Thursday, August 23, 2012

SM Johnson ~Thursday Morning Coffee~ Show me!

Good morning, darlings, and Happy Thursday!

We are about to endure total chaos as all the appliances shall be moved out of the kitchen to install ceramic tile. Oy. The fridge shall now live in the dining room. The back door shall be barred, and the front door utilized. The stove shall be consigned to the garage, which basically means EATING OUT EVERY NIGHT! (I have zero complaints about that - haha).

The washer and dryer - well, I have no idea where they will go, but surely they will be disconnected. One of the local drinking establishments is attached to a laundry mat so that works out pretty well. Wash. Drink. Dry. Drink. Fold. Drink. Load the baskets into the car. Drink. Call the tow truck. Have another drink. Put the laundry away sometime in the future.

Why yes, we do need a designated driver on laundry day.

IzzyG will be on vacation with friends during this time of chaos, so it will be slightly less chaotic, (and slightly more alcoholic) than it could be.

Remember when you used to hide your drinking from your parents?

Uh-huh. Now we hide it from our 9 year old. Damn it, when do we get to be care-free, irresponsible adults, anyway? We keep screwing that up.

Before we had IzzyG, we had a "business" of  ferrets, which was, frankly, not a whole lot different. They needed a lot of attention and made a lot of messes. And couldn't be left alone for extended periods of time.

Anyway. I was going to talk about "Show me."

Are you thinking about the Show Me state, Missouri? Egads, I hope not, because nothing good is coming from that quarter lately. Not to get into a political discussion here, but their GOP Senate hopeful Todd Akin is a total moron. The mysterious and magical female body shuts down reproduction (or in his words "all that kind of stuff") during a rape, so there are no rape babies. And if there are, then the woman was obviously asking for it, or her body would have "shut down all that kind of stuff."

*shakes head in disbelief*

I swear I'm about ready to give up. Let's just hand the running of the country directly to Time-Warner/AOL, Wells Fargo, Fox , and Wal-Mart and be done with the bullshit, already, because it's making me positively ill.

Americans only care about America's next Top Model or Idol anyway. We are a capitalistic, media- driven country - keeping the rich richer and the poor enthralled by the garbage on television.

I am frustrated beyond the realm of reason at the moment.

Which means I'd better shut the fuck up because I'm probably making an ass of myself.


Alllll-righty then.

Now that I've reset myself, let's try this again.

Good morning, darlings, and happy Thursday!

One of my frequent and bitter complaints as a reader is when writers tell me stuff instead of showing me. And I know I've mentioned this oh, only about fifteen times, but today I can do more than TELL you how much that annoys me - I can SHOW you a great example of an author who nails this concept to the floor.

As a writer, I know it can be struggle to turn telling into showing, and sometimes if you avoid the "tell," it's difficult to be sure that the message came through loud and clear.

I ended up reading a book that I've had on my bookshelf for a long time, and that I've read at least a time or two over the years. But during this particular reading, I was struck with the realization that this writer is a Master of the show/don't tell philosophy.

Since my Kindle is locked and loaded with over 100 items at any given time, I rarely reach to my bookshelf for a tried and true beloved story.

But we got this memo at work. The memo said, "As of today, Absolutely NO personal electronic devices are allowed on the work floor."

Uh-oh. See, for the past year or so, we were allowed to read Kindles or Nooks while on suicide/self-harm watch.

But, as always, people have to push things to the limit, and the next thing you know there are cell phones and iPads out there under the guise of e-readers. And people aren't just reading - they're playing video games, updating their Facebook statuses, writing their blogs, and playing Words with Friends.

The big no-no HIPPA violation is that many of these devices can be used as cameras. 

"Work" is a locked in-patient psychiatric unit. Cameras are a huge no-no. Playing video games while monitoring a patient is probably a big no-no. 

Reading (or, so often in my case, writing) a book or a magazine has always been a gray area. If a patient is harming themselves or falling out of bed, it's easy enough to toss a book or a magazine to the floor and get your ass over there to intervene. 

It seems to me (personally, that is) that it would be more difficult to toss my iPad to the floor. I'd want to secure it and make sure it was safe. I wouldn't want it sitting out where another patient could step on it or walk off with it. I hope I wouldn't be so concerned about my electronic device that I'd compromise patient care, but the potential is there.

So this is what had me searching my shelf for a favorite paperback book. 

