Monday, November 13, 2017

Lecture or Consequence—Writers Learning From Failure

by Peter Leavell @PeterLeavell

Todd stared at the woman. She was gorgeous, spunky, and very available. The party could just go away. He was going to talk to her.

He set down his punch, passed coworkers, and approached her.

His confidence was high.

He’d read books, watched videos, taken tests—he was sure he could talk to any woman and get everything he wanted from her. And what did he want? He chuckled. NOT go to an art museum, that was for sure.

All he had to do was—

—Engage her emotions within the first two sentences.
—The first two sentences had to fit into a fourteen second time span.
—By the end of the first sentence, know her personality enough to either throw a flirty statement, intriguing emotional statement, or get her to talk about herself.
—Create contrasting emotions and own both of her emotions by sentence three.
—By the end of the first minute, show a small crack of personal vulnerability.

—By minute two, give hints of his success.

The rest, then, was a matter of talking her into what he wanted from her. 

He sauntered up to her and started the conversation.

Ten minutes later, he was in a café across the way. Alone.

Another woman sat at the table over.

“Long day at work?” she asked and as he nodded, she said, “As if they’re not all long, like that’s normal, no doubt.”

“Got that right.” Todd took a drink of coffee. “Work party, and I just didn’t fit in.”

She lifted her tea cup. “Here’s to not fitting in. And to telling the world just back off.”

He grunted, both assured and confirmed in his melancholy.

“You know,” she said, biting her lip, “I was turned down today for the VP job. You’d think as senior manager, I could walk into a job like that…but politics.”

Hmm, she’s successful, he thought.

Wiki Commons Pic of the Smithsonian
“Hey, after this, I’m going to the art museum, want to come with me?”

“Yeah, sure,” Todd said.

Todd had a vague sense that he’d just been played, but that didn’t matter. He liked her. She made him feel things.

As writers, we read the books, watch the video’s, and take the tests. But as Angela Duckworth says in her book, Grit—The Power of Passion and Perseverance, “Lectures don’t have half the power of consequences.

Todd read books and studied dating, but until he was handed actual consequences, he wasn’t truly learning. He would have never guessed he was being used in the same way he wanted to manipulated someone else.

As a writer, consequences are rejection. We can study until there are no writing theories we haven’t memorized (like no double negatives), but until we send our work to critique groups, contests, or editors, we’re not going to learn what we need to about our writing.

Todd didn’t want to go to an art museum (and I thought Todd was troubled before, now I suggest serious therapy for him—art museums are the best!), but he was manipulated into going anyway. He could have been manipulated into even more, like going back to her place and finding himself without a wallet later. There’s some consequences right there. In this case, the girl he chatted with was a super awesome art enthusiast. You go girl.

And you go, writer. Go make some consequences for yourself and learn something grand!


Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing's Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter's books, research, and family adventures at