4 Methods to Escape Your Book

I participated in my first escape room experience and had so much fun not escaping. That’s right; my team lost. The six of us tripped around a tiny room, gathering clues and trying to convince each other we had the solution to the puzzle. We sifted through a bunch of nonsense theories to come up with the right one, form a plan, and execute it. Now I’m going to risk it and make a correlation that, I hope, will not doom me to the loony bin. Here it is: Sorting out these puzzles in an escape room is just like novel-writing to me, only I’m not brainstorming with five other individuals. I’m brainstorming with a bunch of differing opinions in my own head.

Will the character break here or does he need more pushing to come to the realization he’s got to change his thinking?

A third part of me thinks it’s time for him to break. A third thinks he’s not ready yet, and there is the final third that’s just not sure. That sounds like I only have three parties in disagreement, but there are really far more than even six opinions in the crowded room of my mind. For as many paths as there are that a story can take, there is a distinct and vocal campaigner in my head. And here’s what’s going to reserve my straightjacket at The Cracked Nut, A Haven for the Blissfully Barmy: I love this about writing! It thrills me when I have all of these directions presented to me because the possibilities are endless and ever-changing. I also hate this about writing! I’m not innately a ‘P’ on the Jung-inspired Myers-Briggs personality spectrum. I’m decidedly a Judging, closure-craving writer with a great need for open possibility and experimentation. So, I don’t want to be left in the crowded room of my mind, piecing the same puzzles over and over.

When our time was up, we left the escape room still hashing out our mistakes. First, we admitted we didn’t always know what the point was–as in, the object of the game or the goal of the individual puzzles. Second, we should have asked for clues. Third, we decided a different strategy would have sped up our progress considerably and kept us from getting distracted by details. In talking this out, I realized that these are things I deal with as a writer. These issues keep me from escaping—from finishing my book.

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1. Know the Point

On entering the room that would be our home for an hour, our escape guide rattled off a bunch of guidelines and asked, “Do you have any questions?”

No one responded except to look at one another.

“Okay, then…” He backed out of the room.

“Wait!” I said. “What is the point of this? What are we trying to do here?”

He gave me a small, enigmatic grin. I thought he was going to say a line from Princess Bride. ‘You’re trying to trick me into giving something away. It won’t work.’ What he said was, “You’ll figure out what you’re looking for as you go.”

“No, I mean, what is the overall goal here? There’s this criminal who is going to be set free if we don’t find… what?”

He gave me another one of his ‘you can’t fool me’ smiles.

“Are we looking for evidence that will keep the criminal in jail?”

“Yeah, you have to find the evidence.” He said it like I was supposed to know this. “But there will be a number of puzzles before you get to that.” The other players in the room nodded or said, “Oh, okay.” And this amazed me. Had no one in the room known what we were doing? Would anyone else have asked? Did it matter to anyone but me that we didn’t know the point of the story we were following to escape? I guess not.

Some writers begin a story without any focus or object. The goal manifests itself as they go. For me that’s like watching Lady in the Water. That movie was so frustrating I cried out, “He’s making this up as he goes along, isn’t he!” That being said, I’m not sold on knowing the concrete ending to my story, either. I tend to want to hold the ending inside, feel it and let it create the impetus to write it all out. I used to avoid writing out that ending scene beforehand. While I still think it’s important to be flexible about the last scene’s details, I have learned that I need to write the ending first in order to keep that initial image intact, or I’ll lose the principle, the point of the work.

2. Keep the Clues Coming

Our escape room guide told us, “If you want a clue, just look at the camera and say, ‘Kevin, can we have a clue?’”

He left the room, and we adults did what most adults do: we tried to work out the puzzles without asking for help. I found out later we should have been asking for clues all along. We knew we were behind when they appeared on the screen without prompting.

Writers need clues to stay on track, too. Our clues are the pre-written chapter titles that organize our scenes, or that skeletal plot outline, or the one-phrase reminders on the index cards of our storyboards. Too many times I’ve been bogged down in a scene, only to realize all that info I’m trying to stuff into it really fits a future situation. If I’d just backed away and looked at the outline, I would’ve seen it and stopped pounding that material into the wrong setting, the wrong moment. I know now that writing down my vision for each plot point is so valuable. They’re the clues that help me keep on task and pare down the extraneous material.

