NRA: Pulpit ‘humility’

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 208-210

This odd little scene doesn’t mention God or “prophecy” or the Bible, prayer, church or any of the other signals of evangelical piety that regularly appear in these books. Yet it presents something so familiar to church-goers that we can all recognize, just from this brief passage, that we’re reading a piece of Christian-brand fiction.

We’ve discussed quite a bit how the dual protagonists of the Left Behind series are wish-fulfillment surrogates for the books’ dual authors. Rayford Steele — graying at the temples, but irresistible to women due to the way he steers his massive, “fully loaded” jet engine — is Tim LaHaye’s fantasy of how he wishes he were perceived by others. Buck Williams — rebel-cool, the writer every other writer desperately envies — is Jerry Jenkins’ Mary Sue.

But Jenkins, who handles the actual writing/typing of these books, also seems dimly aware that he can’t portray himself/Buck as too perfect. He wants Buck to be relatable, and — like an employee filling out one of those self-evaluations and reluctant to give themselves all 5s* — he worries that Buck/Jenkins may come across as arrogant if he doesn’t acknowledge that the character has some flaws. So every few chapters or so, he inserts a little something to reassure readers that Buck is only human after all. The Greatest Investigative Reporter of All Time and the coolest human ever, but still human.

Usually this involves Buck falling down. Buck bounces off the emergency slide of an airplane and tumbles onto the tarmac. Buck slips in the muddy riverbank as he and Michael beach their boat. This is Jenkins’ way of showing Buck’s flawed human side without giving him actual human flaws — poor choices or bad traits that might cause readers not to love and admire him as much as Jenkins desperately wants and needs readers to love and admire him. (“Him” being Buck, because we’re talking about Buck Williams, of course, the character, and not “him” the author, Jerry Jenkins. Or maybe not.)

In this scene, though, Buck doesn’t physically fall down, he has a mental pratfall instead. Buck is, of course, talking on the telephone. He has called his old charter-pilot friend Ken Ritz**:

“Alexandria?” Ken Ritz said by phone the next morning. “Sure, I can get there easily enough. It’s a big airport. When will you be along?”

Buck, who had bathed and washed out a change of clothes in a tiny tributary off the Jordan, dried himself with a blanket. One of Tsion Ben-Judah’s Hebrew-speaking guards was nearby. He had cooked breakfast and now appeared to roast Tsion’s socks and underwear over the small fire.

“We’ll leave here tonight, as soon as the sky is black,” Buck said. “Then, however long it takes a 40-foot wood boat with two outboard motors and six adult men aboard to get to Alexandria –”

Ritz was laughing. “This is my first time over here, as I think I told you,” he said, “but one thing I’m pretty sure about: if you think you’re coming from where you are to Alexandria without carrying that boat across dry land to the sea, you’re kidding yourself.”

Buck’s idea — sailing from the Jordan River to Egypt — is pretty bone-headed. But it’s supposed to be bone-headed. That’s the whole point of this scene. Jenkins is showing us that Buck isn’t perfect, and he’s showing us that he knows Buck/Jenkins isn’t perfect. He wants us to bookmark this page so that later, when Buck is once again being the coolest, the smartest, the all-around best-est, like Jesus and James Bond rolled into one, he can point us back to this scene saying, “Look, there’s proof that Buck has flaws and that therefore he’s not just some pathetic wish-fulfillment author-insert.”

But that doesn’t work here for several reasons. One reason is that Buck’s “flaw” here is that his paddle-to-Egypt plan is based on a massively ignorant misconception of basic geography. That intentional “mistake” only serves to remind readers of all the other unintentional mistakes in this scene that are also based on a massively ignorant misconception of basic geography. Ken Ritz is right to laugh over Buck’s idea of sailing to Egypt, but he should also be laughing at the idea of navigating the Jordan River in a 40-foot boat.

It also doesn’t work because we can’t buy this as an isolated, one-time mental pratfall. Buck has been to Israel many times and yet it seems he’d be unable to identify the country on a map. If he gets this wrong, what else is he wrong about, or what else has he been wrong about in his reporting on Israel? This mistake also seems to contradict what we’ve been told elsewhere about Buck’s dazzling biblical knowledge and understanding. How to get from Israel to Egypt — and, especially, vice versa — is not a minor part of the biblical story. Buck has been studying his Scofield Reference Bible for 18 months by now — didn’t he ever look at the maps in the back?

