Stepping on the Banana Peel, Part 2

I want readers to know that each week, I go through all the comments that are posted to my blog on both Facebook and on the website. I’m interested in knowing what’s going on with my audience. Have I touched them? Am I writing things that engage their interest?

Last week people were discussing my using the blog to provide background on the writing process. That’s a question that’s often asked at book signings. “What’s your writing process?” As you may have noticed, that isn’t something that lends itself to easy answers. However, for speaking engagements, I keep a couple of pat ones at the ready. Pat Answer #1: I write murder mysteries, so I start with somebody dead and spend the rest of the book trying to figure out who did it and how come. Part Answer #2: I met outlining in Mrs. Watkins’s sixth grade geography class. I hated it then, and nothing that has happened to me in the intervening decades has changed my mind about that, so I start at the beginning and write to the end.

My previous blog was all about hitting the banana peel. That’s the part of the book where, as either reader or writer, once you hit it, you’re not going to stop until you get to the end. Stepping on a banana peel is a good analogy for that, and so is going off a ski jump. From that moment on, there’s only one way to go: DOWN!

When I first started writing and publishing, my kids were still in elementary school. Before taking up writing, I had worked in insurance sales. There were generally two major sales campaigns each year—spring and fall. At the end of each campaign, there would be a celebratory banquet of some kind.

Just like the word-count, score-keeping strategy, I decided to carry that end-of-campaign banquet tradition with me into my new career.

I was a single mom. There wasn’t a lot of money floating around, so we didn’t eat out often, and when we did, it was a big deal. So when I finished writing a manuscript, the kids and I would go out to dinner to celebrate. It was enough of an occasion that the kids started asking me if I was getting close to the end of the book, and I would give them the banana peel answer. “I’m not on the banana peel yet,” or, “I’m on the banana peel.” Eventually their question morphed into: “Are you on the banana peel yet?”

Years passed. As a senior at Newport High School, my daughter came home one day and reported that there had been a huge food fight in the cafeteria. “Mom,” she said, “someone stepped on a banana peel, and down they went. Now I finally know what you mean.”

Which causes me to think about the mysterious things my parents, especially my mother, used to say. If we asked where babies were before they were born, we were told, “They were in China with Chuck.” And then there was something about “Pete Pearson’s eyebrows.” I never knew who Chuck was, and I don’t remember Pete or his eyebrows, either. The problem is, with Evie gone now, I never will.

But I’ve done all of my readers a real favor. You know about the banana peel now, and so does my daughter.