Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Evil Twin and Other Literary Crimes

Just as "It was a dark and stormy night" is reckoned too cliched a beginning for any piece of serious fiction, there are a growing number of tropes that, while once original and startling, have become sources of predictable eye-rolling among readers.

I was reminded of this when I saw a post on Facebook by mystery novelist Sandra Parshall, who lamented "I've just finished yet another crime novel in which the supposed big twist near the end was the revelation of a secret sibling, somebody whose existence was previously unsuspected. (But this time I saw it coming from the second the character was introduced because the author practically put a flashing neon sign over his head.) This is the fifth or sixth newly published crime novel I've read in the last year with this "twist." It's getting tiresome. Why is this hackneyed plot device showing up so often?"

The funny thing was that I had just finished my perusal of a chapter in a novel by one of my students -- and I'm pretty sure there's a secret sibling plot twist brewing. If the writer can turn it around so the (presumed) secret sibling isn't, well, now that would be a good twist.

A related and even more embarrassing plot twist is the evil twin. I blush to say I used this soap operatic device in my very first (mercifully unpublished) novel. 

And there's the long-lost lover/spouse/relative who suddenly appears -- often in disguise -- and upsets the order of things. That goes back as far as Homer's Odyssey -- if not farther. In my Elizabeth books, I left open the possibility of her father showing up, or even Sam. . . though I never thought too hard about the latter.

I'm sure there are other plot devices that some find way too predictable -- are there any that annoy you?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Everlasting, Ever Evolving Easter Party

Sunday was, I think, the 37th Easter party held down at 'the lower place.' We had smaller Easter egg hunts up at our house beginning in'76 or '77 but when my sister-in law Fay moved to the mountains and into the house where Justin and Claui live now, that was when the parties got larger and were held down there.  

And that when various traditions began. The egg hunt, of course, goes without saying. A decorated egg tree and a contest for the best egg was part of the fun till recently when fewer and fewer people took the time to craft fancy eggs. Plus the egg tree took up valuable space in an increasingly crowded barn so, a few years ago I made an executive decision -- no more egg tree.

In the early years we had a pinata but after one terrifying incident where a small child got buried under a mob of frenzied candy-grabbers and Fay and I were pulling kids off the frightened (but mercifully unhurt) child at the bottom of the pile, we decided to eliminate the pinata tradition. 

Fay married and moved to Virginia years ago but she and her family usually return -- three of her grandchildren were among the egg hunters this year . . .

Not surprising -- quite a few of the kids who used to hunt eggs are now bringing their own kids -- and in at least one case, their own grandchild. 

And as always, there were all the old friends -- some of whom we see only once a year -- and some new friends -- (Robert, the student I recently reconnected with after forty-some years, was there, making me giggle by telling Justin that I wore mini-skirts back then (not really, short, for sure, but never mini -- the prep school was too conservative for that.)

It was a fine, fine day -- and when the last lingerer left, we closed the barn doors on the scene of destruction and Justin and Claui and the remaining out of town guests adjourned to our house to watch Carolina advance to the Final Four of the NCAA basketball tournament -- the perfect end to three days of partying .

Monday morning and, while Justin went to work, niece Amelia dealt with kids, and Claui milked,  Fay and her son-in-law Drew helped John and me with the cleanup process -- quilts down, garbage bagged up, dirty dishes and table clothes collected to be washed.

In about an hour, things were under control; the Virginia folks were on their way home; and the washing machine was going full tilt. 

In the next few days, quilts will get returned to their owners; the coffee maker will go back to Joel at Zuma Coffee Shop; and all the party stuff will get packed away to await a glorious resurrection next year.

I love the fact that much of the work has been taken over by the younger generation. It's mostly Justin's friends who decorate and set up the barn and my niece Amelia has taken on the job of wrangling the Easter egg hunt -- so I can wander about taking pictures or sit around chatting with friends.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. We joke that the party would go on whether we were there or not. And it would. And that's as it should be.

Monday, March 28, 2016