But the main problem here is that this form of humble-bragging never works. It’s never convincing, this faux self-deprecation that carefully crafts what it’s willing to be deprecating about. Rather than inoculating against the charge of arrogance by humbly admitting faults, it reinforces the perception of arrogance by revealing an unwillingness to be honest about such faults.

The one place I’m sure you’ve heard this before, if you’re a church-goer, is from a preacher on a Sunday morning.

Sometimes it comes from a preacher who’s attempting to do the same thing Jenkins is attempting here — humanizing himself (usually him) by admitting to some minor or generic “flaw.” “I lose my patience in traffic,” the preacher says, as though confessing his worst sin. The unwillingness to admit to anything more meaningful — or the inability to recognize anything more meaningful — undermines the whole attempt to display humility. “Sometimes I’m ill-tempered,” he says,  as though this sets him apart. And then, you realize that what he’s really suggesting is that he’s more extravagantly remorseful that everyone else — that his guilt over such minor failings sets him apart from, and above, others.

Sometimes these alleged flaws are so trivial and commonplace that it all sounds more like boasting than confessing. He’s supposedly telling an “embarrassing” story or admitting to some foible, but it comes across like he’s saying, “This one time, just before flying off to save Metropolis from an asteroid collision, I tripped over my cape and fell smack down on my face. Ha! Joke’s on me!”

It gets more interesting when the discussion isn’t just about “flaws,” but about sins. “We’re all sinners,” the preacher says, “every one of us, including me.” And then sometimes there’s a brief pause as he ponders the need for an example that would confirm this. If the preacher is one of those redeemed sinners whose colorful “personal testimony” tells of being saved from a life of wanton debauchery before they were born again, then this part is easy. All that preacher has to do is recount one of those juicy stories from back before he was saved. But a preacher who has been a lifelong member of the church will quickly realize he’s painting himself into a corner. Confess to too serious an example and the audience might turn against you, so most preachers tend to err in the other direction.

And, again, that subverts the whole point. By confessing to something minor or even trivial, these preachers don’t confirm that they too are sinners just like everyone else, but rather they set themselves apart as sinners unlike everyone else — as people with extravagantly minor, eminently forgivable, flaws. Admitting to such things doesn’t jeopardize the affection and admiration they expect/desire from others. It seems, rather, to be an attempt to enhance them.

The best thing I’ve heard a preacher say on this “we’re all sinners, even me” subject was from Tony Campolo. “If you knew all the sin in my life,” he told one congregation, “you would never have invited such a horrible person to come and speak in your church.”

And then, “But don’t get cocky, people. If I knew all the sin in your lives, I would never have agreed to come and speak to people like you.”

[Insert long discussion here about how the pretense of righteousness prevents honest confession, about how fear of rejection prevents us from being fully known and thus from being/feeling fully loved and from fully loving others, and about how church should be more like AA.]

Jerry Jenkins invites us here to laugh along with Ken Ritz at the kooky foibles of his human-just-like-us hero, Buck Williams, and at the charmingly silly mistake that Buck has just made. How very humble he is to good-naturedly accept that the joke’s on him! What a great guy.

And I recognize that maneuver as the same one I’ve heard from dozens of pulpits. It didn’t work then, and it doesn’t work here.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* Don’t be. Don’t hestitate, don’t over-analyze, and don’t do your managers’ job for them. Give yourself all 5s. Or if it’s a scale from 1 to 10, give yourself all 10s.

Won’t that make you look like an arrogant egomaniac? No. This is a quantitative score and there is no place on the spreadsheet to enter a quantity reflecting your alleged humility or lack thereof. That which is not scored does not exist.

Self-evaluations are a game and the game is already rigged against you. Play the game, but don’t agree to the rigging of it. Give yourself all 5s.

Evaluations are conducted in order to establish a paper trail that can later be cited should they need to prevent you from suing after being fired. They also provide numbers and “scores” that supply the misplaced concreteness used to pretend the denial of annual raises and/or future layoffs were objective, necessary decisions. You don’t want to facilitate that or cooperate with that. Give yourself all 5s.