3. Dismiss the Details

Speaking of extraneous material, I learned something else about my writing technique when the escape room guide opened the door to let us losers out. We were given two boards to write on at the beginning of the challenge. One was completely discarded at some point; the other was in my hands the entire time. Kevin looked at my board and said, “Wow. I’ve never seen so many notes before.” I’d written down every single detail I thought would be helpful and grouped them into lists. In some ways I think my notes became more intriguing to me than the game itself. By the time our hour was up, I had solutions to clues to a puzzle we hadn’t made it to yet. Sure we would have saved a lot of time, if we’d had any time left to save, but my notes were useless.

Writers have a hard time with this, too. Sometimes, I’m inundated with story ideas, details, and descriptions that want to be put on paper, making it difficult to work on one thing at a time. Add to that the hours of compiled research, and I have this scattered mess of pages and files that don’t seem to fit anywhere. Like my terrifically notes-heavy board, I’ve let the details overwhelm me instead of allowing them to fill in the gaps in the background of my story.

4. Approach it with a Solid Strategyold-key-1385384620Pb2

Realm told me later, “We should have divided up into smaller teams and tackled the puzzles in tandem.”

“Yeah, kind of like leapfrog,” I added. “One team tackles the current puzzle while the second team gathers clues for the next. Each team could begin working the next puzzle in line after their first puzzle is solved.”

“Exactly.”

“But the guide told all of us to work on the current puzzle.”

“The guide was wrong.”

“We have to go back,” I told him. “We have to test this new theory!”

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with how to approach my story. I’m not talking about the narrative, rather, the approach I use to get the first draft down on paper. In the past there have been two stages for me when working on that first draft: marinating and transcribing. In the marinating stage I hole up in the bookstore or library and start jotting down the bits and pieces that will make my plot feasible. It’s the time when, while driving the kids to class, my daughter says, “Mom, you look really weird, talking to yourself and making faces like that.”

“I’m marinating,” I tell her, because that’s really what’s happening. My story isn’t marinating. I am. While I’m attaching all of these tiny threads of thought, linking together to form the woven picture, the story is attaching itself to me, soaking into my sleeping and waking moments until it’s ready to be told in its entirety.

And then I type. I type like a student in the manic last hours after procrastinating on a term paper. I’m trying to keep up with my characters as they play out the entire story in my head. If I don’t, the story begins to fade and disintegrate. I know; it’s happened. I’m left with patches and frayed swathes of story material with no home at all. So sad. So, I need blocks of time in the transcribing stage. But I don’t have blocks of time. I’ve had to experiment with my strategy in the last few years because my kids don’t take naps anymore, and they don’t need to go to bed earlier. They do need more one-on-one time to understand their assignments, as well as a chauffeur, a mentor, a therapist, a cook, and a personal trainer and nutritionist. You know, a mom.

So, in all the shuffling and scurrying of these adolescent years, I haven’t found the strategy that works all the time. Like Realm’s escape room strategy, I’d like to try writing in tandem, but it’s just me here with my thoughts and my little fingers clacking away. I hope, at some point, to complete this story… and the next… and the next… and then I guess I’ll be a pro at escaping.

Have any suggestions for me, fellow writers?

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The “Die” Part of My Diet

I was looking for a manly diet. One that didn’t require a ton of hands on prep. One that would help a man drop pounds in a matter of weeks instead of months. I knew I wanted something extreme, but it couldn’t be unhealthy—meaning, it had to be natural food rather than fake ingredients. The last criterion was that I could participate in this manly diet, too, without losing too much weight.

I found the perfect diet. A juice fast. With a juice fast you get to pump your body full of amazing vitamins and feel energized. You get to use this groovy machine that sounds like an airplane taking off. (See? Very manly.) Then, after the juice fast, when one is already seeing the pounds melt away, you get to transition into a moderate diet that will continue the weight loss process with a more gradual pace. The ribbon that tied up the package for me was the assurance that if I didn’t need to lose weight, I wouldn’t.

Here’s how it went:

The first five days of the diet prepared us to go from whole fruits and veggies to juice only. We drank two to three juices and ate veggies, salads, and soups for lunch and dinner. These were not enjoyable days. The kale salads were good, but the bland veggies and puree soup recipes were not. I could not seem to puree the soups finely enough to make the texture palatable. So, we opted for an organic box soup puree, just to make it through those dinner recipes. (Realm actually went without soup at all. It was getting to him.)

