Monday, July 5, 2010

Too weird to be true

When I critique with other writers, we often jot the following note in each other’s manuscripts:

Unrealistic. This could never happen.

Maybe it’s a scene with too many coincidences or strange happenings. Whatever the case, we’re conscious of the fact there are a limited number of times readers will suspend disbelief while we hit them over the head with the baseball bat of bizarre.

This was on my mind Saturday when the weirdness quota in my real life hit overload before we even got in the car to drive the dogs to the river.

It started when I checked with Pythagoras to make sure he’d packed something for the dogs to fetch.

“Do you have balls?”

“Just one,” he replied. “Would three be better?”

“Definitely. That way they can each have one in their mouth while we’re throwing the other.”
Pythagoras and his three balls.
We continued snickering over ball jokes on the drive there, but stopped snickering when we realized we’d forgotten the dogs’ leashes. Since the fine for leash law infringement is $300, it was no laughing matter.

I looked at the new purse I’d just bought at a friend’s upscale handbag boutique. “The strap detaches,” I said. “Here’s one leash. Are you wearing a belt?”

Pythagoras shook his head. “Swim trunks. You’re wearing one, aren’t you?”

“Yes, but these shorts are so big I can pull them over my hips without unbuttoning them.”

No matter, we were already there, and the dogs were getting restless. I pulled off my belt and purse strap and harnessed the beasts.

On the hike down to the river, we had to stop every 10 seconds so I could hike up my shorts, which were even more inclined to slide off due to the fact that I’d shoved my iPhone in one pocket.

“Maybe if you got rid of the phone,” Pythagoras suggested.

“But what if I need to take pictures?”
Can you tell my shorts are about to fall off?
We got to the river and began tossing balls for Ozzy the 14-year-old Australian Shepherd mix. In spite of the fact that Oz is deaf, mostly blind, suffers from arthritis, a torn ligament in one knee, and a vestibular disorder that requires him to wear a doggie life jacket, he’s still a pretty good fetcher.

But doggie dementia has set in.

While he still understood the need to swim out and return with a ball, the details got fuzzy beyond that.

Pythagoras would toss a ball. Ozzy would swim out with a different ball in his mouth. He’d lunge at the floating ball, realize he already had one, and then swim back to shore without having retrieved anything at all.

Since our younger dog hasn’t mastered swimming quite yet, this left Pythagoras as our backup retriever in a river so icy he’ll be wearing a wetsuit when he swims it for a triathlon in a couple weeks.

But there was no wetsuit on Saturday. Just a pair of swim trunks and a lot of shivering.
Pythagoras retrieves a tennis ball in the icy river while Ozzy supervises.
“Good boy!” I cheered from the riverbank. “Want a cookie?”

He handed me the ball. “I don’t need a cookie, but I do have a walnut.” He nodded at my shorts. “Your underwear’s showing again.”

I hiked up my shorts, then began searching for my iPhone as the quacking of my ring-tone signaled an incoming call.

“That’s weird,” I said, frowning at it. “The phone was quacking, but there’s no missed call.”

“Just a guess, but it might be that family of ducks over there.”

We played in the river for awhile longer, with Ozzy remaining confused about the fetching, Pythagoras risking genital frostbite in the river, and me alternating between inadvertently flashing my underwear at kayakers and answering a phone that wasn’t ringing.

Finally, we re-leashed the dogs and hiked back to the car.

“Oh,” said Pythagoras as we approached. “We left all the windows down.”

“And my purse on the front seat.”

Pythagoras peered through the rear window. “And your iPod sitting on the backseat.”

But nothing had been touched. Most likely, any passing criminals took one look and thought, “no one is that stupid – it’s gotta be a trap.”

We loaded up the dogs and started to head home. “If I put all that in a manuscript,” I told Pythagoras, “you know what readers would say?”

“That you’re nuts?”

“Something like that.”

And he’s right. No sane critique partner would let me put all that in a scene. Can’t say I blame her.

So how was your Independence Day weekend? Any random, bizarre occurrences you can share? Please put them in the comments.

It’s nice to laugh at someone besides myself.

28 comments :

Sue London said...

"The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense." ~ Tom Clancy (Also in the movie "Man of the Year" as a line delivered by Christopher Walken. Apparently they thought Clancy needed more cowbell.)

Linda G. said...

So, after reading this whole very entertaining post, the uppermost thought in my head is, Pythagoras only has one, er, walnut? I'm wondering (naturally--writers are nosy) if it's congenital (ha! I said "genital" when discussing nuts) or if he had some horrible bicycling accident. AND feeling slightly paranoid that said accident may have occurred while you were researching bicycle sex at my request. Please tell me I'm wrong!

Sierra Godfrey said...