If you feel squeamish about that, or if your manager actually asks you about it, tell them it’s the most rational response according to “game theory.” I think that’s actually true. I’m not entirely sure, though, because I don’t fully understand game theory. Most people don’t, including your manager who, being a manager, won’t want to admit that, and so they’ll probably just nod knowingly. (If they press you on this, say you ran a scenario based on the Swedish variation of the classic prisoner’s dilemma. I’m fairly sure there is no such thing, but again I’m also fairly sure your manager won’t know that.)

** General rule of thumb: If you’re attempting to tell an epic story unfolding on a global scale and you find yourself having to introduce multiple characters who are pilots, then you should probably rework the point-of-view structure of your story.

Stories about pilots are fine — like Top Gun or Always (featuring Brad “Rayford” Johnson as The Guy Who’s Not Dead Richard Dreyfuss). But if your story is about something other than pilots and you find you’re having to bring in a bunch of pilot-characters just to fly your POV narrator all over the place then you’ve got a POV problem. And all these pilots don’t actually solve that problem, they just underline it. (See also: Gwaihir.)


"Indeed. Most can work equally well as older teens or younger adults."

Sunday favorites
"I'm sure I remember a quote from one of the lead writers of MLP:FiM saying ..."

Sunday favorites
"(psst: you forgot the blasphemy!)Seriously, though, thank you. I was going to share it when ..."

Sunday favorites
"IIRC, European falconers traditionally treat all their birds as female."

Queen bees and the Bible

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • SkyknightXi

    First of all, do we have room for another loon here? Details here:

    Meanwhile…I can understand the bit about road rage if the preacher is actively worrying that it hints at something even MORE baleful that he needs to interdict. But other than that…

    Never mind that this is oddly reminiscent of one Isabella Swan whose claimed “flaw” is poor proprioception. How Meyer thought this classified as a mental flaw is anyone’s guess.

  • Daniel

    As suggested a LB Ghost story. I stole from the best as per Fred’s suggestion.

    The Craven

    Once upon a midnight gran’ly* Rayford pondered strong and manly
    Upon a 5 000 page volume of quaint and curious lore,
    With at his side a Scofield bible (To keep his study nice and tribal-
    and beat off any and all rivals who claimed the key to heaven’s door)
    “’tis some heresy” he muttered “to claim that works open heaven’s door-
    Only this, and nothing more.”

    But then he heard a gentle kenning, as of one slyly condemning
    or a green-inked letter penning, with weasel words of Levitic law,
    From behind the door grumbled frustration, a diatribe on the “Godless Nation”,
    And many muttered ruminations on how he was “NOT A BORE!”
    And how “They have changed our language today! The new meaning of the word “gay” makes it a word that we can say…”
    Quoth our Rayford “Nevermore.”

    Then into the room came spilling the ghost of Raptured Vernon Billings,
    Putting paid to Rayford’s chillin’ (a phrase he’d heard from kids before)
    And he stood there quietly venting, the whole modern world resenting,
    Physical laws circumventing- as Jesus himself had once before-
    Then eased himself, all weak and weary, before the fire like Bridget Cleary.
    Pastor Billings spread himself uncheery, preparing another ranting refrain,
    Quoth the Rev’rend “Furthermore…”

    Ray looked to where the bust of Alice (his beautiful wife, bejewelled in Paris)
    Gazed down with a haughty malice from atop Ray’s chamber door
    While Pastor Billings sat there prating that the whole world was worth hating,
    All the while his long chains grating, grating on Ray’s chamber floor.
    “Pastor” he asked “why are you in chains: you did not die-
    But were Raptured up on high?”
    Quoth the Rev’rend “Don’t be so sure.”

    And there upon he told a story, horrifying though not gory
    or just enough to spread God’s glory and he was careful that he never swore,
    Of how it was there was no Rapture, the souls his duty had been to capture
    To boost his own celestial stature (and seize from the Devil’s ghastly claw)
    Were still in their bodies earthly dwelling. The Pastor cried with the telling,
    His voice had dropped from angry yelling
    To somewhere, somewhere near the floor.

