And Now For Something Completely Different

Montesa_AlteredVibrance_squareHi all! My name is John Brewer and I ‘m the newest member of the crew on Writing Prompts&Thoughts&Ideas… Oh My! I’m very excited to be working with such a wonderful, hard working and talented crew and hope to bring my own unique perspective to this very handy blog.

So, the theme this month is Everything Bible, a subject with which I am very familiar yet, at the same time, completely ignorant. Familiar because I grew up in a Christian home and have remained faithful. Ignorant because, as a mortal, limited human, I can see so little of the glory of God. It seems that every time I read His Word I come away with something new, which leave me wondering how much I have yet to uncover. As children we learn the Bible stories and think we know the Bible. Ha! God has a lifetime of discovery ahead for each of us.

NoPlotHolesI’ve witten four novels, several of which have been published, and when you work at this game for a while you begin to see what you are good at, and what you are bad at. I’m pretty good with plot. It may be because I’m a physicist and tend to think very analytically. Regardless, I spend a lot of time on it and like to make sure I have no plot holes. If there is anything in literature that drives me nuts, it is plot holes. I certify all my work as 100% plot hole free.

But plot is where we writers often get stuck. What to do next in a story so that it keeps moving forward. Of course if it were that simple, it would be simple. But it isn’t that simple. Not only must your next plot point keep the story moving, it must engage the reader and therein lies the difficulty which can lead to the dreaded writer’s block. Addressing writer’s block, how to avoid it, and how to overcome it is today’s writing prompt.

Remember Monte Python’s Flying Circus? When you saw it as a kid you probably hated it. That weird British humor. But you love it as an adult. I’ll never forget this one in particular: And Now For Something Completely Different. It starts with something completely different, a suit-wearing man in a zoo-cage saying “And now for something completely different,” and moves on to something completely different, a British “tommy” striking another with a fish, and ends with something completely different, the original offender being struck with a very large fish, knocking him into the water. For decades this was Monte Python’s calling card – absurdity. You never knew what was coming next. That is what made them humorous and fresh; going places we never expected.

HugeDiggerThis is why we writers get stuck in plot. We build our stories in a very linear fashion based on what came before. Cause and effect. But that isn’t what real life is like, is it? And it certainly isn’t the stuff of an interesting story. Stories are engaging because of the unexpected. Bizarre things happen. People behave irrationally. They burst into anger. React unexpectedly. Make bad decisions. Unexpected things happen when, by definition, we least expect them. Of course, it is hard to think this way. Most people try to go along to get along. We avoid confrontation and try to make good decisions. And while all of this is well and good in real life, if you write this way you will put your readers to sleep.

I struggled with this mightily in my early writing. Characters came off flat. Nothing happened. Even the exciting parts seemed forced. I eventually realized it was because I was inside all the characters heads making good decisions all the time. I’m basically a decent person and treat others as I want to be treated. This is DEATH in a novel. Your bad guys have to be BAD. Your good guys have to make mistakes. Crazy people need to act crazy. And unexpected things need to happen.

Perhaps the best example of this is found in the Bible itself, when Jesus died on the cross. It would seem that his reign ended there. The Romans and the Jews must have written him off. Satan certainly thought he’d won. His followers believed they’d been finished. How unexpected was it when Christ arose on the third day? Who saw that one coming?

In today’s writing prompt think of something totally unexpected. Anything from someone having a stroke to a civilization ending meteorite hitting the Earth. It’s impossible to get it wrong because there are no mistakes.

Today’s Prompt: Perfect days don’t come very often but Jake had to admit, this seemed like one of them. The concrete truck had arrived on time and there were actually enough men to get it smoothed out before it started to harden. One of them actually spoke English this time so Jake had been able to communicate for a change. Amazingly enough, the weather even cooperated, with a nice blue sky and a refreshing breeze. Then his boss arrived with money to pay the workers before five o’clock. As Jake walked out to his truck he wondered if anything could go wrong.

Try to do something completely different in this story. Having the truck fail to start is totally predictable. So what happens next? Does he win the lottery? Does he get a cell phone call that his wife was just killed in a car accident? Those are both pretty predictable. Make a conscious effort to do something totally unexpected. But then, that’s the hard part, isn’t it?

Thanks for reading!

Find out more about John on his website: johncbrewer.com .

– John C. Brewer

10 thoughts on “And Now For Something Completely Different

  1. Excellent point on how to maintain excitement, but there is a caveat: while the events must be unexpected to the reader, they must follow rather rigid dictates based on the type of plot. As a result, the writer may not find these events to be unexpected at all. I find that when they are, I have veered away from the plot.

  2. Welcome, John. Great start–I like the way you wove plot into our Bible theme. Stories are all around us. Unexpected plot twists make life interesting.

