First Page Critique: A Raging Need To Kill

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Today we’re critiquing the first page of A RAGING NEED TO KILL, which was submitted anonymously by a reader. I’ll add my comments at the end, and then please give your feedback in the Comments.

A Raging need to Kill

Lilli missed her mom and she hated her dad, Henry, but she still cooked dinner just for him. Lilli opened the oven door and ducked over the golden brown turkey to check if it was done. When she poked the turkey with the fork, a piece fell off, she picked it up, and threw it in the trash bin. A smile spread on her face. “Perfect,” she whispered. She stirred in rosemary seasoning, butter, and garlic salt into the cubed potatoes. Thanksgiving dinner was ready when Henry walked into the living room with a beer in his hand.

Lilli’s mom, Kaitlin, had insisted on having the dinner each year and Lilli was determined to honor her tradition even though Kaitlin was dead. Henry walked closer to Lilli and rested his back against the wooden cabinet. The mouth-watering smell of turkey and cranberry sauce was overpowered by the smell of beer mixed with nicotine, wet hay, and manure.

“Did you prep the girls for the auction?” he asked Lilli, making her neck tense up.

“Not yet, sir. I’ll do it after dinner,” Lilli said while she stared at the yellow stains on the backsplash. She resisted moving even if every cell in her body wanted to step a couple feet away, instead she clenched her jaw to steady her uneasiness.

“Are you hungry, Dad?” she asked trying to remind him that she was his daughter.

“She’s not here anymore. Don’t hold on to the past, Lilli. It’ll be easier,” he said in a calm voice but she still noticed his irritation. He took a step closer to her and she grabbed a plate, served the potatoes and turkey, walked to the table, and back to the kitchen.

After serving two dinner plates for the two of them, she sat at the small wooden table. Henry ate the dinner and after a few minutes, he put down the fork and looked at Lilli with suspicion. “What did you put in the food? You haven’t touched yours. What, you poisoned me?”

“No, Dad,” she said and looked down with a small smirk.

He got up and tried to steady himself with the table. His eyes looked disoriented and he reached out for her but she staggered backwards. He threw a punch at her but Lilli ducked and he missed her.

My comments:

Whoa, talk about a dysfunctional family! I felt the bleakness of the narrator’s world as I was reading this page. I appreciate the way the writer used small details to put the reader inside the Lilli’s POV, such as her staring at the yellow stains on the backsplash.

This scene definitely made me want to learn more about Lilli’s world. I would suggest doing an editing pass to tidy up some punctuation and break up sentences for rhythm and flow.

I would also suggest rearranging the dialogue between Lilli and Henry to increase the tension in the following exchange.

Henry ate the dinner and after a few minutes, he put down the fork and looked at Lilli with suspicion. “What did you put in the food? You haven’t touched yours. What, you poisoned me?”

I suggest breaking up the something like this:

Henry ate the dinner. After a few minutes, he set down his  fork.

 

“You haven’t touched your dinner.”

 

“No, Dad.” Lilli stared down at her plate and stifled a smirk.

 

”You put something in the food?” Henry staggered to his feet, then tried to steady himself against the table. “What, you poisoned me?”

In general, job well done! I’m hoping we will find out in the next page whether Lilli did in fact poison Henry. (Sounds like he deserved it).

Our thanks go out to today’s brave writer for submitting this first page! TKZers, how did you react to this first page? Please share your feedback in the Comments.

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Cold Turkey

By Elaine Viets

 

Don and I have had no phones or Internet since last Thursday. We live in a mandatory evacuation area in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. When we were ordered to leave our condo at noon, Thursday, Sept. 7th, we packed up the cats and headed for our friend Anne’s house in Boynton Beach to ride out the hurricane. Irma was coming and she was mean. We didn’t know if we’d see our condo again.

It was a week before we could go home. We had electricity, but no Internet and no phones. We still don’t.

It may be the best thing that ever happened to me.

My agent wanted me to write a short story, and write it fast.

“Do you have any ideas?” he asked.

A couple. He nixed the idea that involved cute animals. “I think your heart is really on the dark side,” he said.

So I told him about an idea flitting around in my head. You know what I mean. It’s in your brain like a mosquito in your bedroom late at night. You can hear its annoying whine, but you can’t get rid of it. The only way to make it go away is to turn it into a story.

My agent liked the idea: a conversation I’d had with a man in a bank line several years ago – yes, it had been buzzing around that long.

