01-19-19 – Judith Ashley – My Sanctuaries and Safe Havens: Writing and Spiritual Practices

Monday, December 25, 2017

Murphy's Law

by Courtney Pierce

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. I’m a big believer in – and obeyer of - Murphy’s Law. Ah, yes, the inevitable will happen if I don’t think ahead to thwart a disaster. Murphy’s principal makes great fodder for writers. We hear about these stories on the news every day, like the thief who smashes into a jewelry store and drops his driver license on the floor on the way out the door. We delight and tee-hee at these satisfying just deserts.

When it comes to writing, though, I think of Murphy’s Law as having two levels: the “Little Murphy” and the “Big Murphy”. The Little Murphies add a touch of tension and humor with the injection of the unexpected, like speeding-up a rolling walkway from one scene to another. An example of a Little Murphy would be for my latest character, Olivia Novak, to rush to the airport to make an earlier flight. She’s on stand-by with ten minutes to make it through security. After the shoes, belt, and jacket come off, she hears the dreaded words, “Bag Check!” As the TSA agent directs Olivia to step aside, the loudspeaker blares her name, “Olivia Novak please proceed to Gate 14 for immediate departure.” Will she make it? Boom! Readers can’t wait to get to the next scene to find out.

The Big Murphy is a wonderful device for hooking a reader in the first 25% of a novel, the moment when your protagonist can’t go back to their life as it once was. Big Murphies set the stage for an emotional collision to ignite the action. It might look like this:  my character, Judith Cenderon, is ecstatic about starting her relaxing vacation in Mexico. She breezes through the airport. Her heart sinks as she approaches her gate. Waiting there is her ex-husband, who happens to be with his new wife (news to Judith until she spots the matching wedding bands). They’re on her same flight. Judith slips into a seat behind a pole to not be seen, but she’s in earshot and easily hears their conversation. The topper is that they start talking about HER! Judith tries to hold back a sneeze–a very distinctive rapid-fire sneezebut there she blows. Her ex turns with a look of surprise, then beams a smile. What a way to start a romance novel, right? I might have to write that Big Murphy.

I travel quite a bit for my day job, so airports provide wonderful food for all kinds of Murphies. On a recent flight to Kansas City I found a USA Today on the floor at my gate. This paper is always good for a juicy Murphy or two. While the situations aren’t always humorous, they invariably prompt a chuckle by virtue of their irony. It’s been the foundation of stories for a millennia. Murphy’s Law became a sweet and sav000ory meal for William Shakespeare, and even made a killing for Stephen King.  Mr. King wrote about the torture of being a successful and famous writer by crafting a bestseller about a famous writer being torturedand there you have Misery. By the way, Misery went on to become an Academy-Award-winning movie, so King became even more successful and famous. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Geeeez! I proceed with my hunt for inspiration. Day job be damned!

The little state-by-state newsy bits in USA Today provide wonderful seedlings for stories based on Murphy’s Law. Like this one from the line-up of December 13th:

PENNSYLVANIA, Wilson – A firefighter who dresses as Santa every year to deliver gifts was forced to cancel this year after his home was gutted.

I felt guilty for chuckling at that one, so much so that I thought my house would burn down before I got home from Kansas City.

In light of the holiday season, this one made me feel warm inside:
SOUTH CAROLINA, Tega CayAn anonymous donor dropped a gold coin worth about $1,200 in a Salvation Army kettle at local Walmart.

Was that an accident? Could have been a Big Murphy if the donor didn’t know the coin was valuable and late on paying the rent. I wonder how many valuable coins I’ve rolled and cashed in over the years? But hey, it made the news!

I love Murphy’s Law. My Dushane Sisters Trilogy is full of these moments. Mine have an extra caveat, though, on the traditional definition: “what can go wrong will go wrong in the process of doing the right thing”. Indigo Legacy has a big one. The three middle-age sisters come together to honor their dead mother, but they end up unwittingly doing the opposite when they’re interviewed . . . in front of millions of people on a national T.V. show. This crowning moment sets off the action for the remainder of the book.

There you have it! I wish our RTG readers and their families the merriest of holidays and a safe New Year. 

Courtney Pierce is a fiction writer living in Milwaukie, Oregon, with her new family. She writes for baby boomers. By day, Courtney is an executive in the entertainment industry and uses her time in a theater seat to create stories that are filled with heart, humor and mystery. She has studied craft and storytelling at the Attic Institute and has completed the Hawthorne Fellows Program for writing and publishing. Active in the writing community, she is a board member of the Northwest Independent Writers Association and on the Advisory Council of the Independent Publishing Resource Center. She is a member of Willamette Writers Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and She Writes. The Executrix received the Library Journal Self-E recommendation seal. 

Check out all of Courtney's books at:
courtney-pierce.com and windtreepress.com. Both print and E-books are available through most major online retailers, including Amazon.com
The Dushane Sisters are back in Indigo LakeMore laughs, more tears...and more
trouble. Protecting Mom's reputation might get the sisters killed―or give one of them the story she's been dying to live.

New York Times best-selling author Karen Karbo says, "Courtney Pierce spins a madcap tale of family grudges, sisterly love, unexpected romance, mysterious mobsters and dog love. Reading Indigo Lake is like drinking champagne with a chaser of Mountain Dew. Pure Delight."
Colorful characters come alive in Courtney's trilogy about the Dushane sisters. Beginning with The Executrixthree middle-age sisters find a manuscript for a murder mystery in their mother's safe after her death. Mom’s book gives them a whole new view of their mother and their future. Is it fiction . . . or truth? 

Get out the popcorn as the Dushane Sisters Trilogy comes to a scrumptious conclusion with Indigo Legacy. Due out in Spring 2108.

Protecting Mom's reputation might get the sisters killed―or give one of them the story she's been dying to live.

New York Times best-selling author Karen Karbo says, "Courtney Pierce spins a madcap tale of family grudges, sisterly love, unexpected romance, mysterious mobsters and dog love. Reading Indigo Lake is like drinking champagne with a chaser of Mountain Dew. Pure Delight."


Sarah Raplee said...

I love the way you use Murphy's Law in your books, Courtney! Great post!

Diana McCollum said...

Awesome blog post, Courtney! Murphy's law is an interesting concept. And I do believe everyone has run in to that at one time or another! Happy Holidays, and have a prosperous New Year!

Maggie Lynch said...

Wow, Courtney! I've never heard Murphy's Law applied to literature. So fun!

I hope your Christmas in snow country was/still is amazing. Looking forward to a great 2018!