By day five I was cringing over the kale juices we’d been drinking. They had been tasty before, but not anymore. I had a kale nightmare. Kale wasn’t attacking me; I just dreamed I had to drink lots of kale juice. I woke up nauseated that fifth morning; and the thought of smelling kale—much less drinking it—made me gag. I didn’t want to drink any more kale juice, but I was determined. I gulped down a third of the morning juice, shuddered, shuddered again, sipped on a bottle of water, and waited for the worst. I was pretty sure the worst was coming. My stomach was not happy.

My stomach finally settled down, so I was great, right? I ignored the gentle “no” of nausea and gulped another third of my juice.

“Mom, are you okay?”

I couldn’t answer. I was in the throes of holding onto the juice. I could feel it in my throat.

“You look sort of green…”

“Of course, I look green,” I retorted after I was sure I wouldn’t hurl. “I’m drinking kale!”

May it be noted, for me and for anyone who goes on an extreme diet, I was a hangry jerk to my children. I have apologized to them a number of times, but I still feel badly about it. Another thing I’ve learned from this experience is the problem with embarking on a diet with your husband if you can’t handle it. I feared if I gave up, he would. So, I didn’t give up. I substituted kale for romaine, then to spinach once I could handle the taste. Every day I went to bed with nausea and woke to the dread of drinking another juice.

“Be positive,” my juice diet book told me. Have you ever noticed that people who are genuinely positive act differently than people who pretend to be positive? This worked not at all, and people knew something was wrong and I was faking it. I just wanted to slap the author of the book because I was disgruntled. Definitely disgruntled. And as we journeyed into the juice-only phase, my stomach was disgruntled. It burned and hissed at me. It voiced its distaste for my vitamin-packed offerings by accepting the juice and having me race to the bathroom all day long. I have a passive aggressive stomach.

I researched my symptoms. Other than the many websites that suggested I was dying, I found a few discussion boards where I discovered I might have a low-sodium, low iodine issue. So, I salted my juice and added some iodine drops. Delicious. 😦 Obviously, I was ignoring the fact that in a matter of days I’d dropped to the same weight I was before I’d had kids—which wasn’t ideal. (Yeah, I hear ya: “Oh, poor you.”)

My body was giving all the signs of defeat. I felt like one of Ursula’s withered-looking “souls” on Little Mermaid. I had no energy. My limbs felt heavy, and I was super, super depressed. I didn’t want to talk to anyone; I didn’t want to write. I wanted to hole up in my bedroom and think sad, lonely thoughts.

I had a protein shake on the night of the seventh to counter my horrible new personality. It made me feel even sicker. On day eight I woke with one wish: a whole avocado with salt. With much guilt I gave in by the afternoon. My stomach settled down, and I felt lovely. When I drank juice for supper, my upset stomach returned. I tried a red cabbage juice for breakfast on the ninth day. Nausea returned. I juiced a dessert juice. Still nausea.

During this time, Realm was feeling great. He was energized. He felt healthier than he’d felt in a long time! I told him I was glad he was doing well, but I really wanted to hate him. He said he thought I should wean myself off the diet because I hadn’t been acting right. “You don’t need to lose the weight anyway.”

“But I’m supposed to feel energized, and all of my health problems are supposed to go away!” Yeah, I realized how ridiculous it was right after I’d said it.

My weaning process was rather hurried because, first, I could not stomach another juice and, second, I was achingly lethargic and the inside arches of my feet were itching terribly (both signs for me of low iron).

As you can tell by the tone of this post, I’m not wholly out of the juice jungle yet. It’s been three days. My stomach has calmed down. I’m writing again now that my brain isn’t in a fog. Today my body sent me an appetizing picture of a kale salad, so I’ll try that tonight in hopes this diet hasn’t ruined my taste for the crunchy greens.

A few of my friends are going to say, “I told you so,” and they did tell me so. They said they were concerned, that a juice fast could be dangerous. Yep, it just about kale-d me.

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How to Make Friends Who Drive You Places

My son, Magne, is taking a driving course this summer. In his first day of class he became fast friends with Jared, a fellow-student who sat in the desk next to him and asked, “So, have you ever been in jail?” My son looked him in the eye, did a double-take to figure out if he was serious, and responded bewilderedly, “No…”

Somehow Jared lighted on the perfect question. Seriously, I think we should all start conversations this way. Consider what this sixteen-year-old already knows:

First, it is never acceptable to begin a conversation with, “Hello. I don’t know you, but I would like to. Tell me a little bit about yourself, beginning with your name.” No, the direct approach renders the speaker socially despised and vulnerable to swift rejection.