    Rayford knew he’d still be saved- there was more of gravy than of grave
    To the apparition standing all a-quave, a-qivering on the chamber floor.
    His gorge rose within his breast, he would not sit to be oppressed,
    And rightly, as it seemed, his guest was silenced by Ray’s lantern jaw.
    “Listen now, that can’t be right! I’m fully geared up for the fight,
    I’ll take on all the Devil’s might” with certain whispered caveats
    Quoth the Rev’rand “But what for?”

    Rayford noted “Vernon’s” dispirited look, did his duty and cocked a snook,
    He markèd the page in his book and spoke to him once more:
    “And tell me now would you be willing, oh cursèd spirit of the late Billings
    To take me to the world where milling about are all who’ve gone before?”
    Quoth the Rev’rend “Get the door.”

    So saying then he took the pilot’s hand- though not gayly, understand,
    But more as one who bore the brand of a fighter in God’s Holy War,
    And thereupon with chain links rising, so lightly as to be surprising
    [that line’s shitness needs disguising] they flew up from the tear stained floor.

    Out beyond the bust of Alice (whose own bust made others jealous
    “Quite often their husbands tell us”- so quothed the Steeles evermore)
    Quoth our Rayford “I’ll close the door”.

    And sadly I must the rhythm hinder, and on technical details briefly linger,
    While semi-rhymes pour from my finger*, as has happened once before.
    You see there will soon be a deflection- the poem will take another direction,
    and steal again from another’s perfection- originality is quite a chore.
    “I am taking you out to show you your life, free from the glory of heaven-sent strife

    Away from your house, and your smokin’ hot wife.”
    Quoth our Rayford “OK, sure.”

    Still later on on that midnight dreary, as Rayford flew on he saw quite clearly,
    A town down below with people quite leery, and drunker than he’d seen before.
    And down on the green a light could be seen
    A sign with the name of the place
    He found it obscene that the town should be keen
    To try to bring him to disgrace
    “It used to be Whoville.” the pastor announced,
    and it was all Ray could do to supress a flounce,
    For the sign didn’t say Whoville any more at all,
    Instead what it said made Rayford appalled:
    The town full of sin, of drinking, and skin
    Exposed was called Rayford Falls.
    The splendour falls on Rayford Falls,
    And shiny streets new in story,
    Electric light shake across the flakes,
    (they are sins in this allegory)
    Blow, trumpet, blow, steal the wild children crying,
    Blow trumpet, answer, continuing this would be trying.

    Now every Who in Whoville loved Christmas Day,
    But every Who in Whoville was black, or foreign, or Gay
    Some had been Jewish, and others read books,
    some boys aped some girls’ looks,
    There were those who had some gods and those who had none,
    There were others who watched foreign movies for fun,
    There was music and art and theatre and drink
    There were women that worked, and places to think.
    And some people rode bikes, and others walked,
    and men often listened when women talked,
    And one day, it seemed, Rayford Steele had a plan:
    He’d buy up Whoville (he was a very rich man)
    And he’d let them continue in their dissolute ways,
    The women, the Commies, the Jews and the Gays,
    And he’d let them continue if they paid him rent-
    All the money he’d make could never be spent-
    And he’d cut corners, ensuring the worst,
    And when it happened he’d rent them a hearse.
    Now naturally all of this sounded fine-
    Unfettered business and “What’s mine is mine”,
    But the problem you see was hidden away,
    If he turned a blind eye to the gays,
    and the women that work,
    and the men who drink,
    Then what on earth would the Good Lord think?
    When the Whos young and old sat down to their feast,
    And everyone treated as foremost the least,
    And no one looked down their nose at each other
    But insisted on calling their neighbour their brother,
    And no one would tell them what they should do
    To get into heaven- HE HATED THE WHOS!

    “Show me oh spirit,” Rayford then pleaded
    “Show me their Pastor- there’s one sorely needed!”
    “I’m afraid they have none.” the ghost sombrely sighed
    And Rayford felt worried, eaten up inside
    “But no one’s telling them they’re wrong!
    They’re just left alone to sing sinful songs
    And eat sinful food, and be sinfully…happy
    I needn’t tell you I find that quite…”
    “Is there nothing I can do to avoid all this joy?”
    He nearly threw up on two kissing boys
    “Of course there is…” said the ghost to his delight
    “You can wake up…”
    “Oh that ending’s shite.”
    “Is that swearing? Or a “colourful assertion”-
    We’re both hoping for a movie version
    And swearing’s right out in Christ-flicks you’ll find…”
    “But not for real films…”
    “This is Left Behind.”
    And it is at this point, as at ex-Whoville they stare,
    That Rayford wakes groggily alone in his chair.
    And his looking on evil proved he is not craven
    He once more resumes copying The Raven:

