When our daughter Brandi and her friend Leslie were four-year-olds, they came into the kitchen one summer morning, their faces streaked with sweat and concern.
“What is an emergency?” Brandi asked. Leslie nodded. However it came up, the concept had caught their attention.
“An emergency is something that usually happens suddenly and needs
quick action or snap decisions.” I thought that was a good response,
coming on the fly as it had.
They both frowned, linked arms and left mumbling to one another. A while later, they were back.
“If there was a rhinoceros in the kitchen,” Leslie asked, her little face sober, “would that be an emergency?”
It’s hard not to crack in those moments, especially as we were standing
in my tiny kitchen, but I held steady. “Yes,” I said, my sincerity
matching theirs. “A rhinoceros in the kitchen definitely would be an
“We thought so.”
They both nodded, arched their eyebrows, joined hands and went outside to swing.
At a writers’ workshop once, the leader asked if we sometimes get “in
the zone,” a term most writers understand, and write merrily along,
producing humdrum prose.
“What you need to remember to throw into your work from time to time,” she said, “is a lurch.”
As a reader and a writer, I knew what she meant. Surprise your readers. Surprise yourself. Lurch.
I wrote the word in block letters on a card and placed it above my computer screen as a reminder.
Brandi and Leslie demonstrated by example that morning what a lurch can contribute to a day, or a story.
Lurches come in many forms. They don’t have to be a dead body dropping
from the sky to land at your feet, although that would be a good one. It
can be anything out of the ordinary. Being rear-ended in traffic is a
lurch. A sudden hug from a grubby child, a handsome man flirting, people
at Union Station bursting into song, The list of lurches is endless.
They are unexpected events, happy or sad, contagious or private, always
As I write, I try to throw in the occasional lurch, just
to keep my readers––and me––paying attention. A good writer must
remember to lurch. Sharon Ervin, Author of MEMORY, coming in March.
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