Second, household dependents, like children, don’t have the experience in life to ask the variety of introductory questions that most ask on meeting someone new, such as, “What do you do?” or “Where do you work?” Okay, so adults don’t really vary from the occupation question. And that leaves sixteen-year-olds at a disadvantage.

Not ideal friend potential for taking you to the mall.

Third, once the stranger responds with an answer, Jared has an inside track on this friend’s potential. Sixteen-year-olds who have been to jail are generally less likely to retain their driver’s licenses, meaning they are less likely to be the friend to call when you need a ride somewhere. (Let’s face it; a car doesn’t magically appear once you get a license.)

I doubt Magne thought about any of this at the time. He was just happy to find someone in class who was willing to break the ice. Jared’s approach was somewhat mystifying, but the end result was satisfactory for both boys. Magne now knows there’s a good chance Jared can drive him somewhere.

Caught up in Kingfountain Lore

Did I leave you in the depths of despair about my fan grief last week? Sometimes a fan just needs to say what she feels, you know? This week, I’m focused on the good stories being written. There are great writers making new and amazing tales, creating new worlds and inspiring a reader’s fancy. In fact, this booklover is head-over-heels for the Kingfountain Series!

 

Book 1 of the Kingfountain Series.

Jeff Wheeler’s first Kingfountain book, The Queen’s Poisoner, is a fantasy adventure with historic elements that captured my imagination from the first. Taken captive to the king’s palace, young Owen Kiskaddon (Don’t you love that name? The names in this book are splendid!) finds himself in a precarious situation. His father, a traitor to the crown, must pay for his betrayal with his life, leaving Owen’s life hanging in the balance. Feeling none-too-loyal to the king, he discovers Ankarette, the Queen’s Poisoner. Ankarette is the perfect ally… and a powerful enemy. She opens Owen’s eyes to the political upheaval going on around him, and in the process opens his mind to legendary powers he didn’t know existed!

I downloaded the Kindle edition of The Queen’s Poisoner last year and quickly knew I wanted my own physical copy… along with book 2, The Thief’s Daughter. (Greedy, aren’t I?) I saved the books to my Christmas wishlist, but no sign of Kingfountain magic graced my bookshelves. This Mother’s Day I tried a more direct approach, handing my husband and kids my list of the first three Kingfountain books. (I figured, if I’m going to be a glutton about the books, I might as well add a third.)

My book gifts came pouring in, and so did curiosity about this series. I had no qualms about sharing the first book with my kids. With its incredible, admirable characters of thought and deed, The Queen’s Poisoner is thoroughly laced with integrity and meaning. My daughter sat up reading it late into the night. How lovely it is when a mom and daughter get swept away in the same adventure!

Another fascinating aspect of Wheeler’s first book premise is the influence of the historical account of the Princes in the Tower. The disappearance in 1483 of King Edward IV’s two sons, Edward V and Richard, remains cloaked in mystery to this day. While Wheeler’s story is completely his own, there are threads and names that surface, harking back to that murderous episode in England’s history. Take the name Dominic Mancini, the royal historian both for the true and Wheeler’s fiction.

“It’s been my experience, Owen, that when everyone agrees on some point of fact, it tends to be the biggest deception of all.”

– from The Queen’s Poisoner

The Thief’s Daughter continues the historic thread. Piers Urbick surfaces as the disputed king of Ceredigion. His name sounds suspiciously like Perkin Warbeck, a claimant to Henry VII’s throne in the late 1490s who turned out to be an imposter.

Wheeler’s handling of this imposter premise is quite intriguing! In fact, I think the second book is better than the first. Owen and his friend, Evie, have grown into young adults who mean much more to each other. His responsibilities require greater risks and sacrifices. Just how often does a sequel outshine its predecessor?

If you’re a fantasy bookworm with a penchant for a strategy-filled clean read, this is the series to try! Book 3, Book 4, and the prequel, The Maid’s War, are also available on Amazon. Book 5 is in the works.

Snuffing Out the Thrill of Anne

Fan Grief. That’s what I’m calling it. It started with the Pride and Prejudice knock-offs (most of which should have been knocked off and buried before they aired), followed by the fairytales that underwent extreme makeovers. The old cartoons were revamped. Then the Muppets. (I just want to erase the Muppets from my memory forever because I hit an all-time low with the new Muppets.) The sitcom comebacks came back and left again to my relief.

