What poisonous zombie tsunami sharks can teach us about achieving realistic goals - www.alliepottswrites.com

What poisonous zombie tsunami sharks can teach us about achieving realistic goals

“What would happen if a Tsunami came here?” my youngest son asked as he brought over his latest creation. It was a drawing featuring a tiny mound of brown in the lower left-hand corner. A large blue backward C shape filled the rest of the page. I looked at the picture. I looked at my son. Clearly, the island was toast.

“Maybe it would be okay. They might have had advanced warning,” I suggested. “Or maybe there are boats that could help them float away?”

It was a slim excuse at best (I’ve seen what a Tsunami can do to a small boat), but I was going to go with it. My youngest is only five (for another week). Who wants to talk about a disaster from which there is no hope of escape with someone that age?

LT’s eyes narrowed as he glanced at his artwork. “I’ll be back.” He ran off to the other room.

He returned with another drawing of a giant wave. This one even larger than the one before. “How about now?”

Note the use of bold strokes, repeated forms, and the inclusion of a single cloud on an otherwise clear day. Here the artist is expressing the futility of man when confronted by nature’s might.

I looked at the poor island in the picture. Then another feature caught my eye. Dark triangles poking out of the second wave’s curl. “Wait. Are those sharks?”

LT grinned. Both of my children are well aware of my, let’s say, lack of fondness, for Selachimorpha in all its variations and take an inordinate amount of joy in watching my reaction.

“You drew a Tsunami with sharks.”

LT’s eyes twinkled as he nodded. “What would happen, now?” he asked. “Would we die?”

I’m not sweating. “Maybe not. You could punch the sharks in the nose or use the Bat-shark repellent.” LT wants to be Batman, correction – The Batman Weatherman, when he grows up, so it should almost go without saying he’ll have a ready case of Bat-shark repellent on hand for just such an emergency.

“What if they were poison sharks?”

“Poison?! Umm… er… there might be an antidote-”

“What if they were zombies too?”

I blinked. I looked at my husband, was he hearing what I was? His grin matched that of our son’s. Yep. He shook his head at me as if to say, what are you gonna do? I turned back to our little creator of the next made-for-TV, cheesy creature feature. “Poisonous Zombie Sharks? In a Tsunami?”

Poisonous Zombie Sharks - www.alliepottswrites.com
I’m confident sales will smash all box office expectations. (In case you are wondering, yes, this is the sort of thing I do in my spare time).

Okay, I have to admit it’s a genius idea, but every now and then I have to wonder if there is something about that boy that just isn’t right.

LT was almost cackling with manic glee at this point. Delighted with his cleverness, but unable to speak, he could only nod again.

Seeing no alternative – no stick figure on the island representing a scientist who had up until this point been the laughing stock of his profession, but was now humanity’s last hope against the coming killer tide – I had to give up. “Well, I guess, then yeah, we would all probably die.”

Apparently, this was the answer LT was going for the whole time. Satisfied, he ran off to create additional masterpieces.

I’ve mentioned before, my youngest knows how to achieve his goals and close a deal. The first step to doing either is to go in knowing what you want going out.

The same can be said about storytelling. It’s far easier to tell a joke if you know the punchline just as it is far easier to write a book if you know the ending.

But while having a goal in mind can keep you focused, it is also important to allow yourself the flexibility to deviate from the plan. I’m pretty sure that the inclusion of poison and zombies was a spur of the moment decision (though with LT one really never knows). All he wanted was for me to confirm that his island was a complete loss, but he allowed our conversation to detour, evolve, and refine until the end result was even better than the one he originally imagined.

Many of us made resolutions at the beginning of the year and many of us have already broken them once or twice. You don’t need my permission, but I want you to know that’s okay. Life happens. Zombie sharks may appear in waves.

The important thing is remembering the reason for the resolution in the first place. Ask yourself what is the underlying need and keep asking until you know the answer by heart and adjust your plan accordingly.

Who knows? When you finally reach your goal and look back, the path you wound up taking might prove even better than the one you first imagined.



The Writer’s Toolbox: Flash Fiction

While Lamont’s annual Christmas light spectacular is still causing our power meter to whirl, the discarded cardboard from toy boxes, sheets of flattened bubble wrap, and broken twist ties that seem to multiply with every pass are proof that another holiday season is coming to a close.

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Overall, Santa was kind to me. Clearly, it is not nearly as difficult to stay on the nice list as his elves would have you believe. One of the gifts I received was The Writer’s Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the ‘Write’ Side of Your Brain.

One of my resolutions in 2015 was to participate in more short story contests. I started out strong, but I have to admit I fell well short of my goal. I guess I was too focused on the final re-writes and edits of my novel. But I am now back in early draft mode. Anything can happen. Let the creative juices flow! I opened the box.

Inside there were Popsicle-type sticks with random sentences on them. The instructions say to pick up one labeled FS for First Sentence, then another one labeled NS for Non-Sequitur and finally one labeled LS for Last Straw. Last Straws are only sentence fragments.

For example, I picked up the following:

  • FS: I had this system for getting exactly what I wanted out of people.
  • NS: They were all the same, I decided.
  • LS: the time Leslie called me a leech.

Then there are cards that deal with senses. The instructions say to draw three:

  • The straggling cuticle
  • a rusty weathervane
  • the taste of lipstick

Finally, there are disks which prompt protagonist, action, obstacles, and goals.

  • Protagonist: Laurie the famous actress
  • Goals: To know God
  • Obstacle: The barista at Starbucks
  • Action: Learns to foresee the future.

I had this system for getting exactly what I wanted out of people. It wasn’t exactly difficult. I’d always been a natural actress. I mastered the art of laughing and crying on command before I was even out of diapers. I didn’t feel any guiltier manipulating the average person on the street than I did manipulating the emotions of the audience. They were all the same, I decided. I didn’t know then how wrong I could be.

It all started that day on the set. Props were still in a state of assembly. A rusty weathervane which would eventually be mounted to the box that would serve as a barn blocked stage left. As Julie handed me my costume, the fabric caught on a straggling cuticle. I made a mental note to schedule an appointment with my favorite manicurist.

Joe, the production assistant, began handing out plain white Styrofoam cups containing a steaming beverage. “Here you go, Laurie, from two blocks over, just like you asked.” He beamed like a well-trained pup. The whole crew preferred Starbucks, but I wouldn’t let them serve it. I couldn’t. The awful barista, Leslie had the nerve to call me a leech. I smiled as I sipped the beverage even though I had to admit it tasted like lipstick.

Savoring the image of Leslie’s empty tip jar, I wasn’t paying attention as I made my way off stage. I didn’t notice the length of cord stretched out along the exit until it was too late. Coffee spilled from the cup, landing in a puddle near the electrical plug. Instinctively I reached out as I fell, my palm coming in contact with the hot liquid. My hand wasn’t the only part of my body to burn as a lighting fire danced along my spine. My vision blackened as my body convulsed.

Then it was as if the pain was being experienced by someone else. I could see my body surrounded by the crew, but I floated above the chaos. Then I felt another presence and I knew I sensed God. I reached out toward its warmth, but it was as if a bubble popped. Suddenly I was hurling back to the ground as all went black.

When I opened my eyes, I was once again on the stage floor. Joe was cradling me in his arms. Julie was crying. Images danced across my vision as I took in the scene. That’s when I realized I had returned with a gift. I had seen the future, but the next time I met God I would make sure he didn’t have reason to reject me.

I may not have done the exercise exactly right but it was fun nonetheless to connect the dots and now I am thinking that I may just be able to keep my resolutions after all.

May you all have an equally promising start to 2016!