Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Library Patron from Hell or is it Cloud Cuckooland?

It is a frustrating truism of customer service that says, "The Customer is Always Right".  This is no less true in a Public Library. There has been a tendency in the last few years to hike costs related to overdue books, a necessity which has occurred owing to a steady decrease in government funding. Witness the following dialogue, verbatim as far as I can remember, overheard while I was packing the shelves in the early hours of Monday this week, before the library was open to the public.

LIbrarian (to her colleagues) :  Mrs B. tried her usual tricks to avoid paying her fines yesterday...

Mrs B:  I gave the  $3 to Susan last Friday.
Librarian:  Susan was on leave last Friday
Mrs B:  Oh, no, it was that man over there. I remember now
John:   No, it wasn't me.
Mrs B:  Oh, that's right, it was that Indian lady.
Kareesha: It wasn't me either.
Mrs B:  My mother didn't like the books, so why should I pay the fine?  Call Sandra, she'll cancel the fines for me.

(Names changed).

I am trying my hand at writing my novel having received an enquiry from one of our Book Club members. So grateful am I for her interest, that it has given me the push to start (1500 words so far..)  Interestingly, I am finding dialogue by far the hardest but very necessary part. Narrative is easy but dialogue essential.  I got a book on Creative writing and tips from the Net.  The purpose of dialogue is either to illustrate character or to advance the plot.  Boring day-to-day conversations are to be avoided. Most writers, it says, are great eavesdroppers and note-takers.  (Hence the above anecdote). I do have diaries from my youth, and my blog posts (especially re my eccentric dad), but nothing since except letters to my friends which are still in their hands. So I'm learning as I go. I have actually thought I should just write the whole damn thing (plot is done) and go back and replace scenes with dialogue afterwards.  Also, I've had to wait for one or two people on whom characters are 'loosely based' to die to avoid possible lawsuits. I have also decided not to slow down my typing by leaving out quote marks around speech. Some books are printed without them.

One thing struck me like a bolt of lightening. Why have you not yet started, asks the author?   Excuses proffered:  I am too busy at work, I have to plant those seedlings, I have to clean the house, I am too tired.   These can be rolled into one, says she, namely:

"I don't think I'm good enough'.   Wow.  Sextant, haul yours out and take another look. 


  1. The customer is always right, and quite often an blithering idiot or an underhanded swindler as well, sometimes both...but such is the nature of customer service. If her mother didn't like the book, then why did they keep the book long enough to incur a fine?

    So you are writing a novel, good for you. In regards to quotation marks, from a reader's standpoint, I believe them to be essential. I read all this artsy hogwash how leaving them out was refreshing, made clean copy, was intellectually purer, and bla bla. To me the damned book was a pain in the ass without them. Call me stupid and old fashioned, but I got very tired of trying to figure out who said what and is this dialogue or thinking or just the text. The other thing that gets me is when dialogue goes for pages with no hints of who is speaking. It doesn't have to be he said...she replied...then he said...she replied on every line but it is nice to have an identifier every so often. I have read books where I literally had to go back a page or so and go him...her...him...her...him........ and frankly I did not enjoy it. Put extra effort into making your dialogue good.

    Indeed all excuses usually are masquerades for "I don't think I am good enough." That is truly a misfortune for there is no greater critic that has killed more creativity than one's self. How much does the world lose?

    That said however, there is also something to be said for a realistic view on life and when you have completed something and you know it's pure crap, acceptance of that fact will spare you reading it many times over in the form of rejection slips. What is the old saying? Best to remain silent and let people think you a dullard than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

    Had I made excuses, I could have spared myself that realization. No need to pull anything out and dust it off. Crap, unlike fine wine does not age into something better. Because I needed to write something, did not mean that it was worth writing.

    Oh one last thing, please do not loosely base one of your novels on me. I would like to be around to read it. Good luck on your novel and I will be your first customer.

    1. I still say you write such brilliant comments on everyone's blogs, you shine with intelligence and wit which seems to come to you effortlessly. I still say you can do it. Maybe you are barking up the wrong tree with subject? Try again. I would say that clever satire is your forte, spiced with your marvelous self-deprecating humor. (And if that hasn't given you a kick in the pants, I don't know what will).

    2. Thank you for the compliment, but I had the first draft pretty much done and it was crap. There is an old saying "you can't polish a turd." I think my book was my solution to mid-life crises. I should went out and bought the red convertible, it would have been more useful. Some people's forte is to write books, others are to comment on blogs.

      I find that writing my occasional blog post fulfills my need to write, and on rare occasion some one actually reads a post. My blog has had far more readers than my book ever had. The worst I have done is waste a little of their time.

      But that is me. If you feel that desire to write, then write, you never know what you are going to get until you have done it.

  2. NB - Sextant, you may well feature in my story - you would fit very well into the central theme. (Sorry - got to keep you guessing).

    1. Alas! I don't want to die. I would like to read your book. If I sign a legal decree promising not to sue, will you not curse me?

    2. Sometimes, there is just a matter of trust. I would accept a cyber handshake on the matter and just believe that you would not sue me. If I ever cease to blog, will you continue to contact me by e-mail? You have become such a friend.

    3. Actually, my desire to write a book seems to stem from such a feeling of loss since both my parents died. I think about them every day and I am so sorry that I have lived so far away from them in my adult life. My brother bore the entire burden of them getting really old and I feel so guilty. But I must in the same breath acknowlege that we didn't get on very well, we didn't understand each other and I was (forgive me) so very glad to live far away from them.

    4. Cyber right hand extended, left hand over my heart with no fingers crossed.

      Contacting you by email is very difficult without an address! If you click on my name that will take you to my blogger profile page, and you can send me your address by emailing me from that page.

    5. I understand your dilemma with living close / far away from your parents. The happiest I was in my life in relationship to my mother was when I was in the military. She was on one side of North America and I was on the other side. 2200 miles was good distance. 5000 would have been better. My intention was to live in California when I got out of the military. However, my father had a severe stroke and I went back home to help out. Been here ever since. That had its share of blessings and curses. My relationship with my mother was rocky at best and I have lived in an a geographical area and environment that I do not particularly like. I really wanted to be a Mojave Desert rat. Offsetting that, by coming home I got re-aquainted with the woman I would marry. She had been my best friend's shit assed sister before I went into the service. When I came out, she become my best friend! It is amazing how a dippy little piss pot sister can grow into a rather scrumptious woman, while one is busy defending his country. (That sounds a bit more heroic than the reality of it.)

      My mother hated my wife, for which I have not been able to forgive my mother. Yes it would have been grand to have lived in the opposite hemisphere from my mother.

      Don't wallow too much in that guilt, just do a little to preserve your humanity. Guilt has never accomplished anything except suck the joy out of life. If you do better with your kids, figure it a lesson well learned.