And then this: a little girl named Anne Shirley talks about sexual things she doesn’t comprehend, and it’s supposed to be amusing. It’s not. I’d be shocked, but that stage of my grief has been burned away by the constant barrage of terrible ideas coming from these revisits. Yeah, I know moral integrity was lost long ago by the major movie and TV companies who are making this tripe. That doesn’t make the horror go away that they have taken my childhood friend and smashed her innocent little face in the mud with the Boot of Demoralization. It doesn’t lessen the indignation I feel.

Fan Grief, this sense of losing someone close, causes me anxiety, confusion, and anger simultaneously. Can we acknowledge Fan Grief is “a thing,” or is grieving over the loss of an imaginary person too unrealistic? We shouldn’t have feelings for anyone but real people, right? Book characters continue to relate to readers in ways and at susceptible moments when a real person couldn’t get through to us. Is it really so silly that we fans take imaginary characters seriously? Never mind that the worlds of imaginary characters change us, influence us to grow psychologically, open our minds to new perspectives. They aren’t real, so they don’t count. Are any fans mollified by this line of reasoning? It’s not working for me.

By L. M. Montgomery, M. A. & W. A. J. Claus [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
L.M. Montgomery, the writer of Anne of Green Gables, wrote about seeing the beauty of life in the toughest situations and learning to rise above. She focused on joy through innocent Anne’s eyes. Later, as Anne grew into an adult, Montgomery used sorrow to create strength and vision to teach me to cling to love and goodness. Those of us who grew up scouring bookstores for Emily and Kilmeny and Marigold and Jane of Lantern Hill (before the Internet was an option) are now being punched in the gut. Our beloved Anne is a crude composite that some writer skimmed off the surface of Montgomery’s tale, tacking on to her all sorts of ugliness.

What if someone re-manufactured the Teddy Bear by pouring dirt into him for stuffing, then touted him as the Teddy Bear I grew up with… and laughed with… and cried with? What if, in my excitement, I presented the new Teddy Bear to my excited daughter, who wanted to relate to my fond memories and stories? She would take the filthy bear in her arms, and he’d puff out his filth on her. Trying to connect with the experiences of her mother, my daughter would receive the gagging refuse the fake Teddy Bear left on her! It’s a sorry replacement: a fake Anne stuffed with sexual innuendo from a brutal past. This re-invented Anne suffers from flashbacks of abuse. She goes into a panic attack when a baby cries and relives being insulted, slapped, and beaten. She has a self-inflicted bruise along her forearm—because she’s “pinched herself a thousand times.” Maud Montgomery certainly depicted loneliness and even depression, but not in a masochistic manner. If she had written Anne in this grimy way, child readers would never have connected with her like they did. Adults – adults who have been through the horrors of abuse and neglect and brutality – connected with Anne because she inspired them to look on the bright things of life with new eyes.

I can’t believe for a minute this is actually flying with fans. What fan is so unobservant and disloyal that she can’t see someone has just glued a picture of her favorite character onto something completely opposite in integrity to that character? Fans aren’t that stupid.

In the throes of my disappointment, I turned to kindred spirit friends for support. These were their comments:

  • “I am currently reading through the Anne series again…to see if the newest remake had any basis for its claims. In chapter 17 of book 5, Anne is talking to Captain Jim… She says her time before Green Gables wasn’t happy, and Captain Jim says, ‘Mebbe not – but it was just the usual unhappiness of a child who hasn’t anyone to look after it properly. There hasn’t been tragedy in your life, Mistress Blythe.’ So, right there you have it from the author’s mouth that the horrid version has no basis.”
  • “This [version] is an insult to L.M. Montgomery. It’s my opinion that a story should stick with the original, but this goes beyond that with changes that are agenda-pushing and/or change the personality of the character.”
  • “If I wanted to watch a story with troubled teens, I’d just watch Lifetime.”
  • “Yeah, if I wanted reality, I’d watch Teen Mom.”

I’m sickened! Yes, and I’m disgusted! And I admit that this strong reaction surprises even me. I’m surprised to find I’ve been wounded by a TV show. I don’t want the next generation to grow up thinking the book friends of my childhood even slightly resemble this rot.