I knew the story’s main characters. I had an idea for the opening. But what did I do after that?

I hadn’t the foggiest. I didn’t know where to take the idea. I had no plot. I had no ending. But it was time to get it out of my head.

“How quickly can you write that story?” he asked.

“Three weeks,” I said. That was fast, since I hadn’t written one word.

I started writing the story three days ago and it’s almost finished.

Why?

No Internet and no phones.

I discovered I’m an Internet addict. I’d get so far in my writing and then, when I got to a difficult part – when I needed to start a new scene or describe a character – I’d automatically go online to answer a question for my story: How do you spell Keurig? What are some names for the Devil?

Except I’d get distracted by the political news. A cute cat video. Click bait about a movie star who was big in 1975. A video tour of a tiny house. An unsolved murder from 1898.

You get the idea. It would be a half hour or more before I got back to my writing. My train of thought had been derailed. I’d write for a bit, but with less enthusiasm. Then another question would come up, and I’d be back on the Net. And I’d post on Facebook, tweet, and answer my e-mail. That took more time. Then I’d see a fascinating video about the 90-year-old sweethearts reunited after 50 years. Their great-granddaughter was the maid of honor . . .

Now I can’t do that. I still have the urge to run to the Internet when I have a question. My fingers itch to hit that browser button. They actually twitch when I see the Firefox icon. Then I realize I don’t have the Internet.

Instead I take a break, have a cup of tea, walk around the house – and the idea comes to me. Suddenly, I can see the next scene. That character is standing in front of me and I can describe him. Or I didn’t paint myself into a corner after all. I know how I can solve the problem. And damn, that opening, the one I’ve cherished for two years, is dull. I need to tear it up and rewrite it.

Writing is faster and easier without the Internet.

The AT&T repair person will be here Friday morning to restore our phones and get us back on the Internet.

I hope I can stand the itching and twitching of withdrawal, and not get caught in the Net again.

Note: I finished the short story, “The Deal,” two days later, and sent it to my agent. At last, it was out of my head. Our condo is livable, but damaged: Don’s bathroom ceiling collapsed and water damaged one wall and our bedroom ceiling. Compared to how Irma pounded the Caribbean, we are lucky. We got phones and Internet Friday, September 15, and well, I went on the Net again. Just to check my email. I swore I’d be strong, and stay away the distractions, but I had to find out what was going on in our country. And if Bo Derek still looks good now. And how to clean my house using all-natural ingredients. I’m supposed to finish a manuscript, but there’s this story about two women who tried to take selfies with a freaking elk. My name is Elaine and I am an addict . . .

 

 

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First Page Critique: Portrait Of A Young Man

Yes, ’tis the season for catching up on first page critiques from our TKZ “In” box. Today we’re reviewing the first page of PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG MAN. Please add your feedback for today’s brave writer in the Comments.

Portrait of a Young Man

I picked up the dead man about twenty miles west of Columbus. I stopped to take care of my business and grab a soda at a Pilot gas station at mile marker seventy-nine. When I returned to my car I found him in the passenger seat. He was the one I’d seen frequently in the weeks before, but I’d seen him then in my dreams, not in the waking day, and certainly not in my Civic. I went back into the station and milled about for a solid fifteen minutes, examining overpriced sunglasses and t-shirts, hoping the dead man would wander off. But when I went back, he was still there.

So, I got in the car and I drove. I still had some miles to cover. I had a job waiting in Cleveland. Not too much rough stuff, Maxwell had promised.

My passenger was, as he had been in my dreams, clad in a Prussian blue Union greatcoat with a small cape. The double-bar insignia on his lapels showed his rank to be that of a captain and the crossed sabers on his slouch hat meant he was cavalry. In my dreams, I’d seen him only from afar, charging on horseback across some remote fog-blurred field of battle with his sword raised, into a fusillade of Confederate musket fire. In my dreams the wounds he suffered were but specks in the smoky distance. Up close and sitting beside me I saw them as jagged, fleshy holes, one above the left eye and one through the throat. They bled, as he sat, but not so much as to seem to distract him.

My car was old, built before smoking had become unofficially criminal, and the dead officer spent several minutes inspecting my lighter, pressing it in and waiting for it to pop out again. He inspected the glowing coils closely and returned the thing to its slot to repeat the process. He made a quick examination of the glove box, taking no apparent interest in the ‪1911‬ .45 caliber pistol I kept there, then he just stared out the window, watching the cornfields of central Ohio glide slowly by.

