Everything is Fodder for Writers

Everything a writers hears, sees, smells, or touches gets stored in the brain to be called upon when needed no matter how much time may pass between the storing and the retrieval.

Here's a perfect example of a tidbit tucked away in my brain years and years ago. I'm researching a character for a novella that I'll be writing after I publish Cinderella Blue. In the novella, this woman character is an etiquette snob who disdains anyone who doesn't meet her standards.

Let's Use the Wayback Machine

In my general research, I discovered that manners, defined as a set of rules that allow a person to engage in social rituals--or to be excluded if their manners aren't good enough--date back to 2500 BC. On a clay tablet, The Instructions of Ptahhotep, from the Old Kingdom in Egypt, offers this advice on how to ingratiate oneself to a superior: "Laugh when he laughs."

I guess that's good advice if all the forced laughter at company social gatherings is any indication.

Anyway, this character is loosely patterned on someone who made a comment many years ago about everyone in our community and our hostess in particular. That comment struck me as so ludicrous, so arrogant, that it stuck in my brain all these years. Up until that moment, I thought the woman was a "lady," but a lady doesn't dismiss someone hosting a social gathering as being a "hayseed like the other hayseeds who live here. None of them know that 3-tine forks should never be used as dinner forks."

Much Ado About Nothing

Okay, by now, you're probably bewildered and possibly snorting in amusement. In case you don't know, back in the oh, so, formal days of yore, a dinner fork was designed with 4 tines, and a salad fork with 3. So when one bought flatware, one always picked proper sets that had dinner forks with 4 tines and salad forks with 3, not just smaller forks that were the same number of tines as the dinner forks, or, even worse, I guess, a dinner fork made with 3 tines like a salad fork.

To this woman's thinking, if someone failed the fork design test, then that person wasn't worthy of her friendship or respect. I may know the proper dinner fork design, but I abhor so-called etiquette Nazis like that woman. Real manners mean being gracious to all and making them comfortable in social situations, not shining a spotlight on what one perceives is a social transgression.

That one comment so many years ago provides the underlying characterization for a wealthy widow with her own agenda to marry off her stepdaughter.

Takeaway Truth

They say that elephants have a long memory. Heck! That's nothing compared to a writer's memory.

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