Thwack! – By M. A. and W. A. J. Claus (https://archive.org/details/cu31924013243963) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I want the next generation to know the wonder of the untarnished original, set in the thinking of the time, not a writer’s mind-child tattooed with anachronisms that ruin the whole experience! Didn’t that time have enough of its own problems; does it really need this era’s propaganda? Why do writers use historical TV programs to pick at the scab of modern day issues, preaching pet political opinions and spouting banal platitudes? It’s nauseating. I have a mind to put strychnine in the well these writers drink from because there’s no slate heavy enough to inflict on their heads the fury I feel over their senseless behavior.

First Relationships

From the series Breathing Life

A young student at co-op started cleaning my table before I’d finished eating. Realizing I wasn’t moving my food, she politely said, “Excuse me; I need to wipe this table.”

I scanned my area for the usual crumbs, and there weren’t any. I told her, “All clean here!”

She hesitated, the wet wipe hanging limply from her fingers. “But I have to wash here.”

I explained to her that it was her job to wash away dirt and food, but there wasn’t any dirt or food.

She nodded and walked away, but her expression told me she was still perplexed. She was supposed to wipe down the table, and she had not done that. What to do! What to do!

We humans tend to do things because we are told to do them. This behavior begins before we have the maturity to understand the reasons behind what we do. As we get older, we begin to study the principles and concepts we live by. (The sheep-like behavior remains only if we feel pressured to conform or lack impetus to change.)

This account of the first man and woman was not written to teach Adam and Eve; it was written to teach a people who were becoming a nation. They needed to understand where they’d come from and what was expected of them. So, the Author of Genesis 2 sets down a major principle immediately after Adam makes his observation about the woman God had made.

“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” – Genesis 2:24

Image by Keriography. Used by permission.

Two relationships are mentioned here. Leaving father and mother refers to the parent-child relationship. The second relationship is a union between Adam and Eve.

The first man didn’t have a mom and dad to leave, and neither did the first woman. So, why does the Author record this rule right after Adam meets Eve? It’s a reminder to me that Adam and Eve are not the audience.

Every word expressed by a writer is made to say something. A writer’s challenge is to deliver a message or concept so that the reader can grasp it, examine it, and, hopefully, use it. The audience is always there in the back of the writer’s mind, the impetus for him/her to change and develop the approach to better communicate with the reader.

Reviewing what I know about the audience of Genesis 2 – a fledgling group of Hebrews who have escaped slavery in Egypt – I can gather they are undergoing a reconstruction. They are developing their own civilization, and the covenant between this first man and first woman is crucial. This marriage covenant is the cornerstone of their societal development. They are a nation establishing laws, rituals, and procedures that will be more advanced than any of the neighboring peoples around them for many centuries.

According to this passage, the marriage relationship takes precedence over the parent-child relationship. The Israelite nation under Moses was organized according to the twelve tribes of Jacob. Sons inherited tribal land from their fathers (and, in some cases, their mother’s first husband’s tribe). This land could be rented out but would always return to the family tribe. So, a son’s relationship with his father and mother was tantamount to his identity as a citizen of the nation. His relationship to his family was extremely important, but this passage makes it clear his relationship to his parents was not to eclipse the union of a man to his wife. This honor in the marriage relationship is depicted in Adam’s feelings toward Eve.

“And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

She is bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. She belongs with him as he belongs with her. She is his companion in life. (Parents are not a person’s life companions, though they hold an honorable position.) Knowing she is made the same as he, his natural behavior toward her would be to treat her as he would treat himself. Her flesh is to be his flesh, meaning he would not want to harm his own body, so he would not harm hers. He would not shame himself, therefore he would not shame her. He would not deprive himself of physical and emotional care; he would not deprive her of that same care.

It’s a basic understanding of a relationship that spans millennia, and that principle is expressed in two sentences. Amazing, isn’t it?

Writing Tip Recap: A writer communicates the message best when he/she keeps in mind the audience to whom it is being written.

This is the last of the Breathing Life series. You may wonder why verse 25 of Genesis 2 is missing. After studying it, I came to the conclusion it fits perfectly with the thought flow of Genesis 3. So, I will keep that for a future series.

For a list of the posts, check the “Breathing Life” page.

*Featured image by Keriography. Used by permission.

