
12. The mysterious dancing pants
13. The camel who wished he was a dog
14. Madam Mango’s Moonbeam Machine
15. A dolphin and some lava
16. A duck wins a trophy
17. A train and a pony racing
18. A farmer and his goats
19. The birthday wishes
20. On safari
21. The princess who hated her bath
22. Polite Pirates
23. Hamster heaven
24. The teeny tiny monster
25. A superhero’s cape
26. To the moon
27. The mermaid’s hair
28. Grumpy Gracie
29. Snow angels
30. Seeing the future

So that’s the plan. I’ll see you back here tomorrow with that first story. I’m off to spend the next 24 hours thinking about elephants.

Time Out Tuesday – Can We Try This?

Sick kids = Fried Brain

And that’s about where we’re at this week.  I apologize in advance for any oddly manic and/or inappropriately depressive things I may be about to write.

I have three kids, and they did that thing that kids do where one gets sick just as the other is getting better and then the other other one gets sick just as that one gets better. Yeah, it’s been an awesome week nine days, and we’re still going strong.  So we’re not talking any more about the past few days of creativity-killing, hope-stifling, mind-numbing, back spasm-inducing blahdom.  (I know, I should have been a nurse, right?)

We’re going to talk about the awesome stuff that’s coming up, instead!  I’m slowly working on redesigning things a little around here, trying to tighten things down and hopefully add a bit of the visual.  I’m totally design challenged, so don’t expect any miracles, but I will be trying to get that done this week, BECAUSE….

I’ve decided to set a challenge for myself for the month of September.  A challenge to write something new every single day for thirty days.  It’s my birthday present to myself.  One of the reasons I started this blog was to push myself to write more regularly, and since I just had a long vacation, this seems like a good time to step it up.  I already have the list of writing prompts all ready to go, and I’ll post them next Tuesday right before we get started. I feel like I should have some kind of snappy name for this September project, but I’m terrible at titling things.  So far all I could come up with is All Storytelling September, but I’m afraid the acronym doesn’t fit in with our family-friendly atmosphere.  I’ll take any suggestions you might have.

For this week, though, I want to offer up my first challenge to you.  I’m not even sure how many of you are out there, so this is my test run to see if anyone feels like getting creative with me.  I’d like to maybe do this a few times during my yet-to-be-named September storytelling extravaganza, but I thought I should do a warm up, just in case I find out I’m the only one who is crazy enough to spend all my free time writing silly stories and posting them on the internet for no one to read.  I’d rather make that sort of discovery now than while I’m in the midst of Write Hard All Month (WHAM, baby!  No?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.)  I don’t want it to break my stride.  Because I’m totally doing this even if no one is listening.

Okay, so here’s the challenge:  Write a story, 800 words or less, that has the line below in it somewhere.  It can start with the prompt, end with the prompt, or just use it wherever it fits in.  The 800 words is to keep it from taking TOO much of that valuable free time to write.   Write it sometime this week.   Then come back on Friday and link up.  That’s when I’m going to post my story.  This will be fun, right?  You know you want to do it!  Here’s the prompt:

It was hard to believe that such radiant flowers could be growing out of that sticky, oozy goo.

And that’s it!  I’ll hopefully see all three four of you (Thanks, Mom!) back here on Friday.

Time out Tuesday – My Take on Aesop

I know, time out from what, right? I’d have to actually be writing to take a time out from it. But it’s Tuesday, and I love to stick with my routines…you know, when I feel like it. So instead of coming up with something new of my own, I’m going to be unbelievably arrogant and give my opinions about stories that have endured thousands of years. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Aesop, born a slave, died being thrown off a cliff. Who wouldn’t want to be as storyteller?

Even better, everything we know about him is probably made up. I can’t think of anything I’d like more than to have people make up crazy dramatic things about my life someday. I’m totally going to stick with this blog. And also start reading more fables.

Aesop was a genius.

The Lion’s Share
The lion and the donkey go hunting together and the lion kills the donkey because he thinks he deserves more. The moral: Partnership with the mighty is never trustworthy.
It’s pretty obvious why this one is awesome. The cynicism. The violence. The gritty reality. And could there be a better moral? This one is high on my rewrite list.