My critique group just sneers and goes "I don't buy it." Yours sounds slightly nicer. I did a similar truth-is-stranger post today, too. I find that such incidents are all over the place, really, if you look. You just have to choose carefully or else you'll get tagged for being too silly in your story. (Is a sad fact that I am silly most of the time.)

middle child said...

First of all, my son-in-law only has one ball.
2nd- You are a true Macgyver and if stranded, I want you with me.
3- I was unable to notice your "pants on the ground" cuz your boobs totally distracted me.
Peace.

LR said...

Haha that's so funny. Nothing too strange happened here except there was a huge scrabbling spider in our bedroom. I coaxed it into a glass and chucked it out the window. I'd never kill one, of course.

Dawn said...

Great story. Truth is often stranger than fiction :-)

Bona Fide Betty said...

I find you on the Lucy March blogroll - this post was hilarious! You'll have to let us know when your books are released.

Tawna Fenske said...

Sue, love the quote! And that SNL skit with the cowbell is one of my all-time favorites. I have to go find it on YouTube now, just for the chuckle.

Linda G, LOL, "walnut" is apparently one of those guy terms with which I was unfamiliar before meeting Pythagoras. It's just how some men describe it when the cold causes everything to shrivel to that size/shape, I guess. I didn't do any inspecting right that moment, so I'll have to take his word for it, but to the best of my knowledge, both balls are present and accounted for.

Sierra, wow, so in addition to the double-jointed elbows & monkey toes, we're now psychically linked in our blog posts? I'm going to have to go check yours out now!

Middle Child, yeah, my boobs tend to distract most people. This is why I often tease myself about them -- saves me from having other people do it first! I actually had that pic up on the screen this morning and Pythagoras walked past and said, "nice boobs." I stared at the picture and asked, "are they too out-there? Do you think I should do a quick breast-reduction in Photoshop?" He looked at me like I was crazy. "Why would you do that?" Indeed. So I left them alone! :)

LR, I can't kill spiders either. Not even huge, hurkin' black widows in our bedroom.

Dawn, this is true 99% of the time in my life for sure!

Bona Fide Betty, hey, it's great to see you over here! Thanks for stopping by! My debut is almost exactly a year out (Aug. 2011) so we've got awhile yet, but I'll be sure to let the other Betties know when the time comes.

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

Posey said...

I just can't wait to read your books.

Mireyah Wolfe said...

OMG!

A) I'm laughing my BUTT off at Linda G.'s comment--Bicycle sex? Do I want to know???

and B) Middle Child said the SAME THING that I was thinking when I saw that picture! Tawna, you are certainly a Busty Wench! :P

NINA NAKAYAMA said...

This was awesome. I dunno, I could see myself giving crit on this along the lines of, "more please..." Then again, I've never actually been known as a 'sane' crit partner. *grin* It's it great when life doesn't replicate art...when it instead blows it completely out of the water? =D

KD Easley said...

I thought when I looked at your picture, wow, she's really...built. Then I was reading the comments and thought it said, "I was distracted by your boots. So I went back to the picture thinking, wow, those must be some great boots, all I saw was the rack. In the picture, you were wearing sandals, then I was doubly confused. My brain makes the word a very interesting place.

Delia said...

1) I am totally envious of your boobs. Really.

2) Should you ever find yourself in that situation again, stick a piece of your shirttail through your beltloop and tie it in a knot. Problem solved.

3) LR, any spider that enters my house is subject to capital punishment as immediately as I am able to deal it out. I leave them alone outside, but the second they start invading my personal space, they must die.

Izzy G. said...

It's like how when I'll be reading a memoir, and I'll think, "Nah, that's so unrealistic, what's up with this author?", and then, "Oh, wait, this is real."

Jean Bauhaus said...

My main thought when I got to the boob pic was, "Wow, that's a really supportive bra. I wonder where she bought it."

Amanda said...

Fun post! The 4th was memorable for me because of the combined 167 mosquito bites my family sustained. Other than that, I heard a great one-liner from a sweet, Grandpa-type, "This bench (pause, pause) reminds me that my shorts are not made of oven mitts." Hope to fit that one into a future story...

SM Schmidt said...

Up to the car it didn't sound all that unrealistic. Learning the hard way to pack a spare leash in the back of the car is amusing, or was amusing for me.

Amazing luck you have for people's better natures being out on a holiday.

Mother Hen said...

The 4th here in England was a quiet one for me. As far as leaving all your worldly goods in the car and finding them when you returned...

I was sitting in my husbands Range Rover on Sunday and had our dog leashed to the car, she was lying in the sun next to my open door. Two teenage girls walked by not seeing me as I am small and was tucked into the front seat, One actually said," Look,we could nick the dog and the car!" Then they heard," Fat chance," from me.
Needless to say, dog didn't even bother to try to protect car or me.

