To tell a compelling story…

Don’t look! Foreshadowing laughs?

Posted on: May 21, 2010

One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it.” Chekhov

Tomorrow is Open the Pool Day. (If you’re on Long Island, stop by! It’s a real party.)

*shudders*

I dread this job.  Worse than leg waxing, worse than root canal, even worse than a world with no chocolate, is opening the pool.

Why have a pool if opening it each season is so dreadful?

I’m glad you asked.

It came with the house.

We bought the house in 2001, about three weeks before September 11th. (This is significant because my husband is an airline mechanic whose salary was cut to help keep the airline afloat.)

I don’t know why, but every property on Long Island seems to come with a pool. Above-ground, in-ground, semi-in-ground…  I remember only two of the homes our realtor showed us had no pool.

One of those two had a walled-up room. The realtor claimed – or feigned? – ignorance, so my husband showed her how the outside walls did not match the inside dimensions. I stayed inside, pressing my hands along the wall, looking for the secret passage to what I was certain was the S & M room.  I didn’t find it.  (Would I have bought the house if I had? Not tellin’.)

But, I digress.

So, after looking at about thirty houses, we finally conceded we were gettin’ a pool, too.  It’s not fancy. It is an L-shaped in-ground affair with a diving board and a vinyl liner.  I think it’s about 30′ x 16′.  It is also a money pit.

Let’s explore the post-salary-cut expenses, shall we?

Year 1:  We uncovered the pool, found a foot of water gone.  My husband learned from the previous owner that an underground line was the culprit. We dug up the yard, repaired the line, and sighed in relief.

Until year 2:  We uncovered the pool, found water gone again. This time, a hole in the liner was the cause. My husband borrowed scuba gear and patched it.

Year 3.  More leakage. The patch in the liner was fine. This year, we figured it was time to hire a pool professional. He used red dye to uncover hundreds of tiny holes in the liner. Are you ready for this one?  The pool had termites. Termites! Who knew the little critters could swim? Or that they’d eat vinyl?

We had to take out a loan to replace the $3000 liner. I don’t remember what the pool pro or the exterminator cost.

Year 4. No leaks! Yay! The Blounts rejoice. For a minute. Until a piece of the filter system broke in my husband’s hands. $400 later, the filter is once again, functional.

Year 5: Another leak. This time, the master drain. More scuba gear. The drain is sealed.

Year 6: No leak. Instead, found the dead body of a rodent of some sort. I fled, squealing like a – well, girl – and never used the pool that season.

Year 7:  Another year, no leaks! But, the hubby decided we really needed a new cover and leaf net.

Year 8: My God, it’s an aqua miracle… another season without a leak. So, we had to buy a new solar cover.

Year 9:  The present. What will happen when we peel back that cover? History shows we’ll be dusting off the check book – that much is a given – but will we be slapping a hand to our mouths, too?

Tune in next week for the exciting conclusion to the tale.

Oh. You wanted a tie-in to writing?

Well, sure.  If each of the previous year’s pool openings HADN’T resulted in a huge payment and/or dead bodies, you can bet I’d look forward to this day like it was the official start of summer.  Oh, wait…

It’s all about the pattern, baby.  Like Chekhov’s Gun, every time we repeat something, no matter how trivial it is, we set the stage for heart-thumping and – in my case – wallet-protecting – suspense.  Though this is typically a horror-genre staple (think, King), I’ve been wondering how to adapt it for comedy.

Take “The Office,” for example. Steve Carrell’s character is always missing the best opportunities to use his irritating, “That’s what she said” line.  The first time I watched the show, I didn’t find that joke funny. But, like Chekhov’s Gun, it was on display. Sure enough, the pattern emerged. Missing opportunities is what made it funny.

I read a fanfic piece recently in which the writer established in her lead character the tendency to exaggerate – greatly – the things that went wrong around him.  She began using the cliched “a time or two” to excellent advantage. As the story progressed, so did the quantities:

“After one or seven unreturned calls, I grew worried.”

“Oh, I have a question or twelve.”

By the end of the story, we were in the hundreds. Without the character’s propensity for exaggeration, these lines would have felt awkward but they make me laugh in this context.

In another story, one of the characters was always beaning her brother over the head. In most situations, I’d consider this abuse, but in this book, it was hilarious.

What patterns do you see in your story that can be leveraged for laughs?

Added Saturday, post “PoolFest 2010”:

Success! No leaks, no dead bodies. The only problem is a hornet’s nest. It’s noon and we’re done! *flips cartwheels*

Patty pulling back the cover and finding.... NOTHING wrong!

Pool is uncovered, clean and almost ready for use. That's my youngest on the left.

Adding shock treatment to the water. I love telling people when they ask what I did this weekend that I "administred shock treatments... to a pool."

... and the first swim for my giant rubber duckie.

A bit anti-climactic, isn’t it? I know. But I’m not sorry. If this were a novel, I’d have added more than a few rodent bodies. But it’s real life.

Sometimes, it’s a good thing when real life is easy.

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2 Responses to "Don’t look! Foreshadowing laughs?"

For me, opening the pool has never been a problem b/c we live in Florida and that means we NEVER close it. But I digress, the one thing I hate doing, and try to find any way out of is the pruning in the front and back yard every year in March. I hate this job. It’s hot, sweaty and I get dirty. For me getting dirty is the equivalent of the dead rodent to you. I hate being dirty and throw some sweat on top of it and, well, yuck.

Part of my disgust comes from the fact that we built this house. We laid every square of sod (hard, back breaking work). We planted all of the trees. We installed all of the flowers beds. We even built, stained, and sealed the fence.

So I hate working in the yard. That being said, I know that if I can just get through that weekend the end result is fantastic. The palms regenerate, the crepes bloom, the irises are spectacular and the jasmine and wisteria smell heavenly.

For me that is how the writing goes sometimes. You just gotta push through it and while I worry that what I am writing may suck, sometimes I get lucky and the end result is way better than what I expected.

Ugh, I hate working in the yard, too. Do NOT like dirt under my nails.

Sometimes, my writing sucks and sucks LOUDLY but I push through it, too. There are days it’s a real chore, like pruning, like pool opening, and then there are days where I am quite literally transported.

Today, sadly, is NOT one of them. Now that the pool’s open, guess it’s time for leg waxing. *groans*

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Hi! Welcome to my blog. I’m Patty.

I'm a writer represented by Denise Little, The Ethan Ellenberg Agency. I love to tell stories, to boast about my sons, to indulge in a serious chocolate obsession. (I often combine these passions.)

During the day, I write software user guides, but at night, I let my hair down... and write whatever I want. (I know. You expected something else. Sorry.) I'm currently working on a YA story about sexting gone horribly bad called SEND. I use this blog to explore my passions.

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