    As deeply Ray pondered in his mansion, his lyrical crimes for the sake of scansion,
    looking on his mind’s expansion, weeping quite unlike before
    The worry was now he’d been thinking, he felt his defiant standards sinking,
    As ideas started linking, linking now for evermore.
    What if all had been a lie? If instead of Rapture he’d just die?
    If there was no judge sat in the sky and proudly keeping score?

    What would happen next?
    Well in Chicago they say
    Rayford’s pure heart shrank
    Three sizes that day.
    It shut out the poor, it shut out the needy,
    It only had room for the rich and the greedy.
    And after he’d shut out all but his own,
    Rayford Steele could relax,
    in his home.

    *Real men don’t have the time
    For letters that mess up a rhyme-
    The manliest word of all is “Grrrr!”
    And vowels are just for wussy gir’.

  • Tehanu

    Well, this is just beyond brilliant. I’m stunned, thrilled, gobsmacked! Thanks for some of the best laughs I’ve had in ages!

  • Daniel

    Thank you kindly, and you’re more than welcome.

  • flat

    genius Daniel this utter genius in its brilliancy.

  • Daniel

    Oh you!

  • Raksha38

    Seriously, are you a professional writer IRL? If you aren’t, you should consider it.

  • Daniel

    Oh I’ve considered it since I was eight years old, but I’m a lazy man Raksha38, a lazy lazy man. And haunted always by a chronic and powerful lack of self-belief- I’m very English that way.
    And thank you for the compliment.

  • Timothy (TRiG)

    That was quite astonishing.

  • Rachel McG


  • Mr. Heartland

    ‘Tsion Ben-Judah’s Hebrew-speaking guards”

    Well, yes. And once again, if these guards were protecting a Buddhist monk in Santiago, then the fact they speak Hebrew would be worth mentioning.

  • Yawny

    Usually this involves Buck falling down.

    So Buck is Bella Swan…except without the self confidence issues. Got it.

  • quietglow

    And you the reader are not supposed to be able to put yourself into Buck’s place, because sometimes he’s all awkward and uncomfortable in his body, JUST LIKE YOU!

    That place is reserved.

  • Mordicai

    Yeah, I got here & ctrl-F’d ’cause I was pretty sure somebody had to had said this before me.

  • Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    OMG me too! /high-five

  • Ben English

    To be fair to Bella, she seemed to get the hang of international travel a lot quicker than Buck.

  • flat

    well it is an observation I made earlier.

  • aunursa

    General rule of thumb: If you’re attempting to tell an epic story unfolding on a global scale and you find yourself having to introduce multiple characters who are pilots, then you should probably rework the point-of-view structure of your story.

    Not to mention Cleburn “Mac” McCollum and Abdullah “Smitty” Smith, Tribble spies who fly for Nicky after Ken’s demise in Book #5 and Rayford leaves the Antichrist’s employment.

    Several of the roles have multiple characters who were added to the story so that Jerry can kill off a particular character at random. For example…

    Bruce Barnes (killed in Book #2) — replaced by Tsion Ben-Judah
    Donny Moore (killed in Book #3) — replaced by David Hayseed
    Dr Floyd Charles (killed in Book #6) — replaced by Leah Rose
    David Hayseed (killed in Book #9) — replaced by Chang Wong
    Tsion Ben-Judah (killed in Book #11) — replaced by Chaim Rosenzweig

  • Ben English

    Not to mention Irene Steel, Raptured in book one and replaced by Amanda one novel later.

  • Persia

    Wait, was his name really Hayseed?

  • Invisible Neutrino

    No, it’s Hassid, but Guy Blod calls him Hayseed, and to be honest, David Hassid is such a total dbag anything to mock him with is good.

  • Persia

    Hassid is almost worse.

  • Jim Roberts

    D. . . David Hayseed? Really?

  • Invisible Neutrino

    It’s Hassid, which in the book he insists is “Hah-SEED”, but Guy Blod, Fruity McFruitypants Artsy-Fartsy dude, is above such things and keeps calling him “Hayseed”.

