By C.L. Phillips
We sat in the living room, I at my grandmother's knee. We each held a mess of green beans plucked straight from the garden. Grandma said, "Let's clean up these beans while my story's on."
Over the course of ten summer visits to Grandma's house, I learned to care deeply about fictional characters. I shared their hopes, dreams, and despair. Every day, Grandma and I would do some type of chore that could be completed in front of the television while we peered into a world of rich business people, doctors, lawyers, heroes and villains. First for thirty minutes, and then later for a full hour, we rooted for our favorites.
Afterward, Grandma would editorialize about the day's show. "Lisa should know she can't trust that sneaky John Dixon. When will she learn?" And then she'd go off on a story from her life, drawing parallels between the real and fictional worlds. She told me, "Honey, you don't have to make every mistake in the world to learn from it, you just have to watch other people." Every day, she could take the main conflict and relate it directly to her life. You see, in our world, there were no rich business people, no lawyers or doctors. In our world, you didn't get dressed up to dig coal or potash. But we watched and I learned.
The first time I had to write a book report in elementary school, I didn't know what to do. Then I remembered how Grandma could always explain her story. She'd dig into the conflict immediately. She could always distill a show down into one simple sentence. It always started the same way. "Honey, the problem is somebody wants something they can't have." Is life really that simple? Sure worked for book reports.
One day, I squeezed into the middle seat on a crowded flight from St. Louis to Newark. The guy seated next to me asked, "What do you do?" I gave him a polite, yet evasive answer. "And what do you do?" I asked. "I'm a writer for a television show." Now I'm interested. "Which one?" I asked. Yep, you guessed it. As the World Turns. Can you see the look on the guy's face when he realized I was a certifiable fifteen year fan? Over the next several hours he shared how the show came together every day, every week, every month, and every season. Teams of people working together. A common goal. Shared accomplishment. "Boy, you must really love your job". His eyes traveled to some far away place. "It pays the bills," he said.
One of the great mysteries of being a writer, an author, is the knowledge you will touch lives you will never know personally. You will change the way people think, what they imagine, who they become. May you have the courage to create a world where you start a conversation with the quiet voice inside your reader.
C.L Phillips writes mystery novels while nestled under a hundred-year live oak tree in downtown Austin. Except in August. C.L writes about the the gap between what people want and what they actually do. Broccoli or chocolate chip cookies, anyone? Check out her web site: http://www.clphillips.com/ or find her onTwitter: @clphillips787