The Bear and the Travelers
Two guys in the woods run into a bear. The one in front quickly grabs a branch and swings into a tree, leaving his friend alone. The friend plays dead and the bear sniffs at his ear before walking away. When the first guy gets down he asks what the bear said. “Never trust a friend who deserts you at a pinch,” says his friend.
1. Stories with bears are almost always awesome. 2. The moral is solid, but even better is the snarky way that it comes out from the abandoned friend. This isn’t as well known as some, but it should be.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf
I don’t think I really need to summarize this one, do I? You can read about it here if for some reason you’ve managed to never hear it. This one gets repeated and redone a hundred times, but it never gets old. I learned from it when I was a kid, and I only had kids for about two years before I already wanted to tell them the story because OH MY GOODNESS KIDS REALLY NEED TO LEARN TO NOT CRY WOLF. I can only imagine that every parent since ancient Greece felt the same. And stories that draw on how we all feel are what it’s all about.

The North Wind and the Sun
The two great forces of nature make a bet to see who’s stronger. The idea is to get the cloak off of a traveler. The North Wind blows with all his might, but instead of blowing the cloak off, it only makes the traveler wrap it around tighter. Then the sun beats down, and the traveler takes off the cloak of his own accord. The moral: Persuasion is better than force.
This one just intrigues me. I love that the characters are forces of nature. And it’s such an astute evaluation of human nature. Forces of nature commenting on human nature? Everything a fable should be.

Are you kidding me, Aesop?

The Ant and the Grasshopper
The ant works hard all summer and the grasshopper goofs off. Then in the winter, the grasshopper has no food to eat and is starving. The ant refuses to share with him. The moral: Idleness brings want.
This is a very good lesson to learn, no doubt about it. But ever since I was a kid I’ve had the same problem with it. The stupid, selfish, hard-working ant. Seriously, he can’t share a little food with a starving grasshopper? Is he trying to teach him a lesson? Because dead grasshoppers don’t learn lessons. I’m just saying. There really needs to be a fable that shows what happens to smug, greedy ants. I’m sorry, but this one just bugs me. Definitely no pun intended.

The Tortoise and the Hare
I don’t think I need a summary of this one either.  And I think I’ve already explained why it irks me.   I get that the hare was overconfident and/or lazy, depending on the version.  I get what’s wrong with him.  But that whole moral about how plodding wins the race just sits wrong with me.  I just…oh just go click that link and see what I already wrote.

The Milkmaid and her Pail
Basically, this is the source of the phrase “Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched.” She’s bringing her milk home and starts imagining what she’s going to do with the money it earns her. When she flounces around imagining herself in her new dress for the dance, she spills the milk.
There’s no arguing with the excellent moral of this one. I just feel so drawn to the poor milkmaid who is working hard to earn her money. I don’t begrudge her a moment of getting lost in a daydream. Yes, life is tough. Yes, her mistake cost her, and there’s no changing that. But it’s not like she sat around doing nothing but imagining a better life. She was hard at work and got a little carried away with her imagination. Could we not write a story about someone who never looked ahead, never planned for what was coming? Would that not also have a sad ending?

Obviously there are hundreds of fables attributed to Aesop, so I’m going to quit while I’m ahead. Besides, most of them are little innocuous things that don’t deserve much love or hate. I’ve not come close to reading them all. I’d love to hear which are your favorites and which drive you crazy. I’d love to hear you argue my opinions. Oh, who am I kidding? I’d love any kind of comments at all.

Time Out Tuesday: I’m 33 and Just Now Figuring It Out

I’m on vacation. In another country, living with people all the time, seeing old friends, having fun, eating all that food I’ve missed, and shopping in all those stores I’ve missed. My kids are getting spoiled rotten with exciting things to do every day, getting presents, and eating way to much sugar. It’s all very wonderful and vacationish, but did I mention we’re here for five weeks? Some of that time is work, but we’re still far away from our routine for five weeks. It’s a long time.

You might have noticed that I haven’t been posting very much since I got here. (Do you like how I’m assuming that anyone reads this often enough to notice when I’m not posting? What can I say? I’ve got imagination.) I’m trying. I really am.