    (Then again, this is just another way for L&J to take a sideswipe at those funny queers, because Blod is such a walking stereotype it’s unbelievable. On top of that, Hayseed totally pinkie promises to “bring Guy Blod to God”, and then does…. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do so. Even Hattie Durham was eventually “brought to God”, so for Blod to not even get that much of a lift from L&J shows just how prejudiced they actually are.)

  • Ruby_Tea

    This list is interesting, because in most instances, the dead person is replaced by someone older and/or more educated/qualified, with two exceptions.

    Bruce, a suburban visitation pastor, is replaced by Tsion, a multi-lingual, multi-PhD-ed rabbi.

    Donny Moore, who sells computers out of his car, is replaced by David Hayseed, who is educated and qualified enough to be a departmental head under the leader of the entire world.

    When David dies, he is replaced by Chang, who is all that and a teen genius, too.


    Dr. Charles is replaced by Leah, a nurse. Two things strike me about this–one is that after Hattie’s miscarriage and Chloe’s labor and delivery, there are basically no more medical problems of any significance amongst the Tribbers, and certainly not ones handled by Leah. Leah primary purpose in life is as the person Rayford is allowed to lash out at whenever he’s feeling down, what with her being a woman and all.

    Two is that Dr. Charles is one of the very, very few black characters in the book. And is replaced by a white woman.

    And yeah, Chaim kinda replaces Tsion, but for about 45 seconds until Jesus gets there. ;)

  • aunursa

    For Book #12 Chaim transforms into a Bible expert. Bear in mind that Rayford has been an RTC for twice as long as Chaim, and has been studying the Bible for twice as long. Yet Chaim is the one to stand in for Tim LaHaye Tsion and explain to the readers Rayford what is about to happen.

  • aunursa

    What’s interesting is that in the movies, Vernon Billings and Bruce Barnes were both portrayed by black actors. And in the reboot Barnes will again by played by a black man. It’ll be interesting to see if they do the same again for the senior pastor.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Oh, and! There is the matter of Ken Ritz dying and Mac McCullum emerging as the main co-pilot of the Tribbers.

    Now, Ken and Mac are essentially the same person, but there is also the matter of Mac being Rayford’s friend, and Ken being Buck’s friend. So the secondary hero’s buddy was killed off in order to make the primary hero’s buddy more important.

  • aunursa

    The sidekick of Jerry’s surrogate dies to give the sidekick of Tim’s surrogate a greater role. What does that say about their relationship?

  • Ruby_Tea

    That Jerry knows which side his bread is buttered on?

  • Invisible Neutrino

    And then he sails right into the weird-kind-of-asshat pile with his bromance with Abdullah Smith (I have to admit that whole “you are pout!” “Am not pout!” “Are too!” scene was legit funny), then giving him the callsign “Pnzry Wbpxrl” (ROT13 because it’s a pretty rude slur).

  • Ross Thompson

    Um, wow.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Yeah. L&J are so tone-deaf to the way they so casually put on display their white-straight-male ideas and experiences.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    Several of the roles have multiple characters who were added to the story so that Jerry can kill off a particular character at random.

    Red Shirts. To show how deadly the situation is without actually inconveniencing (much less endangering) the Author Self-Inserts.

    And the immediate replacements? Just a continuing parade of Red Shirts.

  • Cuniraya, Antichrist

    I can’t help but feel Buck’s poor knowledge of geography of the Holy Land is a metaphor for the past 20ish pages of this book.

  • SirThinkALot

    Buck’s lack of familiarity with the Exodus story is obviously because its not found in Daniel or Revelation and has nothing to do with the ‘end times’

  • Amtep

    Yeah… what could a demonstration of the wrath of God followed by freedom from slavery possibly have to do with the Apocalypse? Buck is right to ignore all those optional parts of the Bible.

  • aunursa

    Only 45 more pages until the scene that Jerry Jenkins considers his favorite in the entire series.

  • Cuniraya, Antichrist

    Should we be excited or scared?

  • aunursa

    You should expect to be disappointed and underwhelmed.