I picked White Lies by Anna Salter

Book Description

Publication Date: May 1, 2000

Forensic psychologist Michael Stone injected a fierce intensity into Anna Salter's riveting novels Shiny Water and Fault Lines. Now, embroiled in an explosive sexual-harassment case, this unforgettable heroine is thrust into the murky waters of long-buried memories, where shocking accusations can have deadly consequences.

When noted anesthesiologist Reginald Larsen consults Michael Stone for therapy, Michael soon learns that Larsen, suspended from his hospital, is being investigated for claims of sexual impropriety. Although Larsen is confident and eager to fight the charges, Michael senses that disturbing truths are hidden beneath his calm exterior.

But just as the Larsen case heats up, Michael is consulted by a colleague whose client is a victim of past sexual abuse. When the client confronts her father with her shattering recollections, it is a choice with violent and lethal results. Now, with a deadly predator ensnaring her in a frightening pursuit, Michael remains determined to protect those most vulnerable -- even as her walls of defense collapse around her.

Wikipedia doesn't tell me if Ms. Salter is going to write more Dr. Michael Stone books, but I sure wish she would. She is some kind of story-teller. My only complaint with this whole series (other than the fact that there are only 4 books) is that I don't think Ms. Salter ever offered any explanation for how a female character ended up with the name Michael. Maybe she did and I've forgotten. Gee, an excuse to read the first book of the series over again... oh darn.


The difference between telling and showing. If an author doesn't TELL you explicitly what the characters are feeling, can the reader still figure it out?

In the following scene, a patient, Jody, is confronting her father for molesting her. He, and the rest of the family, are denying that anything happened, ever. Here's an excerpt, narrated by Dr. Michael stone:

Her father was a wiry man in his late forties and his nervous energy seemed to dominate the room. He was playing anxiously with some keys and he kept glancing at the mirror. Maybe he was wishing he hadn't allowed an observer, but, if so, he didn't say it.

Jody's mother, Mary Jo, was a placid-looking, overweight woman about the same age as her husband. If Jody's father seemed edgy, her mother seemed unnaturally still. She was looking at Jody but I was almost sure her attention was on the man at her side.

Jody kept looking at the keys her father held. She would look at them, then glance away, then look back at them again. Son-of-a-bitch, I thought. He's doing something with those keys. Did Marv [the treating psychologist] know that? He didn't seem to. He wasn't paying any attention to them at all and neither was Jody's mother. The keys, whatever they meant, were solely between Jody and her father.

When the interview explodes, Jody's father shakes the keys in her face. Later in the book, Jody's at the ER getting stitched up for cutting. Michael, who was in an observation room behind mirrored glass for the above meeting, has a chat with Jody in the ER.

"When did you start? [cutting]" I asked softly. There was no answer. "Can you tell me," I said again gently, "when you started?"

She still said nothing. And then I had a flash. I had no idea where it came from or whether it was true, but I didn't have a lot to lose since she wasn't talking to me anyway. "It started over the keys, didn't it? It started when the keys did."

Her whole body went rigid. She turned her head back toward me slowly. She didn't speak. She just looked at me. Her pupils dilated then retreated to the size of pinpricks. The change was so pronounced the doc stitching up her arm glanced up at her and then me. No one spoke. He went quickly back to his stitching.

 [skipping a couple of paragraphs]

"So how old were you?" I asked softly. It was the only thing I could think of to ask.

"Sixteen," she said, and when she said that, it all slid into place. I got it. I knew what the keys were and why he shook them. And I also knew why Jody was so ashamed of it.

I let out a sigh. No wonder this poor child was in the shape she was in. She didn't see herself as a victim, but a collaborator. Sam Carlson [Jody's father], I thought, didn't look like the kind of guy who was smooth enough and cunning enough to entrap victims. He acted like straight violence and intimidation were his game. Wrong again.

The author NEVER tells the reader outright what was the meaning of the keys. And yet I knew, without a doubt, what happened to Jody, probably many times over. It helps that Jody explains to Michael later in the book that her brother's role in the family was to soothe and comfort their needy mother, and that her role was "to keep dad happy." But still, Anna Salter knows that her narration got the message across loud and clear without her, the writer, jamming the actual words into our heads.

This is some powerful "show mojo," isn't it?

Little things like this remind me that I always have more to learn about my craft.

All right, darlings, you get it, right? You tell me, what was the deal with the keys?

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