Unlike Larry, and most of my other visitors, he never said so much as a word. He began to fade around mile marker one-fifty, heading north on I-71. He was totally gone before we passed through Mansfield, twenty-five miles later.

My feedback: I’m intrigued by the underlying notion here: a dream image suddenly materializes in the passenger seat of the narrator’s Honda Civic in the form of a Zombie Yank officer, who calmly proceeds to rummage through the glove box. Who wouldn’t want to hear more about that?

That being said, I was confused about what type of story to expect here. The narrator’s lack of reaction to his bizarre driving companion is puzzling, for example. If I suddenly encountered a hitchhiker plucked from a recurring dream, I’d immediately assume that someone had slipped a spiked mushroom into my breakfast casserole. Here, however, the narrator displays little reaction to the bizarre passenger. That muted response muffles the dramatic impact of the scene, making the opening seem a tad flat despite its compelling setup.

The title doesn’t help the reader anticipate what  type of story to expect. PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG MAN sounds like a Joycean, literary title rather than mystery or suspense.

Craft-wise, the writer should pay heed to punctuation rules and edit with an eye to avoiding run-on sentences and an overuse of commas.

Overall, the writer grabbed my interest with the opening image, but he needs to add “more”: more narrator reaction is needed to punch up the drama and set the stage for this story; more context is also needed to clarify certain details as the scene progresses (who is “Larry”, for instance?).

Update: After rereading the page, I realized belatedly that this story is in the zombie mystery category. I never read that genre, so I missed a couple of cues that might  have been obvious to fans of that genre. (The reference to “other visitors”, in my case). It’s generally a good idea to write a scene so that even newbies to a genre can “see” clearly what is going on in a scene during the first reading.

Please share your thoughts about PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG MAN in the Comments. And we thank today’s brave anonymous writer for submitting this first page!

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IT’S 10 PM—DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR VILLAIN IS?

By Debbie Burke

Given a choice between an MFA program and TKZ blog, I’ll show up here every morning, and not just cuz the tuition is cheaper!

Right here is where I experienced a slow but critical epiphany about villains, thanks to posts by P.J. Parrish, Jordan Dane, James Scott Bell, and former KZer Joe Moore (still miss ya, Joe!).

For years, my mystery novels won contests and attention from agents and editors…and rave rejections. Despite study, hard work, and persistence, my books remained unpublished. A key element was missing. But what?

Several years ago I started following TKZ about the same time I began a new novel titled Instrument of the Devil.

My previous books had been traditional whodunits told from first person or close third person points of view, completely inside the head of the main character. That meant a continuous struggle between what she could know (not much) vs. what was needed to solve the mystery. In addition, the plot required red herrings and false suspects thrown in, all without giving away the villain’s identity.

I wrote mysteries like I read mysteries, from a state of ignorance, constantly trying to figure out what was going on.

I had a general idea of the bad guy’s motive, but never paid much that attention to the schemes and machinations happening offstage. All action took place onstage because the first or close third POV required the sights, sounds, smells, and emotions be filtered through the protagonist only. My focus stayed stuck on the hero.

The bad guy hid in the shadows behind the curtain until the big reveal at the end. Unfortunately he’d been hiding from the writer too!

Finally, thanks to the wise folks at TKZ, I recognized the big fat blind spot in my books.

Here’s the epiphany:

In crime fiction, the antagonist drives the plot. Unless a crime has been committed, or is about to be committed, there’s nothing for the protagonist to do. The antagonist acts, the protagonist re-acts.

I’d been following the wrong character around all these years!

My realization probably seems like a big DUH to many crime authors. But I’m sharing it in hopes of helping others like myself who overlooked the obvious.

It’s fun to think like a villain! When I started writing from the bad guy’s POV, a whole new world opened up—a world without conscience, constraints, or inhibitions.

Jordan’s great post from last May says, “The best villains are the heroes of their own stories.”

Actor Tom Hiddleston says, “Every villain is a hero in his own mind.” Most actors would prefer to sink their fangs into the role of a great villain than play the good guy.

The baddies in my earlier books had been flat and dull because I’d never gotten inside their heads. Finally, the missing element became clear and…my book won a publishing contract!

Why is the villain willing to steal, cheat, and kill? What rationalizations justify the harm done to others?

A sociopath comes up with perfectly logical justifications and excuses for abhorrent actions.

Irresistible influences like greed, power, and lust can seduce an ordinary person over to the dark side.