    As is Jerry’s fashion, you don’t get to see it happen. Rather, one character relates what just happened to him while the readers were with a different character.

  • Andrew Johnston

    So Jenkins’s favorite scene involves a character telling, rather than showing?

    And people pay him how much to learn how to write?

  • reynard61

    Their everliving *Souls!!!* The money is just icing on the cake lie that they’ve actually learned how to write.

  • OriginalExtraCrispy

    Oh, so business as usual then.

  • Jamoche

    “I tripped over my cape and fell smack down on my face. ”

    Tsk, tsk. Listen to Edna, she knows best. No capes!

    Oh, and the reason the Incredibles were on my mind: in the original draft, Helen doesn’t just borrow the plane from her pilot friend – he’s the one flying, and he doesn’t get out. They rendered some of those scenes before deciding that the story didn’t need to introduce a character just to have him die (effectively fridging the poor guy) – that’s why Helen is looking up pensively at the plane as she sinks, it’s left over from the original version.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I wonder if they’d also realized that they’d gone to great lengths to make Helen the second-coolest person in their ‘verse (behind Edna, of course) so making her a pilot too wasn’t really that much of a stretch (heh).

  • Jamoche

    I think they did :) This was a lunch session by Pixar at WWDC, where they talked about storytelling, character creation, and of course animation and the computers behind it.

    They wanted the character partly to expand Helen’s backstory (can’t let the audience forget she was Elastigirl!), but adding him with enough extra scenes to establish that broke up the action too much (tying back in to Fred’s discussion of one-shot pilots popping up everywhere – that’s exactly what they *didn’t* want him to be). But then they decided giving her fighter pilot skills also hinted at an interesting backstory.

  • Daniel

    “We’ll leave here tonight, as soon as the sky is black,” Buck said. “After the great orange bagel goes behind the hills, and the tiny stars-of-David fill the sky.”
    “You’re talking a bit weird, Buck.” said Ken
    “No longer Buck am I. Now “Dances with Jews” I am called.”
    “About 8 o’clock then?”

  • ReverendRef

    Buck has been studying his Scofield Reference Bible for 18 months by now — didn’t he ever look at the maps in the back?

    Maps are not the actual inerrant Word of God. If you have to consult a man-made map to explain God’s Word, you’re doing it wrong. :/

  • Launcifer

    Depends on the map really. If it’s only got the Midwest filled in, with everything else on the planet replaced by the phrase “Here be Daemons”, then you might be okay ;).

  • chgo_liz

    His grasp of the Midwest ain’t great, either. It all be daemons.

  • Andrew Johnston

    Usually this involves Buck falling down.

    Clumsiness is a perennial favorite non-flaw among hack writers, for a few reasons:

    1.) It’s not a character flaw, so it doesn’t need to be accounted for in dialogue;

    2.) It can be used for cheap action beats, meet-cutes, and other utilitarian reasons;

    3.) It’s one of the few flaws that’s considered endearing. Mostly this is for female characters (for whom klutziness is often viewed as cute), but I’ve seen it used to suggest boyish enthusiasm in male characters as well.

    I was on a writer’s forum recently where people were discussing the character flaws among the leads in their most recent projects. One of them dropped a long list of flaws, all of which were things like “clumsy” and “overeager.” Eventually, several people stepped in and said “None of those things are flaws.” I bring this up because it’s yet more proof in my argument that Jerry Jenkins is the most successful amateur hack writer ever. If he hasn’t gotten past this by now (and from what I’ve seen, he hasn’t), he never will.

  • $7768756

    Not to mention it misses the point which is that you’re trying to create a PERSON who has strengths and weaknesses that are often related to each other.

    Extremely talented people don’t have the flaw of being too humble- because that isn’t a freaking flaw- they may underestimate themselves, flowing from a deepseated sense of insecurity. Or they may be proud and overbearing. Or they may tend to denigrate other’s skills out of insecurity. You can’t just throw a list of adjectives in a bucket and call it a character. People, are, for the most part, fairly cohesive.

  • Isabel C.

    I agree in principle, but as someone who’s hung around geek circles for a while, and who recruited freshman geeks back in college, overeager certainly *can* be a flaw. ;) What’s cute in puppies gets old real fast in adult human beings.

  • Rowen

    I feel like there’s better terms then “overeager” for that. Impatient, for one.