When we left for vacation I thought I was planning on trying to write a new story every day. “I’m going to be on vacation,” I thought. “I’ll have so much more time to write. And I won’t be so tired.”

Go ahead and take a minute to laugh at me. I am.

Of course, the opposite has been true. I’m so busy making the most of my limited time with family and friends that I’m not sitting down with my laptop every night like I do at home. And tired? Yeah, I’m tired. Relaxed, but tired. Still, there’s time enough and energy enough. Something else is really killing my writing.

I don’t have any routine. I don’t have any discipline in my life right now. I’m giving myself a break from all my usual rules. Well, not all of them, but you know…

How can this be the first time I’ve understood this? How can I not have noticed that creativity, for all its reputation for being a free-wheeling joy rider, needs structure and discipline to flourish?

I always knew that I needed to set up a schedule in order to find the time to write and think up new things. I just don’t think I really grasped how much I need the structures of my life to keep my mind clear and focused. So I can let it run free.

I think that’s why I’ve actually been writing more now that my life is full of job and three kids and endless things to manage. Because I’ve had to become so organized and scheduled and disciplined just to survive my life that it’s actually opening up the pathways in my brain. It’s making me be a better me. Because regular me hates schedules and structure and can’t really believe that I live with a little notebook full of checklists and meal plans and an outline for every day.

So I gave myself a break from it all. The only list in my little notebook these days is my shopping list. And I don’t mean groceries. And these days, I sit down to write and the words escape me…or worse, the ideas escape me. Words are tricky, but ideas have always been my friends. It’s beyond frustrating to feel so sluggish. Most of the time I toss it in and settle down with a good book instead. I’ve always been an escapist.

All those words just to say, it’s been fun, vacation. It’s going to keep being fun. But I’m ready to put some rules back in place. It chokes me to say it, but I need them.

Don’t tell anyone, but I’m even starting to like them a little.

Time Out Tuesday – Inspirations

I was going to talk more about what makes my favorites…you know, my favorites, but as it happens, I’m flying to the U.S. in two days with my whole family for a five week visit, so right now my mind is jumping from one thing to the next like a jackrabbit on crack. Pensive and analytical aren’t going to happen tonight. Instead, I’m just going to let my mind do its thing.

Which brings us to inspirations. Where do the story ideas come from? Anywhere and everywhere the jackrabbit lands. I have about a billion little notebooks that I use to make lists and jot notes.  Whenever and wherever an idea comes, there’s always a little book nearby to jot it down.  I mean, it will be right between the To Do in the Morning List, the Don’t Forget to Pack This List, and the Life Goals List, but at least it’s there when I need it.

Here’s a list of inspirations. (I love lists.)

In no particular order…

Photographs. Especially ones that evoke a strong feeling. To me, strong feelings go along with stories, so I start to wonder what the story is. A while back The Pioneer Woman did a photo contest about landscapes. Two of my stories were inspired by pictures I saw there. This one was just begging for a story.  And the perspective on this one made me think of someone very small looking up at the unexpectedly tall tulips.

My son. He says the weirdest and funniest things. Like about monsters fighting houses. Or a prince trying to save a princess when he doesn’t know which one she is. These things just come out in a stream of other make believe and chatter, and sometimes my brain latches on to one and goes crazy. Of course, other times my tired brain just flops around and drowns in the flood. (See how it was a rabbit and now it’s some kind of pathetic fish? I see no reason to stick to just one metaphor.)

Advertisements. My daughter loves to cut pictures out of old magazines. Then she gives them as presents to everyone in the family. One day she presented me with one that featured a fine old bottle of whiskey in a stream of water. Don’t ask me. But I did get to thinking about how intriguing it is to find a bottle in a body of water and what could be inside.

Words. The Nerd Mafia are my new heroes. Certain words just make me think of certain kinds of people. And once you have an interesting person, there’s always a story of some kind nearby.