From Surgery to Cloning

I underwent surgery last summer and was given a “clicker” in recovery for a morphine drip. I was told I could use it every six minutes and that it wouldn’t release the drug until the six minutes had passed. (I was certain I’d been told I could use it every six seconds, but Realm assured me it was minutes.) Minute five was murder; I thought I’d never live through those 60 seconds. My body did not take kindly to the morphine, not only because of the rebound/dependence pain in minute five but because my stomach rejected the drug’s influence with a disgustingly vile display of its contents sometime later. The morphine did its job – I cannot imagine how I would have dealt with the pain without it – but it would’ve been nice not to have had side effects.

The first man didn’t experience any of my problems. His was the perfect procedure and outcome.

“And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;” – Genesis 2:21

This is God’s second operation. The first was the descriptive “breathing” of life into man. This second one has general anesthesia involved. His deep sleep is a trance-like state in which Adam is completely inert. The phrase “and he slept” means to be languid or slack. This is not the same as drowsiness of sleep, translated ‘slumber’ in many passages. It is also not the sleep meaning ‘to dream’ or ‘to talk while dreaming.’  This word depicts a sleep that can lead to death. It is so deep the person is unaware of what is going on around him/her and feels nothing.

Surgeons use anesthesia because they don’t want their patients to be aware of what is happening, have a memory of it, or experience any pain. This is to keep the patient completely relaxed. The medical community still does not fully understand the reasons why anesthesia works to disconnect the brain from the body, yet more is known about the response of the body to types of anesthesia and its stages than could possibly have been known when this was written. The Creator’s anesthesia required no synthetic chemicals, no concerns about getting the right dose, and no adverse side effects. This is another example of how the Creator is attentive and involved with His creation. This man is being cared for in the best possible manner. Jehovah God could have taken Adam’s rib by any means He chose to use. Man was His creation, after all. Should it matter to Him whether Adam was nervous, panicked, tortured when He removed the rib? Why would it matter to God whether Adam healed immediately and had no painful aftereffects? This gentleness and consideration shows a Creator who has a tender feeling toward His human creation. Adam’s pain – any discomfort in this new life experience – matters to Jehovah God.

Another phrase I had to look up is “closed up the flesh instead thereof.” The meaning for closed up is the absolute shutting or sealing up of the body. The picture given is one in which the Creator is thoroughly closing the gap where He removed the rib. No stitches. No waiting for the site to heal itself. No tears, pulls, or reopening. Adam is going to have the fastest recovery known to man when he wakes.

The Author chooses precise words to describe what Adam goes through. He also gives a step-by-step account of the procedure. The detail in so few words fascinates me. I’ve noticed that the most climactic accounts in the Bible are written concisely.

“God created the heavens and the earth.”

“And man became a living soul.”

“Jesus wept.”

“And they crucified him.”

The lesson for every writer is that monumental/deeply moving events cannot be expressed by forced emphasis or an abundance of description.

“And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.” – Genesis 2:22

And the woman is finally created! She was built (that’s the meaning of made) from the rib of Adam. This is an exciting detail when I consider what is known about bone marrow today. I have heard the romantic speculation that the first woman was made from a rib bone because it was close to Adam’s heart. I personally find the scientific discoveries that prove the rib bone to be rich in blood and immune cells, and carrying Adam’s genetic material, far more intriguing.

“And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” – Genesis 2:23

The first statement out of Adam’s mouth depicts his feelings, which helps me relate to his emotions. The Author doesn’t make the mistake some writers do of saying, “Adam was happy” or “He was mind-blown.” I can see those two feelings in what Adam says. He knows Eve was created from his body. She belongs because he belongs. She was cloned from him, yet she is woman – the female version. They are genetically perfect and complete, and their DNA is from the same source.

Adam’s operation removes a ton of skepticism surrounding the first woman’s birth. If she had been made from the dust of the ground, like Adam, it would have opened the door to questions about her DNA. Was it different from his – perhaps genetically weaker, more vulnerable, less or more intellectually capable?  She was directly formed from his genetic material.

She is presented as the match that fills the void. She is help for Adam. She is meet (or fitting) for Adam. She is a gift directly from the Creator. The man is no longer the solitary human who thinks and feels above the rest of God’s creation. She is now beside him, able to relate to him, experiencing their new world.

Writer Recap:

  1. Good writers use succinct terms in their narrative to capture important events.
  2. Rather than telling the reader what the character feels, let the reader experience the character’s feelings through his/her own words and/or actions.

*Featured image by Keriography. Used by permission.