Misguided righteousness can lead to horrendous consequences.

A law-abiding citizen may be forced into a corner where he commits acts he would never do under normal circumstances.

If an author roots around in the antagonist’s brain for a while, background, reasons, and rationalizations for antisocial behavior bubble up. Armed with such knowledge, it becomes impossible to write a two-dimensional character. Jim Bell offers a great technique—try to imagine the villain delivering the closing argument to the jury that will determine his fate.

Do you show the villain’s POV in the story or not? That choice is contingent on subgenre.

In a whodunit mystery, the identity of the villain is typically a surprise at the end. Therefore, that POV is generally not shown to the reader, although some authors include passages from the villain’s POV without revealing the identity.

Suspense and thriller novels often are written from multiple POVs, including the villain’s. When the reader knows early on who the bad guy is, the question is no longer whodunit, but rather will s/he get away with it?

The author can choose to show the antagonist’s POV or keep it hidden. But either way, you need to be aware of it because that’s what’s driving the story forward.

Even if you never show the villain’s POV, try writing scenes inside his/her head. You don’t need to include them in the book, but the act of writing them gives you a firmer grasp on that character’s deep desires and how those desires screw up other people’s lives. Once you really understand what the antagonist is striving for, that provides a solid framework from which the story hangs.

If you’re in a corner and your hero doesn’t know what to do next, check in with the villain. While the hero is slogging through steps A, B, and C to solve the crime, the bad guy is offstage setting up roadblocks D, E, and F to keep from being caught.

If you get lost down a rabbit hole, ask questions to get back on track:

Where is the villain?

What can he do to make the protagonist’s life miserable?

Does she need to commit another crime to cover the first?

How can she elude capture?

The best answers can be found inside the bad guy’s head.

How about you, TKZers?

What is your villain doing right now?

Do you prefer to show the antagonist’s POV or keep it hidden?

P.S. A BIG THANK YOU to everyone at TKZ for helping me to raise my writing from rave rejections to publication.

Debbie Burke’s thriller Instrument of the Devil is now available on Amazon for pre-order and goes on sale October 10.

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Breathing Life Into Secondary Characters

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As writers, we all lavish attention on the main characters of our stories. But what about the minor characters? Too often, a story’s  secondary characters get short shrift during the writing process.

And that’s a shame, because it’s often the minor characters–the second bananas–who often carry the show. Don’t short change your reader by giving them secondary characters who are generic or cardboard: the “leggy blonde” who is tossed in for a frisson of sexual tension; the “beefy cop” who turns up at a crime scene; the “tired-looking” hotel clerk. Those types of descriptions tell the reader that the writer needed to include a particular character to move a scene forward, but didn’t put any effort into bringing the character to life.

All secondary character need to live and breathe for the reader. In his book On Writing, Stephen King said that every character in a book thinks of himself or herself as the main character. Whenever that character is on stage, even briefly, he should be presented as if a spotlight is shining on him.

When it comes to strong secondary characters, a few standouts come to mind: Dill in To Kill A Mockingbird; Melanie in Gone with the Wind; the wealthy, pompous Lady Catherine De Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice.

Which secondary characters are the most memorable for you in thrillers or mysteries? As a writer, do you struggle with the challenge of portraying second bananas?

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A Brief Pause To Refresh, Recover

We are taking a “Personal Day” time-out to give some of our impacted bloggers time to recover from Hurricane Irma. (And we haven’t forgotten Harvey!) Our thoughts go out to everyone who was affected (and continues to be affected) by the weather events.

 

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Story Critique: Undertow Of Loyalty

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Today we are reviewing (anonymously) a first page of a manuscript written by another brave volunteer. I’ll add my thoughts at the end. Then, please share your reactions in the Comments.

UNDERTOW OF LOYALTY

Neil Henberlin rushed through the glass entrance doors of his company’s 20th floor corporate office, pushing them a little harder than necessary. The etched-glass door slapped his shoulder as it rebounded off the rubber door stop. The gong sound of the glass vibrations caused the receptionist’s head to pop up, lips pursed, eyes squinting. She looked at him as if she’d seen a ghost.

“Someone’s in my parking spot,” he said, as he leaned over the desk to look in his message slot. “No messages?”

The receptionist shook her head and said, “Ah… we weren’t expecting you.”

“Hmm. Why? I’m only late, not absent.”

“But…”

“I know, it’s Stampede Week. My hat and boots are in my office. I’ll change later.”