  3. Pingback: January 4th (And now for something different) « Christina Rich

  4. Perfect days don’t come very often but Jake had to admit, this seemed like one of them. The concrete truck had arrived on time and there were actually enough men to get it smoothed out before it started to harden. One of them actually spoke English this time so Jake had been able to communicate for a change. Amazingly enough, the weather even cooperated, with a nice blue sky and a refreshing breeze. Then his boss arrived with money to pay the workers before five o’clock. As Jake walked out to his truck he wondered if anything could go wrong.
    The sound of footsteps pounding the parking lot forced Jake to take notice of his surroundings. Before he realized what happened, teenagers ran passed him, knocking him over. If it hadn’t been for the cement stopper, he would’ve regained his balance. Gravity had a different idea, however. Jake stumbled backwards, grasping for anything to break his fall.
    The phrase, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall,” floated through Jake’s mind as his six foot two inch frame landed hard on the pavement. His head banged against the ground, a crack slicing through the evening. His vision blurred as darkness overtook him.

    ***
    “Where am I?” Jake blinked, eyes scanning the room in slow motion.
    “Jake? Honey? You okay?”
    “Who, who are you?”
    The pretty woman with straight brown hair sunk to the chair next to his bed. Tears gathered in her caramel eyes. For some reason, an ache pierced through him.
    “I’m your wife, Jake.” She sniffed and pressed a button. “Don’t you remember me?”
    He shook his head, pressure building behind his eyes, forcing them closed. “My wife? I’m married?”
    A man with a white coat came in and leaned over Jake. “Welcome back, Jake. How are you feeling?”
    “Not good. I don’t remember anything.”
    “Dr. Goodman, he doesn’t remember me.” The lovely lady blinked, the tears falling from her eyes.
    The doctor frowned and searched Jake’s eyes, blinding him with his light. “We’ll run some tests and get to the bottom of things.” He pressed another button and before long, nurses swarmed around him.

    ***

    “Amnesia.” His wife, Laurie, said into the phone. They’d been home for a week now, and so far, nothing changed. He still couldn’t remember anything before waking up in the hospital.
    “The doctor said it could go away or last forever. They’re not sure.” Her sigh tore at him. He’d give the world to recall his life with her.
    Laurie hung up the phone and turned to Jake. “Do you need anything?”
    He shook his head. “Why don’t you show me our wedding album?”
    For the first time in a week, her beautiful face lit up. “Okay. Be right back.” She flashed him a smile over her shoulder and disappeared down the stairs.
    He leaned back on the couch, taking in the scenery around him. Pictures of him and Laurie decorated the mantle above the fireplace. Only married for three year, they didn’t have children yet. Jake exhaled, glad this wouldn’t affect them. Laurie bounced up the stairs, a big white book in her hands.
    “Here we are.” She sank down beside him. The grin on her face melted Jake’s heart. “This is us. You looked so handsome that day.” Her hand brushed over his brown wavy hair in the book. “From what Jeremiah said, you were a nervous wreck.”
    “Jeremiah?”
    Laurie nodded. “The pastor who married us. Oh, it was a beautiful day.” A faraway look crossed over her features. “Everyone we invited promised to hold us accountable to the kind of marriage God wants us to have.”
    “God?” This was the first time he’d heard any mention of God. “Do, do I believe in God?”
    Laurie’s lips quivered. “Yes, very much so.”
    Jake shook his head. “I don’t remember anything about God. Will you tell me about Him? If He’s such a big part of my life, I want to why.”
    Determination replaced sadness on Laurie’s face. She stood up and went to the basket that held her a thick book. Jake leaned forward when she sat next to him. He’d never thought of God before she brought Him up. What did it mean to him?
    “What book is that?”
    “It’s the Bible, God’s Word. It a love letter written from God to us on how to live in a world we don’t really belong to.” She flipped it open, the pages crinkling with every turn. “John 3:16 says for God so loved the world He gave His only Son that whoever should believe in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.”
    “His Son? God has a Son?” Jake furrowed his eye brows. “How’s that possible?”
    Beginning in a book called Luke, Laurie explained the virgin birth, King Herod, and the wise men. Jake drank it all in. God loved him enough to send His Son to earth? Not as King, but a humble baby.
    “It doesn’t end there, though.” Laurie smiled. “Jesus died on the cross for our sins.” She flipped to a few more pages and shared with him what people call Good Friday and all the events leading up to the cross.
    “He did this for me? For all of us? Why?” Jake rubbed the tears forming in his eyes.
    “Love. He loves you, Jake, always have, always will.” Laurie squeezed his hand.
    “How do I have a relationship with Him?”
    “You already do.” Laurie scooted closer to Jake, laying her head on his shoulder.
    “But I want one I remember. Will you help me? Starting today, I want to know Jesus.”
    Laurie took his hand in hers and had him repeat a prayer. Hope filled Jake. He’d missed that hope since he woke up in the hospital, but today, he felt joy, real joy filling every fiber of his being.
    “Thank you, Laurie, for showing me the way to God.” He kissed her cheek and drew her near him.

    ***
    A year later, Jake sat on the couch next to his wife. Her growing belly made him smile. Jake’s memory still hadn’t returned. The doctor’s gave up hope of him ever remembering his past. He held no sadness or bitterness, though. The most important thing was his continued relationship with Jesus and Laurie. For Jake, this new life he led was the greatest blessing. Though he couldn’t remember his past, he enjoyed making new memories with those he loved and held dear.

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