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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Things they'd never believe if I put it in a story

   
Author Topic: Things they'd never believe if I put it in a story
kings_falcon
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So, I'm sitting here at my day job, which for all of those who don't know yet I'm a lawyer, and a client calls. Great! I live for these moments. So, we start talking and the call waiting goes off on my client's side of the call. He says, "Do you mind if I get this call?" Not, "Hey can I call you back in a few minutes" but did I mind being on hold. My answer to this question is ALWAYS, "No, that's fine."

Keep in mind, I get paid in six minute intervals. A phone call is a minimum of .3 an hour or 18 minutes. I bill at $310.00 an hour or $5.17 per minute. He called me for "urgent advice." AND he wants me to hold? AND he wants pay me for the privilege of having me hold rather than just call me back? So, his quick call becomes a half hour and his "urgent" flag gets downgraded for the next time. Unfortunately, this is not a rare occurance. Twice today. But, generally once or twice a month.

Now, the question is would you believe it if you saw that same senario in a story?

What other "real but too weird to believe things if written into a story" have you experienced?


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Snorri Sturluson
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Personally, I would "believe" this story if you put it in a novel. However, I am a fan of books like Nuklear Age by Brian Clevinger, so my sense of humorous situations and the degree of unbelievablity that I allow may be different than the average individual.

As for true experiences that people wouldn't believe in print: About a month ago I attended a committee meeting at a University for a new academic department attempting to organize itself (essentially, a committee to figure out what other committees the department needs in order to function). In that committee it was debated, for about 45 minutes, on what to rename another committee, which had previously been called, simply, the Practicum Committee. After these 45 minutes it was decided to name the Practicum Committee... the Practicum Committee. Efficiency at its best.


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lehollis
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I'd believe both of those situations.

I've heard that the key to believability is often in the details. So I wonder: would that mean if a writer doubt something is believable, (like the situations mentioned) he or she should look for some key details to make it believable?

[This message has been edited by lehollis (edited July 23, 2007).]


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Lynda
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The other thing to remember is to not drag it out too much - real life is only interesting up to a point in some situations, so dealing with it with humor, as King was doing (the poor schlub on the other end of the phone must not have thought about how much that call was going to cost him! Yikes, when he gets the bill . . .!!! LOL!) is probably the best thing. Using TOO much detail would make it drag, I think. It would be a fine line.

On another thread here, someone was asking about how to explain some scientific thing without doing an info dump. I suggested having the general/congressman/whoever has financial oversight and let that contract so the scientist could do whatever's he's doing, come to the lab and require an explanation. That takes care of the info dump, and you can do as much or as little detail as you want, and it's a realistic scenario that can play out as boring, funny, dramatic or tragic. Yet it's also a slice of real life for scientists, most of whom are funded by the government or big corporations. There aren't a lot of scientists who get to just play in the lab without somebody breathing down their necks for some reason. Such scenes can be played many different ways.

Lynda


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nitewriter
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Ya, I would easily believe that. As you said, it is not rare. People can get to a point where their needs are their first concern and the money is just not that important. In my experience with lawyers, doctors and stockbrokers - calling them back and actually having them available is a gamble. So, if you are in a dire situation you want resolved - well, in his case that extra 30 minutes cost him $155.00 that he might have felt was worth it. Besides, when you consider the billing in total from a lawyer, an extra $155.00 is likely going to seem like pocket change.

As far as my own experiences - I live in Utah, not a member of the local religion - mormon - though I have had many mormon friends. Over the years they have come to me with incredible stories that they felt "safe" in telling me. If I were to tell you some of these stories you would laugh and say I made it up -such a thing simply could not happen. But it did, and does happen. So, change some names to protect the guilty (and your own butt) and you've got some excellent grist for the writing mill - and I'm writing some of these stories now.


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Hookt_Un_Fonix
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With the risk of sounding to political, I was thinking of how unbelievable it woudl be to future generations when they ready about the things that are going on in Washington right now. How much people turn a blind eye to, and what the establishment has been allowed to get away with, or just ignore. Think about this, Abu Grad is still open right? We still have "POW's" in Cuba, that are being detained indefinitely, and its not even on the 12th page of the times any more.

I do have few stories about my child hood that would also fit into this category, even with people to back them up. I think that is the fun part of being a writer, it is our job to make the unbleviable seem believable.


