Lady in red

You think characters vanish just because you ditch them from a story you plan to write? They don’t. They continue their travel from one writer to another begging to be heard: What am I to be?

Imagine you sketch an idea for a story on a yellow Post-it about an author who, while giving a presentation on a stage at the city’s Grand Hotel, suddenly sees a lady dressed in red being forcefully removed from the room by a scar-faced man with an ugly grin and taken away. She desperately turns her head to the author and he reads her lips: Help me! Then you sigh in resignation: O-M-G ― and put the Post-it in the drawer, stacked on top of your other Post-its outlining half-hearted ideas, and forget all about it.

Meanwhile, the abandoned author makes it his mission to find the lady in red and begins his journey from author to author. Sometimes he makes a brief appearance in a story, maybe standing on a crime scene looking for her. Sometimes he is brought in for interrogation before he is released and disappears from yet another story.

This is all unbeknownst to you until one fine day, a new book makes the headlines as a debuting author releases a crime novel called Lady in Red. Critics and readers alike are overjoyed: “Sensational!” “A new Mankell!” The novel is about an author who travels all over Europe searching for a lady dressed in red who was forcefully removed from his reading gig at the city’s Grand Hotel by a scar-faced man with an ugly grin. “Lady in red?” you mutter to yourself and a vague memory of a character on a yellow Post-it surfaces.

It can happen.

Inspired by the WordPress Daily Prompt: Doppelgänger

Medieval help desk

This clip is an oldie but goodie that still makes me laugh. I almost LOL-ed, but that’s sooo 2015.

Sometimes, when you move from one system to another, let’s say from scrolls to books, you need assistance from the help desk. This happens to Brother Ansgar in this hilarious video classic from Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) (2001). A guy from the monastery user support finally arrives: “We’re introducing this new system and everybody wants help immediately.” Sounds familiar? Well worth watching or re-watching.

WordPress Daily Prompt: Archaic

Letter from a vicar’s wife

“Not to be opened until May 14th, 2002.” Those were the instructions.

In 1902, a vicar’s wife named Hanna wrote a letter to the woman who would be the vicar’s wife in the same parish in 2002. Her instructions were to leave the letter unopened for 100 years, until May 14th, 2002.

The letter was brought to public attention in the 1990’s. On the Sunday following May 14th, 2002, the present vicar’s wife read the letter in a packed church. Among the attendants were several of Hanna’s descendants. Hanna wrote about the daily life and hardship in the old vicarage in the far north of Norway, high above the Arctic Circle, and the grieving of the premature loss of a baby girl, 14 months old. If the grave is not razed to the ground, she wrote, would you be so kind as to look after it?

The grave is still there, right outside the sacristy. After the service, flowers were laid on it.

Hanna sealed the letter the same day she left the parish together with her husband and two sons after eight years of service. She was not yet 30. Despite its sadness, I think the letter was a wonderful legacy to leave behind and reminds us of the continuity of things. The present vicar’s wife made a promise to write her own letter.

I got to visit the small grave some years ago when I attended my brother’s funeral in that same church. I took some of the wild flowers we had picked for the reception and placed them at the tiny headstone, where her name is still legible: Anna.

Her name was Anna.

WordPress Daily Prompt: Premature

Summer Meadow

By Tomas Tranströmer

There’s so much we must be witness to.
Reality wears us so thin
but here is summer at last:

a large airport — the controller brings
down planeload after planeload of frozen
people from outer space.

The grass and the flowers — here’s where we land.
The grass has a green supervisor
I report to him.

WordPress Daily Prompts: Thin

Humphrey Bogart’s nod

One slight nod and the plot turns. Rick is forced to choose side in the on-going war. Rick who? Rick Blaine, of course. Café owner and Mr. “I stick my neck out for nobody” himself in Casablanca, played by Humphrey Bogart. When a group of German officers in Rick’s café starts singing patriotic “Die Wacht am Rhein,” resistance leader Victor asks the house band to play “La Marseillaise.” The band members look at Rick, who gives them a silent nod. In the “duel of anthems” that follows, the Germans are drowned out by the French. For Rick, this has consequences.

This is perhaps the most legendary nod in the history of film. The close-up of Bogart is a separately shot insert, and the story is that he didn’t know what the nod meant until he saw the film. Read more: A turning point par excellence: Humphrey Bogart’s nod

One small nod. A lesson for storytellers.

WordPress Daily Prompt: Slight