Hello writers and readers!
I recently started reading “The Institute” by Stephen King. Here’s a synopsis from Amazon for those unfamiliar:
In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”
In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.
As psychically terrifying as Firestarter, and with the spectacular kid power of It, The Institute is Stephen King’s gut-wrenchingly dramatic story of good vs. evil in a world where the good guys don’t always win.
Sounds good, right?! As soon as it was available in my local family-owned bookstore, I hopped on down to grab it… and got the last copy! I’m a huge Stephen King fan, so I couldn’t wait for this one. Plus, it’s spooky season… what better than a thriller?
I finally sat down to dig into this juicy 560 page beast and… I’m on page 5 and faced with a problem. Maybe a small thing, maybe not. Here it is: The main character cashes a plane voucher and pays an Uber driver upon arrival to the destination.
Anyone else see the problem here?
Plane vouchers are not changeable for cash, and Uber drivers are paid exclusively and automatically via the app.
Okay, yeah, these are little things. But why do they bother me so much? I’m able to suspend disbelief for fantasy stories with dragons flying every which way, but this voucher/Uber combo is killing me.
What if this were a fantasy story? Or a romance? Would I be faced with this same issue, or would I be able to suspend disbelief for the sake of the story? I think it comes down to the placement of the items. Say, for instance, a heroine in a romance cashes her plane voucher and pays her Uber driver directly in her climactic rush to her lover. These things would probably be blips on my radar because I’d be so invested in the story. Unfortunately, on page 5 of any book, I’m still trying to get invested. So, these seemingly little things stand out more than they might have otherwise.
So, writers and readers, what do you think? How and when can YOU suspend disbelief? Do certain authors or genres get a pass? Sound off below!
The writer sits in her designated writing spot. Well, her new designated writing spot. She’s had three in the last year, but a change of scenery is supposed to be a good thing for the mind.
The backspace key is worn, rickety on its plastic arms, waiting to fall off at just the wrong time. The letter M is faded, rubbed away by hundreds of failed presses. The period stands stark and strong. Waiting.
Her dog sighs in the corner. She looks up just as thunder rolls across the dusk sky. Clouds shiver in its wake. The writer pinches the bridge of her nose.
A silver chain trails across her mind’s eye. A long silver pendant, embossed with their saying. You’re my person. A gift, wrapped in a silver box, carefully chosen, but eventually forgotten.
You’re my person. Declarative, possessive. But ultimately useless.
The writer sets her fingers to the keyboard for the final time that day.
The silence you gave me is all I hear now.
The writer pounds the backspace key. It holds on, its grip tenuous. She begins again.
How could you?
Backspace, backspace, backspace.
You were my person, but was I yours?
I miss you.
I am so full and so empty
I fill my pockets with stones
and watch the scale tick tick tick to the right
I paint my face to avoid looking myself in the eye
I am a skeleton inside folds of skin
that I coat lovingly with cocoa butter
willing my own softness to seep back in
I look at old photographs and don’t recognize that girl
cheekbones lifted high in a colgate smile
eyes crinkled at the corners, shut against brilliant sun
skin summer smooth
I wonder when I slipped into her body
and where my own body has gone off to
they say today is the start of something new
each hour filled with the promise of change
and the possibility of becoming something different
yet I am stuck
my skin belongs to someone else
on loan from a company that no longer exists
but still charges a monthly rental fee
it is a new year, a new page, a new book entirely
but I’ve not quite finished the final pages of the last one
I keep reading the same paragraph over and over
trying to make sense of words that are in no particular order
that don’t lead me to the conclusion
but rather into a maze dripping in letters
from a language I can’t understand
I know you could translate for me
but my body isn’t ready for that journey
there is so much more to see
in this ephemeral life
i’ll tell you all about it when I see you again
Dappled emeralds coated decaying pine needles
Ninety bones for one night
She counted them out
Enough for two galaxy viewings
One hundred and eighty
They thudded against thick stationary paper
“Can I buy a few sheets?”
A nod from behind the counter
Misplaced whiskers floated in the foreign breeze
Forgotten skin drifted in the sunlight
She laid down two more bones
Snow stuck to her over-heated skin
Running in rivulets to her breasts
Thoughts dripped from a frozen lavender tongue
And she scrambled to gather them up
Ink slid over the fancy stationary paper
The world was so quiet
She thought for a moment she could breathe
My soul is so tired.
Like the tree in my front yard that was struck by lightning
it creaks in the wind, just barely standing, constantly threatening to fall.
It asks me from it’s curled up ball in a dark corner
“when can I go home?”
and I know it doesn’t mean when are we going home to the tree struck by lightning
and the great windowed eyes of a house that feel like I don’t belong there.
I know it means that it’s tired and dragging through dirty watercolor
water days just isn’t doing it anymore.
I saw a shooting star for the first time last week and I didn’t know what to wish for
because I couldn’t remember what the point of hope was.
My therapist asks me how I’m feeling
but that’s a really hard question to answer when you don’t
feel anything at all anymore.
See, somewhere along the way I forgot what it was to be me without the capital D
depression. It’s so easy to let it be my personality instead,
like slipping on a wool sweater that you hate because it’s so itchy
and you know you’ll be scratching all night but hey,
who cares? You’ll blend in with the wallpaper and someone will bump into you saying
“oops, sorry, didn’t see you there”
and you’ll realize your presence and your absence have the equal effect
of absolutely nothing.
Somewhere along the way I forgot how to ask for love.
I forgot how to unfold rose petals under my eye lids
and lap the moonlight from dreams I can never remember.
I forgot how to smile with the songbirds and grab your hand in the sunshine
that I can’t see through the blindfold.
The world is so focused on telling me that I matter
but the only thing inconsequential here is me.
I can tell by the way the wind blows regardless of if I see it
and the way my voice crumbles but no one notices because
I’m hardly there anyway
and the way passersby’s eyes slide right over me.
I can’t remember the last time I was content
and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.
It means I’m not done yet.
I may be nothing now. A butterfly still caught in the cocoon,
a half-told story, a sad girl sitting in cold bathwater but bathing in candlelight,
a tomorrow that isn’t promised.
I’m not promised.
But I’m not done yet.
As a child, you imagined that clouds were solid and that tomorrows would always come. On Sunday mornings, you’d watch planes drag lazily across the sky. You couldn’t understand how pilots could be so skilled. How do they dodge the clouds, mommy? Shut up and stop asking questions. You’d nod but you’d still wonder about those amazing pilots. Skulls and crossbones mean pirates and poison, but it seemed that mommy forgot which bottles were which because her pirate juice, the one that made her words sound funny and her snores loud like thunder, it was full but the poison left a dried ring of froth around her mouth. Tomorrow didn’t come for mommy, but she must be living on a cloud now. On the top, you know, so you can’t see her, but she’s still there.
A lawyer now, you lost the magic of solid clouds and pirate juice. You know our mother left you. She couldn’t help it, they say. She was ill, they say. You know, they say, pointing to their heads and turning their fingers around imaginary locks of hair. You nod, pennies filling the back of your throat and dwindling from your bank account.
Sunday mornings are quiet as death now. You imagine death is actually quiet. No more screaming babies on the subway, no more overheard arguments through thinning, half-eaten drywall. Just quiet. And dark. Like those sensory deprivation tanks, only you can’t be deprived of senses if you don’t have them. Just like your mother believed she couldn’t have her life stolen out from under her, ruined by a child she never wanted, if she didn’t have a life.