I am a Borrower

Now, now, no comments about my height, please! I’m not saying I’m one of those tiny people who live beneath the floorboards and use cotton reels for tables or anything. But I do borrow stuff.

Jeff calls it stealing, and in a way I suppose it is – I’m taking the fruit of their labours without getting their express permission or paying them for it, but as long as I’m not claiming it as my own, I don’t really think of it as theft. The author has packaged those words and sent them out into the world to take a life of their own. If they alight in my work, or more nebulously in my mind, for a while, that’s more borrowing, surely?

I feel like I’ve done pretty well on this already. The first project I started working on uses/borrows/steals the words of my great great great grandfather, from letters he wrote to his wife back in 1827. Then, as I mentioned yesterday, I got diverted by an idea borrowed from Sunday’s sermon. For those of you who were intrigued, it was talking about the ‘now and not yet’ of God’s Kingdom – it is here, but we are not fully living in it – we’re in the ‘in-between’ bit, the cross-over between the two circles of the classic Venn Diagram.

I wanted to explore that idea a little more – what does it mean to be living in that in-between state, the hinterland between two worlds? Β I have a suspicion that many people – many Christians – may well be disillusioned with life in the in-between state. I think often we sell (and believe) a vision of Christianity as ‘freedom from all your problems’, yet people still suffer trauma, bereavement, pain and loss. Christians are just as vulnerable to disease, fire, theft or redundancy as anyone else, and even great prayer warriors don’t always have their prayers answered the way they want in the time they want.

So, a couple of good ideas borrowed, even before I knew it would be today’s challenge.

I wanted to use today’s post to ask for your help/advice, though – and it fits quite well, really – I’m at the point in the story where it’s about to take a bit of a twist. The thing my leading character thought it was about – the thing it was about when I started writing – is turning out not to be the main point after all. I’m feeling the need to say something along the lines of:

If I had known at the time what the consequences of my next words would be, would I have had the courage to utter them?

It’s a classic line, borrowed from many, many books – and that’s my dilemma – has it been over-used? I read a book recently which did use it far too many times – I ended up wanting to slap the author and say “OK, I get it, something exciting/scary/challenging is coming up, will you just cut the waffle and get on with it?!!!” So now I’m a bit hyper-sensitive about using it myself.

What do you think? Can I get away with one usage of it, or is it lazy writing? Is it a story-teller’s tool to help the reader know where he is or a cop-out used by writers who haven’t managed to draw their readers in and keep them hooked by the power of the ‘story so far’?

Should I use it or not? You’ve got about 12hours to let me know!

11 Comments On This Topic
  1. Jeff Goins
    on Jun 12th at 7:53 pm

    I actually have never heard that line before.

    Reply
    • Jennie Pollock
      on Jun 12th at 7:55 pm

      Well, that makes the decision easier! Feel free to borrow/steal it any time!

      Reply
  2. lisarrrr
    on Jun 12th at 7:57 pm

    That’s a tough one. Of course, I don’t know what the situation is that makes your character want to utter that line. In my book, something unexpected happens to my main characters when they are kidnapped and drugged–a mental block is lowered, and they remember that they are bonded to each other. In the second chapter, he asks her if she is upset because of the way things went down, and the action goes from there. Maybe you can think of something that is directly related to the situation and use that to imply the same thought. HTH

    Reply
  3. Judith Barnett
    on Jun 12th at 9:26 pm

    Like Jeff, so long as he is truthful, I have never heard that line before! But then I am not that well read. But working for a pedant leads me to spot a “9” in para 4 which I think should be ( (!) sorry. Love J x

    Reply
    • Jennie Pollock
      on Jun 12th at 9:54 pm

      Ach, so I can’t even escape your boss’ eye for detail in the evenings?!??!! πŸ˜‰ Seriously, thanks!

      Interesting neither of you have come across it – maybe it’s just that when it’s used appropriately it does just fly past the eyes.

      Reply
  4. missionsgirl
    on Jun 12th at 9:52 pm

    I’m not familiar with that exact phrase, though I have probably seen similar sentiments expressed here and there in various books. I think maybe you can try to rephrase it a bit to get the idea across without the exact verbiage, if that makes any sense. I hope that helps. Keep going!

    Reply
    • Jennie Pollock
      on Jun 12th at 9:58 pm

      Thanks! Yes, I wasn’t meaning that exact phrase word for word but things of that ilk – ‘if I’d known then what I know now I’d never have taken that path’. Thanks for the encouragement!

      Reply
      • missionsgirl
        on Jun 12th at 10:03 pm

        Glad I could be of encouragement. Best of luck with your story. I’m trying to regain momentum on a story I started last year, and I think this writer’s challenge is definitely helping.

        Reply
  5. Jennie Pollock
    on Jun 14th at 6:18 pm

    So the consensus seems to be ‘Try it, but subtly’. Well, I was going to, but then one of the other characters popped up and decided he really needed to be the one saying the pivotal thing, so the crisis was actually averted…for now…
    Thanks for your help everyone, I’m honoured by you taking the time. (And I’m VERY honoured that our fearless leader himself took the time to stop by and comment – thanks, Jeff!)

    Reply
  6. Susie Finney
    on Jun 14th at 8:03 pm

    I’m glad it worked out for you. It’s always interesting to me how a character can surprise you when you are writing them. Love it. πŸ™‚

    Reply

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