We heard a few fireworks from far away neighbours but nothing grand. Hope yours was fun.

Tawna Fenske said...

Posey, we're down to just about 13 months before the first one releases. Kinda hard to believe, actually!

Mireyah, busty wench, I'm totally putting that on a business card! Re: the bike sex, Linda G. is referring to my March 26 blog post on "fake car sex." She suggested in the comments there that I should consider it on a bike: http://tawnafenske.blogspot.com/2010/03/fake-car-sex-realities-of-romance.html

Nina, the over-the-top stuff is sort of my trademark, so I do sometimes ignore critique partners who say "this could never happen" :)

KD, I do have some lovely boots I got in Spain. Maybe I'll post pics of those?

Delia, excellent suggestion on the shirttail! I actually did get to put the belt back on briefly while the dogs were in the water, but had to take it off when we started to fret someone might demand we re-leash them.

Izzy, I do the exact same things with memoirs and movies based on a true story. Of course considering how many memoirs turn out to be fiction (James Frey, anyone?) we might not be too far off!

Jean, I like how the blog comments have now veered from a discussion of my husband's testicles to a chat about my boobs. But since you asked, the bra is from Bali & is called "Lace-n-Smooth" and it IS wonderfully supportive! Sizing is tricky (they actually don't make my real size) in that the band runs 1 size smaller than you'd normally wear. In other words, if you're a 32B in normal bras, you'd be a 34B in this one. It's not the sexiest bra on the planet, but it makes you look terrific in T-shirts. Consider that my sales pitch. And here's a link: http://www.balicompany.com/detail.asp?col=3&cat=1&styleno=3432&color=RW

Amanda, LOL, thanks for cracking me up twice (though sorry to hear about the mosquito bites!)

SM Schmidt, we do live in a pretty low-crime area, but you'd think SOMEONE would be tempted by a purse sitting right there on the passenger seat with the window all the way down!

Mother Hen, OMG, what did the girls say? Did they run away? That's hysterical!

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

Mireyah Wolfe said...

LMAO! Just read the car sex post! I want to be you for a day. You can be 18 for a day as a trade! ;)

Patty Blount said...

Oh, to be you, Tawna.

when the unbelievable happens, at least it's funny and not a never-ending soap opera, as it is on this side of the country.

Thanks for the giggles. And for the bra link. I don't run because I've yet to find a bra that stops the girls from running after I've stopped, if you know what I mean.

Alastair said...

This is a great post, Tawna, and I enjoyed it immensely!

I recently had a conversation with a friend in which we discussed this topic: it's remarkable that we'll be thrown out of a story by one coincidence too many, or one excessively fortuitous moment of serendipity, while real life serves us crazy twists and chains of improbable events so frequently that we can only shrug, shake our heads, and say c'est la vie. Some might argue that we turn to stories for magic and miracles; personally, I think that we like fiction because so much more sense than the real world ever will. ;)

Patrick Alan said...

Tawna, thank you for that link. I just bought 4 new bras.

I got to give mad props to Pythag. I can't hold my balls behind my back like that.

Marguerite Butler said...

I found the whole thing totally credible. Bali makes a great bra.

comewrite said...

http://comewrite.wordpress.com/
cool blog

Claire Dawn said...

When they said, "Truth is stranger than fiction," they meant you!

Tawna Fenske said...

Mireyah, now there's an interesting blog post idea...what I'd do if I got to be 18 for a day :)

Patty, jog bras are a whole 'nother topic (Champion makes some good stuff, but even those aren't ideal) but that Bali bra does a pretty good job of minimizing the number of black eyes I give myself just walking down the street.

Alastair, hey, thanks for stopping by! I've been seeing some wonderful new traffic via your blog & Lucy March's! Very true about fiction making a whole lot more sense than reality. This probably explains why so many of us choose to be writers, eh?

Patrick, I repeated that to Pythagoras and he chuckled all the way home from the gym last night.

Marguerite, we should start a Bali fan club. I'm also a big fan of Wacoal and Felina (both of whom understand that bras can be both sexy and fully functional for busty women).

Claire Dawn, your comment isn't showing up in the comment trail for some reason, but I got an email saying it was there, so I'm assuming there's a blogger glitch. Um, are you calling me strange?!

Thanks for reading, guys!
Tawna

Lily said...

OMG LOL, this is too funny! Thankfully nothing was taken! A few weeks ago I carpooled with my cousin to go pick up our parents at the airport and needed to get something out of the trunk before we walked in. Well I left the front door wide open in the parking lot and we were inside for a good 30 minutes. Thankfully nothing was stolen, but when we walked back and I saw what I had done I felt crazy! LOL

I'm so glad I found your blog :) You have such a positive outlook on life it seems!