Henberlin noticed the receptionist’s white Stetson cowboy hat, denim skirt with a white fringe, and the red bull-rider boots. He nodded in approval, then turned in a hurry for the stairway and took off almost running. Taking the steps two at a time, he topped the stairs and walked past the corner office occupied by the Vice President of Sales. He hoped to get past without noticed. The VP’s secretary, wearing a straw cowboy hat, Western-cut blouse, jeans, and cowboy boots, happened to be exiting the office. She closed the door and turned to see Henberlin. Stopping dead in her tracks she said, “Neil?”

“Yeah, hi Geneva. I’m late for the sales training class. Don’t worry, I’ll be Western before noon.”

“Okay. Umm…”

But, too late—Henberlin raced by. He continued at a quick pace until he turned the corner and carried on to his office. Rushing in, he placed his PC carrier on a chair and turned, intending to hurry away, except the top of his desk caught his eye. Someone had cleaned and tidied it. No papers, none of his personal items, only the computer cables and the phone. A cardboard box sat on the floor beside the desk. No time now to figure out who had messed with his stuff, he’d promised Emmitt he’d tell stories to the sales training class.

He kept on moving to get to the classroom, knowing he was already late. Once he entered the training lobby, he crossed the small area and knocked on the only door from which he heard voices.

The door opened and Emmitt LeClare’s smiling face emerged. Emmitt, wearing a red and white diamond-checked shirt with double breast pockets, each with white pearl snaps, and a bolo tie, lost his smile the second he realized who stood before him.

“Neil?”

“Yeah. Sorry I’m late. Is it too late?

“No, no not at all.” Emmitt seemed at a loss for words. “It’s just, I wasn’t expecting you.”

My comments:

First paragraph

The gong sound of the glass vibrations caused the receptionist’s head to pop up, lips pursed, eyes squinting.

Breaking up a long sentence into shorter, punchier ones can add strength to a minor action sequence. For example, one could break up the preceding sentence as follows:

The reverberations of the glass caused the receptionist’s head to pop up. She squinted in my direction, her lips drawn into a straight line. “

Delete or revise the next sentence.

She looked at him as if she’d seen a ghost.

Cliches weaken prose. In this case, I don’t think you need to elaborate this minor character’s reaction.

Second paragraph

Neil’s dialogue here directly follows the receptionist’s reaction, possibly creating confusion over who is speaking. Instead of opening the paragraph with Neil’s dialogue, start with an action by him to “refocus” the scene on him, then add his dialogue.

I would also suggest punching up the language and breaking up the flow to add some tension.

“Some asshat’s taken my parking spot.” Neil leaned against  the desk to peer into his message slot. It was empty.

I started getting confused by the sequence flow at this point in the scene. Why does the fact that Neil had  no messages lead them into the revelation that the no one was expecting him? We need a hint of why he was so surprised by the empty messages box. (Question to consider: wouldn’t Neil’s name have been removed from his message box already?)

Edit and rearrange the sequence of some actions and dialogue to strengthen the flow of actions-reactions.

Belatedly, Neil noticed the receptionist’s white Stetson cowboy hat and denim shirt.

 

“I know, it’s Stampede Week,” he said, giving her cowgirl getup a nod of approval. “My hat and boots are in my office. I’ll change later.”

Use stronger, fresh language as much as possible.

“Hey Geneva, I know I’m late for the sales training class. But you watch. I’ll  be the Rhinestone Cowboy before noon.”

Trim down laundry list descriptions

The descriptions of the characters’ cowboy outfits seemed too lengthy. One or two words is enough to get across an impression. Overlong descriptive lists slows the pace and risks losing the reader’s attention.

Too many similar characters dilute the focus.

Neil has two encounters with similar-sounding receptionists. I suggest cutting the interaction with the second receptionist. Go directly to the encounter with Emmitt LeClare.

Maintain a consistent POV

The point of view gets fuzzy in the following paragraph. We should be seeing things from Neil’s point of view throughout the paragraph.

 Emmitt, wearing a red and white diamond-checked shirt with double breast pockets, each with white pearl snaps, and a bolo tie, lost his smile the second he realized who stood before him.

 

Character note

Neil seems a tad clueless in this scene. Anyone working in today’s corporate environment knows the axe could fall at any moment. I would think he’d react with alarm at the sight of his cleaned-out office?

