Thursday, November 15, 2012

Paying It Forward

Considering the date, the natural topic of this, my first post to the Writers Vineyard, seemed assured--giving thanks. However, others have already expressed their views on the upcoming holiday. Thought was then given to a tale related to Veterans Day, or Remembrance Day, as called by my Canadian friends north of the border. Watching the actions of the lead character in my work in progress, the third volume in the tales of the dragshi, Talann showed me the musings were not incompatible. The result? A discussion of an ages-old tradition called "Paying It Forward."

Paying it forward involves doing a random good deed for a stranger. It may be as simple as helping a stranded motorist change a flat tire (of course that was before the days of cell phones) or leaving a larger tip so a single mother can buy a holiday gift for her child. Another might say it is an intricate part of the sense of duty that calls a soldier to military service or to a program that was popular in my youth--the Peace Corps.

Imaginary people and their creators can also pay actions forward too. While our characters may pay a good deed--or one not so good-- forward as part of their nature, we as writers also act for the future. In my current project, the third in the dragshi series, Talann could not swim a river to save the village if he was on the other side of the mountain so I had to plan ahead to have him in the right spot at the right time. Similarly, a hero cannot wield a sword if the storyteller did not put one at hand. Even if it is in the possession of the enemy, the reader has to believe the tide can be turned.

Over the years whether working as an editor, mentor, or critiquer, I've written 'tomato surprise' in the margin alongside more than one ending. To those who are not familiar with the term, it means an ending where there was no--or insufficient--setup. The author failed to foreshadow some significant event or provide the hero--or heroine--with the necessary tools to complete their journey. And in the end, the author had to have the cavalry ride in to save the day. Unsummoned and not previously seen in the story, the cavalry literally came out of nowhere. The hero was saved, but the ending was unsatisfactory.

One of the advantages of writing fantasy is that if the rules of the world allow, magic can  be used to save the day--with major caveats. The particular type of magic must be allowed, (to the unhappiness of many commuters, teleportation is not a universal constant.) A challenge in creating Dragon Destiny was setting up magic where none existed without giving away the story.
Whether we act out of selfishness in the hope that a good deed will one day be returned when a loved one needs it, for the surge in hormones that bring about a sense of happiness, or because it is the right thing to do, the world we live in and that we create is better when we pay it forward. And in the worlds of imagination we create? A sprinkling of foreshadowing spices up our stories. A good deed we pay forward to our readers.

Thanks for joining me. Until next time.


The works of multi-published author Helen Henderson crosses genres from historical adventures and westerns to science fiction and fantasy. In the realm of fantasy, she authored the tales of the dragshsi and the Windmaster series. Join her on journeys through the stars, back to the past, or among fantasy worlds of the imagination. First stop:


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Good points about foreshadowing.

Someone said altruism is selfish because it makes us feel good. Dale Larson, in his book The Caring Helper, said "it's the feel good, do good" cycle.

There can never be enough generosity in the world for examples like our characters or ourselves.

Big Mike said...

Welcome aboard, HH. Good to have ya join the team.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)