Tag Archives: fiction

That Would Never Happen

I write fiction. I do it because I like to tell stories, stories of unusual people doing unusual things in unusual places, stories of extraordinary events that change lives and create purpose.

The most important word in that last paragraph is unusual, which is why I used it three times. I figured it should stand out, because it seems like a lot of people are missing the point.

All too often I hear a critic (typically an armchair critic) pull out the nobody-ever-does-that card. They concentrate their rage on a decision a character makes or a situation that occurs that they believe is illogical and absurd.

The problem is that those illogical and absurd events are often the driving force behind the entire story in the first place. Throughout history people have been making illogical choices that have shaped how that history turned out. Absurd events have influenced the modern world as much as logical, well-thought out choices.

If I write a film about the Revolutionary War, focused on the burning of Washington D.C., and the big plot point in the third act is a tornado that comes out of nowhere, puts out all the fires in the city and scatters the British army, people would start tearing me apart when the first trailers hit YouTube. The fact that it actually happened would finally tone them down, but it sounds completely ludicrous. Imagine the anger that would erupt if I tied the tornado (the first in D.C. recorded history, mind you) to a descendent of a Salem Witch who’s character arc hinges on the fact that she is religiously oppressed even in a society that espouses “freedom of religion.” We watch her struggle against the church to the point that she is imprisoned in a DC jail during the war and summons the tornado to save the US, even though she loses her life in the process.

The point of fiction – one of the points, at least – is that anything can happen. If anything, historical fiction is often more plausible than actual history because the author corrects something absurd that happened in the past and then pay immaculate attention to detail when mapping out the “logical” events that follow.

Modern fiction is even more rife with critics pitching a fit about how silly something is. My favorite argument is the “he could never get her” complaints that show up every time a Beauty and the Beast rom-com shows up. I mean, seriously, do you think the chubby stoner that Seth Rogen plays in Knocked Up could ever land someone like Katherine Heigl?

I mean, seriously, have you ever walked around in public? There are plenty of people in every city on the planet running around with lovers that you would never expect. Sure, people think someone like Ryan Reynolds will end up with Sandra Bullock instead of Melissa McCarthy, but both realities are possible and both can have spectacular stories attached.

Save the “that would never happen in real life” card for the completely ridiculous, and if it is a completely ridiculous comedy or avant garde flick, just take it out of the deck altogether because the film’s genre makes the argument more absurd than what happens on screen.

Creative license drives fiction. Get used to it, get over it and get with it. If you don’t like it, read nonfiction. Then we’ll be able to talk about the “that didn’t happen” card.


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Lackluster Communication Skills

“Lackluster communication skills.”

“You sound like a business manager or a corporate hack.”

“I am a business manager.”

“No! You’re an assassin that just killed the wrong fucking mark. Way, underline fucking exclamation point way, wrong.”

The shit of it is that she’s right.  Absolutely, one hundred percent, undeniably right.  She knows it, I know it and in about half an hour every monkey with a gun’s gonna know it.  And she’s upset because there’s a real good chance we’re gonna see what the ground looks like from the other side of the grass real soon.

“Where’s the pot? I need a joint.”  She’s not upset, she’s pissed.  She only smokes grass if she’s afraid she’s gonna kill someone what don’t deserve it.  Since that’s the last thing we need I pass her the bag.  There’s a hogleg in there that should set her straight while I do some thinkin’.

See, that’s my strong point.  I’m not that good with words much, but you let me wrap my head around an idea long enough and I can usually come up with something worthwhile.  Not saying that I’m the brains of the operation or anything.  That girls got more ideas than Ben Franklin.  It’s just that, in a pinch, she gets a bit emotional.  Fortunately, I don’t get those much.

“How long should we stay here?”  She looked at me through the haze her joint was making in the room.  She wasn’t asking for an answer, she already knew. She was testing me, makin’ sure I wasn’t gonna flip.  If I go then there’s a mountain o’ shit gonna follow and she ain’t about to stand around and watch it erupt.

I answer cautiously.  She don’t have nothin’ to worry about, but the ideas are already coming and they’re tellin’ me to work fast.