General note

The writing here is solid and shows promise, but I think we need to get more of a hint about the type of conflict that will take place in this story. I think a stronger title would help–Undertow of Loyalty didn’t convey a sense of  what type of suspense readers can expect from this story.

I want to thank today’s writer for submitting this first page!

Your turn:

What are your thoughts and suggestions for the writer of today’s page? Please share your feedback in the Comments.

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LIFE IS JUST A BOWL OF CHERRIES

SIMILES, METAPHORS, AND FOOD

By Debbie Burke

A few days ago, after a brief but welcome rain shower washed the choking wildfire smoke from the Big Skies of Montana, I visited a friend’s cherry orchard on Flathead Lake. Because a glut on the market resulted in low prices, tons of fat glossy sweet cherries remained unharvested on the trees. As I walked among the heavily laden branches bowing to the ground, a cliché popped into my head:  low-hanging fruit.

According to John Bagnell, “Low hanging fruit is often cited as an example of vacuous business-speak, typically used by marketing folk to refer to easy targets or readily-attainable objectives. It’s generally considered to have come into use in the early 1990s, quickly reaching cliché status during the middle of that decade.”

One wonders how many Madison Avenue businesspeople ever stood in an orchard, shoes stained deep red, and gathered fruit by handfuls.  If they inhaled the scent and tasted the juicy burst of sweetness when they bit into a perfect cherry that was so ripe it fell from its stem, would the connotation of the phrase be as cynical and disdainful?

Moving from business to music:

 Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries was written by Ray Henderson and Lew Brown, and performed in the Broadway musical Scandals of 1931. The song became a hit when crooner Rudy Vallee recorded it. During the height of the Great Depression, fortunes evaporated overnight and banks closed with people’s life savings never to be recovered. The philosophy expressed in the cheerful-sounding song was: why bother to work and save when everything can all be gone in an instant.

The expression later morphed into a way of saying life is great, but was often used with the ironic undertone that life is anything but great.

Cherry-pick is an idiom used across diverse professions, trades, and sports. It’s defined by Merriam Webster as an intransitive verb meaning “to select as being the best or most desirable.” It entered the lexicon in approximately 1965.

In law, cherry-picking means: “suppressing evidence, or the fallacy of incomplete evidence is the act of pointing to individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position.” (Wikipedia)

In basketball, soccer, and hockey, a cherry-picker is a player who hangs around the opposing team’s goal, waiting for another player to pass the ball or puck so he can make the easy shot. This opportunist capitalizes on other team members’ hard work at defense, snatching credit for the points.

In construction, Raymond Corporation, a material-handling company, defines a cherry picker as “a hydraulic crane with a railed platform at the end for raising and lowering people.” The lift is employed in building, roofing, window washing, utility pole maintenance, and other jobs requiring a worker to be raised high off the ground.

And of course . . . there’s the vulgar frat boy terminology: a cherry picker aspires to seduce virgins.

Who could forget the entreaty from our childhoods — “Pretty please, with a cherry on top!”

Even young children understand the metaphor their parents use to teach good manners: an ice cream sundae, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, nuts, and the final embellishment, a cherry on top. When kids really, really want something, they plead, wheedle, and add the cherry to emphasize their sincerity.

Sugar is sometimes substituted for the cherry, as in the 1994 film Pulp Fiction. “Cleaner” Harvey Keitel orders “hit men” John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson to dispose of a dead body and clean up the evidence. Because Travolta wants to be treated politely and respectfully, he protests Keitel’s brusque rapid-fire orders. The scene ends with Keitel’s immortal quote, “Pretty please with sugar on top, clean the f**king car.”

Many food idioms lost their punch as western culture has moved away from an agrarian society. How many people in today’s urban environment truly understand the inspiration for the following

 

 

 

 

… like peas in a pod               …red as a beet                 …skinny as a string beans

What about “corny”? How did that expression get started?

According to FUNNYPHILLO: At the beginning of the 20th century, seed companies in America started sending out catalogues to the farmers to advertise their goods. To spice up the catalogues, they would sprinkle jokes and cartoons throughout the pages. The jokes on the pages were of low quality, and the catalogues started to be known as “corn catalogue jokes”, which was then shortened to “corny”, and eventually applied to all humour considered embarrassingly unsophisticated.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a bowl of Flathead cherries in the refrigerator calling to me.

TKZers, what is your favorite food expression and why?  

Debbie Burke can be found munching in her garden while awaiting publication of her thriller Instrument of the Devil by Kindle Press.

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