Tuesday, May 22, 2012

And I Love You, Too

The other day I was pushing buttons on my car radio tuner, trying to find something that wasn’t exasperating, boring or annoying and suddenly there was Tom T. Hall singing, “I love little baby ducks, old pickup trucks, slow-movin’ trains . . .”  Suddenly I was young again, driving my first car, delighted at the images the song created in my mind, of a time when I was even younger.  Who doesn’t love fuzzy puppies, rain, the summer smell of hay?  Mr. Hall’s genius lay in his piling one pleasant obviousness on top of another: pickup trucks, bourbon in a glass, losers - and winners - when they cry.  “And I love you, too,” sings Tom T.. Hall.

In danger of being obvious like Mr. Hall, I advise you writers to not be afraid to evoke an emotion by being obvious.  What simple thing makes you smile?  Makes you angry?  Makes you cry?  It doesn’t have to be a huge thing.  A very young writer sent me something he’s written, wanting my opinion.  He’s acquiring the tools of a real writer, but his problem is that he isn’t – yet – good enough to evoke an emotional response to his characters’ dilemma.  He is trying to compensate for this by writing a story in which the fate of the whole world depends on a teen.  He might build up to this by first writing a story in which the happiness of a puppy depends on the decision of a visitor to the Humane Society.

Actually, that’s not a bad idea for a short story.  Tell it from the puppy’s point of view. 

I have an interesting catalog from a company that sells recordings of old radio shows: “The Whistler,” “Lights Out,” “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon,” “Jack Benny,” “Fibber McGee and Molly.”  I actually remember some of these – have I mentioned that I’m kind of old? – others I have discovered.  I whimsically wrote that one of my running characters in the Betsy Devonshire series is a fan of old radio shows, and so now I get to collect and listen to them, a delightful fate.  When I give a talk I often quote Fred Allen, who was a columnist and who had a show featuring his cynical commentary on the passing scene: “I don’t know why anyone would write a book when for a few dollars he could buy one.”  Some day I will have that sentiment cross stitched on a sampler and hung over my desk.


Linda O. Johnston said...

We recently bought a new car that has a trial subscription to Sirius Radio, Monica, and my favorite station is one that broadcasts old radio shows. I suspect I'll want to continue to subscribe! And, yes, I do enjoy emotions that are elicited by stories and styles of writing.

Betty Hechtman said...

Fred Allen's comment made me laugh. Thanks for sharing.

Michelle said...

Our whole family loves the Radio Classics channel -- you'd be amazed at how educational an episode of Fibber McGee and Molly is once you start Googling everything you can't explain to the kids from memory.

wilddog-1978 said...

Our family loves the Radio Classics as well. I think my favorite is Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar and The Life of Riley.