Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Writers should always remember that sometimes the weakest people are the strongest. Yesterday I read a review of The Body in the Record Room on Goodreads. The review itself was a three star review, but the person talked about "a unique hero." She said the unusual hero is what made the story. And I suspect that's true.
I'm reminded of a classic story like Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." Scrooge is a spiteful character and Bob Cratchit is a good man who seems to be weak and struggling. But together with the right set of events they make a story that will live forever.
Unusual people in difficult situations. That's often what good writing is about.
The hero in The Body in the Record Room is a now-forgotten person. When I went back to the cemetery at the state hospital where I was raised, it had knee high grass. It looked, not uncared for, but neglected in the sense that the people there had been forgotten.
But I've not forgotten them. They meant everything to me. The people in Nevada might want to forget that they had a mental hospital in their community. The other day I read a three-page condensation of the history of Nevada. It had two lines devoted to the institution that for one hundred years provided much of Vernon County's non-farm income.
Truthfully, I might consider the people of Nevada ungrateful. I might believe they ignore one of the major parts of their history (as far as I know, that beautiful Kirkbride building is pictured on none of their town murals, for example), but I consider the people who lived out there in a mental hospital at the edge of town to be heroes. Those people had, in many cases, been thrown away. Some of them were good people, a few probably dangerous or difficult (perhaps for reasons not of their own making), and most average, like we all are. But they lived in difficult circumstances, and they did that as well as they could.
I suppose my writing will almost always deal with struggling people, people most would ignore or forget. I might write about religious subjects or about characters with mental illnesses or other difficult struggles, but my writing will always be the story of how some unlikely hero overcomes.
So I am grateful for the short review in Goodreads. Truthfully, the person understood that I was writing about an unlikely hero.
PS The review also talked about "the manager" of the hosptial and his kindness and caring. That's the other part of the story, the part about the staff who cared and made a difference.
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