Archive for October, 2017

 

So.  The very best thing about being a fictional character is that everything you do has significance.  I see all of you non-fictional beings, busying yourselves with walking here and there and nursing your ailments and swiping your screens but none of it means anything. It doesn’t further the plot, it doesn’t make the setting crisper, it doesn’t add to the tension, it doesn’t help to build a metaphor cluster.  It’s just . . .  making a random sandwich.

For us, by contrast, all actions, all details, are intentional and important.

Let me give you an example.  See that sandwich on the bench?  It’s a ketchup sandwich.  And that ketchup sandwich is more than pulling its weight.

Let me introduce myself.   I’m the Neglected But Resilient Child.  You’ve met me before, in many guises. I may have brought you to tears.  In this particular story my hapless, overwhelmed single father has nothing to put in my school lunch sandwich but ketchup.  The ketchup sandwich is a potential source of bullying at school and, more importantly, if some adult sees it they might find out about my family situation and alert the authorities and that would be a disaster.  So, being a Resilient Child I take my lunch out to the park rather than brave the school cafeteria.

But where am I in this picture?  How come I haven’t eaten my sandwich?

So.  The worst thing about being a fictional character is the existence of editors.  Writers are fine.  We love writers.  We worship writers.  But editors?  In this case the editor thought that the Neglected But Resilient Child was a redundant character.  So out I went, doomed to hang around for another story that needs a NBRC.   However, the editor forgot to excise the sandwich!  So there it sits, an untethered detail, a sandwich that could have risen to the level of an endowed object or even the giddy heights of an objective correlative.  But no, it’s just a sandwich.  It’s not literature.  It’s just litter.

 

 

Sarah Ellis  is the award-winning author of over twenty books for children and young adults. In 2013 she was awarded the B.C. Lieutenant Governor’s Award For Literary Excellence. Last year she was one of Canada’s nominees for the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. Having retired as a children’s librarian and then retired from college teaching she is now writing and reading fulltime in the rain in Vancouver. Her latest book is Waiting for Sophie illustrated by Carmen Mok, published by Pajama Press. All her stories feature a resilient child because, really, what else is there to write about?

(For titles and biographical tidbits see www.sarahellis.ca)

 

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“The only question is when I arrive
how will you greet me —”

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