Monday, August 8, 2016

Uh... What?

(My daughter says this isn't an award winning post, but when you've got out-of-state company coming in any minute..."

I recently received a new credit card, and all of the flyers, instructions, and legalese were in Spanish. Other than a few words, I don’t speak or read any foreign language. I wish I could speak Spanish, but I don’t. I took it for one year in high school, but the second year we had an Asian teacher with an Asian accent, and none of us could understand what he was trying to teach us. But that’s neither here nor there, just an interesting story.

You know how the stores get you. “Don’t pay cash. Sign up for a credit card and you’ll get an extra 20% off. You can pay it off and never use the card again.” The item I bought was already on sale, and an extra 20% would make it even better. Woohoo!

Anyway, of all things, this got me to thinking about writing. Surprise! Doesn’t almost everything make me think of writing?

What might happen if your protagonist received a threatening note, left in her mailbox, in a language she wasn’t familiar with? She could find an interpreter, but by the time that happened the person sending the note might have carried through on their threat. Not good.

Ah! How would she know it was a threatening note if she couldn’t read it? Good question. Maybe the bad guy drew a picture of what he was planning to do. Uh huh. Not likely, but for purposes of this post, let’s say he did.

The protagonist could become suspicious of everyone around her who speaks Spanish. Also not good. (By the way, this isn’t political. It’s about writing mysteries and figuring things out.)

She might try to remember if she’d had any run-ins with someone of Hispanic descent recently. No?

Moving on.

Maybe the note was left in the wrong mailbox. She might start talking to neighbors and discover she has a new woman living a few houses away. Interestingly, this new neighbor speaks both English and Spanish. She also has a son who’s in trouble and she needs help to keep him safe. It would be too cliché to say he’s involved in drugs or gangs, no matter what his ethnicity, so let’s say he witnessed a crime. Drugs and gangs have been way overused in books and on TV.

The neighbor translates the note and begins to cry. “My baby boy is in big trouble. Will you help us?” Of course, her “baby boy” happens to be nineteen and fit as a football player. In fact, maybe he does play college football. However, the protagonist can’t turn down someone who’s as upset as this mother happens to be.

The end of this story is up to you. Use your imagination and figure out what the protagonist, mother and son might go through. Violence? Guns? Knives? Or maybe just some whacko who thought he was being funny. It could be someone from a rival team hoping to throw the young man off his game.

You may be thinking, what’s the relevance of this idea? It’s too unrealistic. So what if she got a credit card in Spanish? Why would that make her think about a threatening note?

Writers pay attention to everything and everyone around them. That’s what would make one think of this scenario.

I received the bill shortly after the credit card. Guess what? The bill was in Spanish. I refused to pay it until I receive a bill in English. Silly me. We’ll see what happens.

Hmm. Maybe my protagonist will have to go through something like this. No. I don’t think so.

Until next time, have a great week and I hope all of your bills are in a language you understand.

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  1. It is fascinating how your mind works!
    I had one teacher in college with a strong accent. Great teacher and lovely person BUT to this day whenever I want papers stapled together in my head it sounds like " 'eshtaple' those neatly!"

    Just be sure you pay the bill, principles or not, before they add exorbitant interest - with a note, of course, that you will not use this card again until they communicate with you in the language of your choice.

    1. Thanks, Laura! Actually, I wish I could speak Spanish, but I'd have to take classes which I'm not ready for at the moment. I'll pay the bill, but I won't be happy. : ) Thank you so much for commenting!

  2. Hola, Marja! (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) LOL
    Don't you just love how writers' minds work? Something happens in our everyday life and, instantly, we create a story around it. I wonder if that's how "normal" people think.

    1. Oh! Oh! That's one of the words I know. : ) Are you telling me writers aren't normal people? LOL Yes, we have very imaginative minds. Thank you so much for commenting!

  3. I agree with Patricia--about how writers' minds are constantly at work. Sometimes I wish mine would take a rest! And there you go creating a scenario from receiving a credit card in Spanish! Great imagination!

    1. Thank you, Pat! It seems like anything can trigger a story idea, as you well know. : ) Thank you so much for commenting!

  4. UPDATE: I received another bill from the credit card company today. It was a photocopy of the last bill and, of course, still in Spanish. I'm sighing loudly.

  5. If they have a phone number call and tell them you do not speak anything but English. Might get some positive response. Know about High School Spanish my teacher was French. Go figure. Laura is correct paying with note to avoid surcharges a definite must.

    1. Already did all of that, Jake, but thank you for the advice. I've called them three times. It will resolve itself (with my help). Thank you so much for commenting!

  6. Answer them back in Swedish.