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franc li
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quote:
So, his quick call becomes a half hour and his "urgent" flag gets downgraded for the next time.
In his mind or in your mind?

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HuntGod
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60 years ago we had relocation camps...when you are at war the rules change.

In general things done in wartime are looked on in shock and dismay when viewed in peacetime.


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kings_falcon
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franc -

Mine.

When the reason they need me is really urgent, they let the other call go to voice mail.

AND the people who do this are ALWAYS the ones who complain about the bill. Well, duh . . .


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Robert Nowall
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At the further risk of sounding political..."Hookt_un_Fonix", if you believe that Guantanamo and Abu Graibe (or however it's spelled) are worse than the prison camps Saddam Hussein operated in pre-war Iraq, or the ones that Fidel Castro still operates in Cuba...then I have a Brooklyn Bridge I'd like to sell, and I think you might be a good customer.
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franc li
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quote:
A phone call is a minimum of .3 an hour or 18 minutes. I bill at $310.00 an hour or $5.17 per minute.

You have your answer right there. When you pick up the phone, he has been charged for 20 minutes. If he has to have a second call with you, that is another 20 minutes or 40 minutes total. If he keeps you on hold for 30 minutes and talks to you for 10 minutes or less, he breaks even.

We bill down to .2 hours most the time, but there have been .1 hour instances. I'm a secretary and do the billing.

Or it's possible he's a big wig who the accountants don't bother with piddling details. If a phone call can avoid going to court, that is going to be a great savings.

[This message has been edited by franc li (edited July 25, 2007).]


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J
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I used to be at a firm that billed in 15 minute increments. There was nothing that made my day like a client who called, got a call on the other line, and wanted to call me back later.

I don't know if the practice of law is unique in this regard, but there were lots of things that happened that no one would believe if written as fiction. Like the time a client sent us documents to produce to the other side and FedEx lost them and couldn't find them. Then FedEx found the boxes, but there were no documents in them. And a good chunk of the documents were lab notebooks, and the client sent us the originals without making a copy for themselves. So we had to tell the other side that FedEx ate all of the documents they were entitled to see. I think a reader would have trouble believing that--I know that the opposing counsel and the court did (we had to get affidavits from FedEx and our client's inside counsel).


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kings_falcon
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Off the war . . back to events you wouldn't believe in print . . .well maybe they aren't that far apart but . . .

Our rep letter says "phone calls will be billed at a .3 minimum" but I don't usually do that unless the call goes really close to .3. I know very few attorney's who actually bill the entire .3 for a call that doesn't last at least 15 minutes.

My billing software has a timer and rounds up to the nearest .1. So, if I have multiple short calls in the day from the same person, it's likely the total charge would be .3. I don't zap the bill for .3 everytime the person calls if I don't use the time. Most of my clients are small businesses or individuals so every penny spent counts.


I did have opposing counsel tell me the other day that "he wasn't afraid of me" and they were willing to take the matter "to the mat." I asked him if he was 12.

He's a bit annoyed at me right now.



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J
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He probably just finished one of those trial advocacy CLE tapes that get all macho about how lawyers eager to go to trial always get the best settlements. He also probably prepared for the call by listening to Jock Jams on his iPod.
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kings_falcon
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LOL!

Naw, he was just a NY City Lawyer.


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Hookt_Un_Fonix
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I agree that the camps in Cuba and under the old Iraqi regime are just as horrible if not more so. The unbelievable is that they are ours. I am an American, a retired soldier, and a patriot that found these things hard to swallow. We have a reputation of treating people much better then that, and treating our own inmates with a greater regard to due process.
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Hookt_Un_Fonix
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Sorry about the war comment though. I saw the post after I replied. I actually gave this thread a lot of thought last night and started to brew up some "unbelievable" ideas of my own.

Most of them came from my childhood. Many of my friends are awed by the things that me and my brothers had done growing up. Some people compared them to things that Huck Finn wouldn't even do.

I am the second of nine boys. We were all wild and crazy and did a few things that if their were not witness's and police reports they could have been discounted as pure brag.