“Normally I would say three hours.  Not a soul on this Earth would think to look for us here.”  It was some heavy shit she was smokin’ and almost gone to boot, but the crow’s feet were barely showin’.

“What do you mean by normally?”

“I think we should leave now.”

I’m up and moving before I finish my sentence and it’s genuinely pleasing to see her follow me, not hesitating a bit.  Knowin’ someone has that kind of trust in you goes a long way towards makin’ a relationship work.  Mr and Mrs. Smith we aren’t, but we do screw each other and kill people on a regular basis.

While we pack everything my brain lays on the throttle.  “I posted scene flee times from here to The Hole in under seven minutes.  Particularly bad traffic will get us ten.  We can clean The Hole in five and bounce and then go deep.”

She stops moving for a split second.  I don’t know what clicks in her head, but something does.  “What if he hole’s compromised?”

“It is, but there’s something there I need.”  She raises her eyebrow at that, but doesn’t ask any more questions and I don’t volunteer any more information.  We’re both workin’ on things – plans, ideas and ideas of plans – but they still need fleshing out.  When it’s time they’ll come together.  They always do.

Eight and a half minutes later we’re at The Hole.  The Hole is a small cigarette shop I own.  Owned.  It didn’t ever make me any money.  Hell, most of the time it would lose money.  Didn’t matter, though.  The place had been priceless until twenty minutes ago.

In another twenty it would be worthless as tits on a boar.

I go in alone and she waits in the car.  Less than four minutes and I’m back and pulling onto the road with a small pile of hope in the backseat and a knot in my stomach.  The Hole had been a bit more to me than a hiding place, a business interest or a criminal front.  It was a place that I honestly felt comfortable.  Sometimes I would go on siesta and just spend my afternoons there playing cards with the regulars . They knew me as just another guy trying to make a buck and that felt good.

Good enough that I wanted to keep that feeling and when some junkie robbed the place while I was there I called the cops instead of killing the stupid prick.  They had off duties come in for a few months after that.  I gave them a little out of the till (sometimes I even added a bit so they wouldn’t complain) and they played cards with my regulars so the place felt safe.

Problem is, a lot of those cops saw my face on a regular basis.  That fucks everything up.  If something goes wrong on a job, we arrive at the nearest haven exactly three hours after the mistake.  That lets us make sure it’s not hot and lets our team get the arrangements ready for later.  I let The Hole get compromised because I didn’t ever think we would need it.  Not many people to kill here.  Wouldn’t you know I was wrong.

I pull onto a rural road and head deep.  The fog is lighter than I want, but with dim headlights no one should give us much thought.  Hell, they won’t be using air to look for us for at least an hour.  By then we’ll be on the bikes and they’ll need to work a hell of a lot harder to find us.

The others don’t really need to worry.  As long as they stay low until we work everything out they’ll survive without a scratch.

Ours is a small organization.  Besides me and her there’s only three others. Alex is our voice, our front man if you want.  That means he has some cross hairs aimed his way too, but he’s crazy smart and I’m sure he’ll be able to ride it out.  Amanda and Devlin work utility and no one knows they exist, not even Alex.  So they’re pristine.

I really like the name Alex.  Always reminds me of Clockwork.  Amanda’s a good name, too.  Brings back memories of a girl I used to play paint ball with.  She was about five times cooler than you.  But Devlin gets under my skin.  I think it’s because it’s so close to Dylan.  I hate fucking yuppie names.  Ten years ago we had to deal with Chaz, Chet, Thad and Tab.  Who the hell name’s their kid after a diet soda?  Now we get Dylan, Tyler, Noah and Toby.

What the hell.

Imagine a short fat kid.  Do you see him? Put him in a red and white striped t-shirt that’s just a little bit too small.  Got it?  That kid … that’s Toby.

“Cease to resist, giving my goodbye.  Drive my car into the ocean.  You think I’m dead, but I sail away.”  I like to sing when I drive.  Helps me think and makes the time pass.

Before I’m done with the song, we’re at the bikes.

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