Those little linky things. Nothing gives you writing ideas like someone saying, “Write about this.”   Thanks, Mama Kat.  Plus now I keep finding more and more linky things.  I don’t think I can ever be a consistent weekly participant in any of them, mostly because the words “consistent” and “weekly” scare me to death, but I do think they’re fun, and I’ll take inspiration from wherever I can get it.  Plus it actually gets me out into the world of other bloggers, reading and exploring (mostly with time I don’t really have).  I feel like a small mouse poking my nose into a wide open candy store.  I’m out of place, but I certainly don’t plan to just go away.  Hey, I think there might be a story here…

Okay, we’ve now run the gamut from rabbit to fish to mouse.  That’s the signal that it’s time for me to get back to pouring over my To Do lists for the next two days.  I always feel that if I rewrite and reread and reorganize the list, it’s almost like I’m actually doing the things on it.  Isn’t it great when you can feel productive while sitting on your couch watching Sherlock Holmes on Pay Per View?

Robert Downey, Jr…  That’s going to take a whole other post.

Time Out Tuesday – Stuff I Love

I’ve been thinking this week about stories I love. You know that moment when you are reading or watching along and then it’s like you just walked off a drop off on the water? Boom! Suddenly your head is under and you are in another world. That moment is one of my favorite things in life. I don’t particularly want to scientifically analyze that because it’s magic, and magic can’t be analyzed. But since I like to reread and rewatch and relive my favorite stories, I’m thinking back and trying to remember that point of no return. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. It’s the moment when you feel an authentic connection between two characters.

For me that’s the gateway in The Lion, The Witch, and Wardrobe. The first chapter is completely dull. Then Lucy finds the wardrobe and the magical world on the other side, but even that isn’t quite it. It’s when she meets Mr. Tumnus and he’s just as scared of her as she is of him that you know this is going to be something special.

The connection doesn’t have to be that positive, either. I was hooked on Pride and Prejudice from the very first chapter where we see Mr. and Mrs. Bennet interacting. Their relationship is so dysfunctional and real and witty and entertaining that I knew I wanted to keep reading as fast as I could. And that was true even the first time I read it, while I was hiding out and eating my lunch in the library in high school. But that’s another story. The point is that Jane Austen is a genius. Oh, and something about connection. Where was I?

This happened to us the other day when we finally watched the movie version of The Time Traveler’s Wife. I’d read the book and loved it, but for my husband it was the first time. About 10 minutes in, Henry and Claire meet, and it’s just so warm between them, even though they are strangers (sort of…you know), that my husband immediately said, “I’m going to like this movie.” And he was right. It was lovely.

There are so many more. You know that moment in Stranger Than Fiction when you realize he’s going to have an actual relationship with this voice he’s hearing? Brilliant. Or The Royal Tenenbaums when Margot steps off the Green Line bus and the whole movie clicks into place. I don’t even have to say anything about that because you already know exactly what I mean. There’s just something about the human connection that casts a spell on us all.

2. It’s the moment when pain and beauty intersect. Because life is pain, and anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something. (Everything I know I learned from The Princess Bride.) But life is also beautiful…if you can learn to live with the pain. As soon as I can see that the story is going to be honest about all that, I’m in.

There’s this wonderful series of books called the Sevenwaters Trilogy by Juliet Marillier. Each book has a fairly slow start but the payoff is totally worth it. In the first book, Daughter of the Forest, I was finding it hard to totally connect until the young heroine is brought face to face with harsh reality in the form of a young man her father’s men had tortured. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not into super dark stuff. I actually sort of avoid it. But as Sorcha works make things come out right and true while going through one immensely painful thing after another, it’s riveting. It makes me want to be a better person. And that’s what the best stories should do.

Am I getting a little too earnest? Because I hate getting all intense, but stories do funny things to me. Anyway. This mix of pain and beauty (which is another word for truth) is what I love about the best super hero stories, too. This is what Batman Begins and The Dark Knight have that none of the other Batman movies had. And this is what the original Watchmen comic had that the movie couldn’t quite achieve.

It’s there is nearly all of my favorite stories: The Count of Monte Cristo, Ender’s Game, even Little House on the Prairie.

This is already way too long for my non-fiction attention span, but I think I’ll have more on this topic next Tuesday. I’m kind of into it. I love thinking about the really good stuff.

How about you? What really gets you in a story? Which ones grabbed on and didn’t let go? What are the moments that will be with you forever?