We blew up our house cat with a rocket sled. We filled our neighbors house with rats using a potato gun. We tried to fly with card board wings from the roof top (first time my older brother broke his leg). We built a human catapult and launched each other into the lake at passing fishermen. We burned down a county bridge (that was an accident). We blew up an old barn with stump busters (On purpose) which lead to a bull tearing up my neighbors dog (that was an accident).

Needless to say it was a hard life for my parents, but they kept trying to have a good boy. I think they should have jsut tried for a daughter.


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WouldBe
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"I'd like the house sold by August...Would you mind holding a sec? Got a call."

"Sure...at the usual rate."
...
"Sorry about the wait. The wife called and said we won the powerball. My question now is this: can you recommend an attorney who can get me a quick divorce without the wife getting a dime of the powerball money?"

"Uhhh...sure...me."

"You're a real estate attorney."

"Well, uh, that's just a side line. I farm it out. My specialty is quick divorces involving large estates."

"Great. Come see me."


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kings_falcon
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quote:
I am the second of nine boys

Nine? NINE! Oh the thought of that just hurts. I'm actually suprised there was so little damage given what my two boys do!

quote:
We built a human catapult and launched each other into the lake at passing fishermen.

Priceless. I can see doing that. What a great idea but don't give them to my kids.


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Hookt_Un_Fonix
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there are hundreds more, and I am going to make sure none of my brothers give my daughter any ideas.

We did everything that little boys should x9, and a bit more. Each one of us had a hobby furthered the chaos and disorder. I personally loved model rockets. My older brother was really big on blowing things up. My brother Danny liked to play with archery and crossbows. We all pretty much worked on cars, and go carts.

I think us growing up caused more property damage then Katrina, and we have enough stitches to make more then a few couches. It is amazing we all survived growing up.

My personal favorite stories center around our tree fort and the various ways we came up to protect it. On that note I will let you all know that home made napalm is not a good thing to put into gopher holes, and that nail guns might not have range, but you can do some creative things with them.


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franc li
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They should make a videogame.
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RMatthewWare
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The idiocy of someone calling a lawyer, putting the LAWYER on hold, I would believe. When things sound really stupid, they go well in books because, perhaps, we've all been there. If nothing else, it's funny. Keep a record of those sorts of things. It might help.
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oliverhouse
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Hookt, I'm fifth of eleven (nine boys, two girls). I disagree with your politics, but I'm sure there's common ground in the outrageous family stories. Kid stories are a great source of things nobody would believe -- the coincidences that keep us alive are the most convincing argument in favor of guardian angels that I've ever seen.

My backyard neighbor from when I was a kid, Theresa Bloomingdale, had about a dozen kids. She wrote a couple of books, the first of which was called I Should Have Seen It Coming When The Rabbit Died. I play a tiny bit part in it.

Now I have seven of my own (the only one in my family to have more than two, interestingly), and when I'm not pulling my hair out it's a constant comedy. My wife blogs about them sometimes -- it's her little bridge to sanity.

Just now the four-year-old tried to escape from his room to ask me, urgently, "Dad! How old is Peter?"

"Who is Peter?" I asked.

He looked at me like I was nuts. "I don't know!"

P.S. By the way, my wife LIES.

[This message has been edited by oliverhouse (edited July 25, 2007).]


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Hookt_Un_Fonix
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Maybe we should start another thread so as not to rail road this one. We can make one of unbelievable childhood stories I am sure there are more then a few people willing to tell a tale in a writers forum.
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kings_falcon
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Jake - the blog is wonderful and the kids are adorable. Fortunately, the pictures don't capture the swath of destruction in thier wake.
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KayTi
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I smell the sweet tangy smell of a writer's challenge brewing here....

Childhood memory/story of your own children...
1500 words or less
Beginning, middle, end
...

Anyone else catching a whiff? Need to get back on the writer's wagon, I've been off for an (unrelated) conference for more than a week. Speaking of which, the unrelated conference is for an organization I do a lot of work with, where I often joke with one particular co-conspirator about writing a book because there are some crazy absolutely unbelievable things happening in the backrooms. Nothing illegal, but a lot of "can you believe he/she just said/did that?!?!!"


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Hookt_Un_Fonix
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I am game for it. I would nto have to do a lot of research either. I would just need to pick a brother, place a call, and enjoy a beer as we talked about growing up. I might even record it and just transcribe it lol.
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