Monday, October 15, 2012

In Which I Cause a Car Accident

Last Friday, I was driving home from dropping off the kid at his school. I was on Washington,  (a busy street here in Ogden), when I came upon a parked Semi Truck blocking half of the street.  I turned down Radio Disney and took a deep breath. 

I knew I had to merge from the right lane into the left in order to get around the Semi, but the cars behind me wouldn't let me through. I had my turn signal on as I scooted forward, waiting for a space.  When I was almost to the semi, there was a wide enough space on the left for me to fit into, so I started to speed up.  That's when the jerk in the silver car behind me decided he wasn't going to let me merge. 

He sped up to block me.  I was too close to the semi to do anything but hit the brakes. The jerk in the silver car turned and looked at me when he sped by me. He had this obnoxious smug "I'm a winner, and you're a loser" look on his face, which quickly disappeared when he turned back to the road and noticed the car in front of him had slowed down.

Nobody got hurt, but three cars were involved in the accident.

I'm very lucky that I didn't get hit.

My  five year-old daughter and I watched, up close as the cars slid into each other. After it was over, as I made my way carefully around the jumbled cars, I looked at the guy in the silver car, and I waved.

Take that, common decorum.

There's a reason why we like to cheer on the underdog.  


We've all been treated unfairly in one situation or another. If you think with me for a second, a thousand examples will come up. When the boy you like doesn't like you, or when you're ignored when you have the right answer, or when someone you love gets sick, or is mocked, or is mean. So many times, there is nothing you can do to rectify the imbalance of being fair.

But that's life. Life isn't fair.

Fiction, however, doesn't have to have that rule. In stories, the underdog can...and often When the under dog wins, all of us who've felt like an underdog, find a way to win vicariously. If the Scale of Justice finds balance, the reader will put the book down and smile, because things make sense in the end.  Things are fair. Justice is satisfied.

Wish fulfillment. The good guys win, or else the bad guys somehow become good guys, and then everybody finds a way to win. 

See, happy ever after doesn't mean that the guy gets the girl, or that the story has to end in a wedding. It doesn't mean that the wimpiest team will win the championship, or any other Plot By Number ending. What it means is that the readers put the book down and smile. A happy ending doesn't mean that the characters all end up happy. It means that the reader does.

Readers are smart. Upset the balance of justice, and they'll know if things aren't right yet, it's not the end.  That pursuit of fictional justice will add suspense to your story, and keep your readers in the book. But there's a balance. Too much fairness, and you have a Mary-Sue character, who just magically wins at everything. Too little fairness, and the reader might put the book down because it's too depressing. It's all about hope, beating the crap out of your characters, and then a heaping of hope again.

I've been slacking on everything I need to be doing lately, in order to watch Freaks and Geeks on Netflix. It's brilliant, largely because of the way they use justice, and Jason Segal. 

 In Freaks and Geeks, things are never one hundred percent fair, but they never one hundred percent suck either. The cute boy likes the girl, but he's a stoner. The geeks get teased, but have moments of glory. The smart girl makes dumb decisions, and has to face the consequences. It's a story that doesn't lie about what High School is like, and it doesn't make the kids that go to the school grown ups. No one has a hair stylist, or a clothing stylist, or an uncontrollable urge to take their clothes off.  They are teenagers; emotional, shortsighted, hopeful, oblivious, still stuck in the bubble of High School, desperate to ignore anyone who tells them that the future is coming. It's brilliant and sad, and escapism, and reality, and much, much, too short.

Watch it. Watch the balance of justice in your WIP, and watch out for others who want to merge.


What I'm reading now: Just finished Princess Paisley by Chautona Havig ( Self published book available for free on Amazon.)

What I'm still writing now: Ironwood Letters. Sorry, ladies. Five false starts. I'm on the right track now.


  1. You did not cause that car accident. That guy was a jerk and a reckless driver. But it is really satisfying to see someone get what he deserves.

    This post is brilliant and so true. So often in real life it feels like those jerks of the world get away with their jerky behavior at the expensive of us nice guys. Books are the one place where justice is almost always served, and that does make me happy. :)

    I've never seen Freaks and Geeks. One more show to add to the Netflix que.

  2. I just lost the comment I'd written to you about how great your post was and how I wish I could have been there when you waved at that guy. Hilarious. I'm especially glad that no one was hurt, and that you managed to avoid the car accident. Great post, Sheena!

  3. Re: The Ironwood Letters...These are going to be a couple of awesome chapters, I can just tell! I'm anxious to read them, but don't stress yourself about them. At this point, it's a game of Hot Potato to see who'll be writing over Christmas vacation. :)

  4. Justice! As bad as I feel for saying this, I think it's hilarious that the guy got what he deserved. I probably wouldn't feel that way if anyone had been hurt, and I'm really glad you weren't involved in the accident, but your post made my day.

  5. That must be an experience for you, Sheena! I’m glad that nothing happened to you and your daughter. It is hard to deal with such a situation, even when you are not involved in the incident and just a mere spectator. And you are right, justice must be served and proper action must be done so that these incidents will not happen again in the future.

  6. I’m sorry about the car incident, Sheena. You know, I think we really cannot avoid unforeseen situations like that. Thankfully, no one got hurt or injured, and there were no serious consequences involved. Next time, it would be best to double check the road and make sure that no one will be badly affected by a certain move.

    Raleigh Crowl

  7. You really can’t blame yourself for the accident because you followed the road rules by using signals. Road rules are established so that every motorist would have equal rights when it comes to driving. The guy in the silver car just had too much pride. Anyway, this would certainly be a good lesson to all drivers out there.

    @Grayson Ford

  8. Every road user should keep in mind that using the correct signals is very important. One cannot assume that the driver in front or behind you will know your next move. That driver in the silver car showed both arrogance and ignorance. Keep following the road rules and you are going to be ok, Sheena! Keep safe always!

    Maggie Malone


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