  • Isabel C.

    Depending on who it was and how mean we were being, it typically varied between “hyper”, “desperate,” “does not respect boundaries, and “get off my damn leg.”

  • Rowen

    now, THESE sound like character flaws.

  • Jared James

    What’s a little dry-humping between friends? and/or colleagues who barely know one another?

  • Rowen

    I was having a conversation with a friend about our past DnD campaigns, and this reminds me of people who would try to justify their dump stats. “He’s got a charisma of 8, but he’s really good looking. It’s just that he’s stand-offish and gruff, and that puts people off.”

  • Marsyas

    My flaws include caring too much, loving too deeply, and having strengths that are too strong.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    You must do really really well in job interviews too! (That’s a flaw, right?)

  • Daniel

    OT but glad to see you’re back- I was wondering where you’ve been of late!

  • esmerelda_ogg

    Thanks, Daniel – actually, (warning, downer ahead) I’ve been arranging for and recovering from my mother’s funeral :(

    Could have been much worse – she was 90 years old, nearly 91, and was able to stay in her own home (where she desperately wanted to be) until the last four days of her life. So it was kind of a “least bad” ending.

  • Daniel

    I’m sorry to hear that. “Rich full life…” doesn’t make it any easier to lose someone that close. My thoughts are with you.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    Thank you, Daniel – I appreciate that very much.

  • Jamoche

    You must do really really well in job interviews too! (That’s a flaw, right?)

    It can be. We finally got rid of a coworker who I can most charitably describe as “put all his skill points in bluff”. He sounded great in the interview, but was all talk, no action.

  • Daniel

    I could say the same thing, but unfortunately another of my flaws is my terrible modesty.

  • alfgifu

    I don’t know about everyone else here, but I do indeed find your modesty terrible to behold.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    I bring this up because it’s yet more proof in my argument that Jerry Jenkins is the most successful amateur hack writer ever. If he hasn’t gotten past this by now (and from what I’ve seen, he hasn’t), he never will.

    Why should he get past it? He’s already the Big Name CELEBRITY Author of the RTC set, Greatest Christian Author of All Time (GCAAT) with an unbroken string of Christianese best-sellers and movie deals.

  • Dogfacedboy

    He had cooked breakfast and now appeared to roast Tsion’s socks and underwear over the small fire.

    No dessert for me, thanks! I’m already full.

  • quietglow

    It doesn’t say whether he bathed and washed his clothes upstream or downstream of his group, so maybe the dude’s getting ready to “accidentally” drop them.

    “Oh, man! I dropped them! Why didn’t I think of hanging them by the fire instead of sitting here with your heavy, wet clothes on a little stick?”

  • Daniel

    “Oh, man! I dropped them! Why didn’t I think of hanging them by the fire instead of sitting here with your heavy, wet clothes on a little stick?”
    “man” is the operative word. Women know about cleaning and drying clothes. Men know about fires. But neither knows both. Just as you don’t wear pants on your feet or socks over your genitals yet both perform their necessary functions in their right place so men and women are separate but equal, and men tend fires while women dry things.

    Here endeth the lesson.

  • Redcrow

    >>>Just as you don’t wear … socks over your genitals

    How can you be sure nobody from Red Hot Chili Peppers is reading this right now?

  • Aeryl

    Thanks for bringing that 90s masturbation fodder back.

    I’ll be in my bunk

  • Melissia

    “Just as you don’t wear […] your feet or socks over your genitals”

    The internet says otherwise?

  • Daniel

    An RTC knows there are specific places for particular items of clothing. RTCs also never use socks as gloves, nor do they ever try pants on as a hat. It is the devil’s influence that drives people to do these things. RTCs also never, ever put their coats on only by the hood and run around pretending they’re Batman. It is a sacrifice that pales into insignificance next to the sacrifice God made to apologise to himself through Jesus.

  • spinetingler

    The Red Hot Chilli Peppers say otherwise.

    My eyeballs are still seared from circa 1986.

  • Daniel

    I suppose you think they’re pretty “cool”? “Really groovy”? Fine*. That’s fine.
    You know what else is “Red Hot”?

    The unquenchable flames of Hell’s fiery pit! That’s what! So hot it’ll boil the inside of your skin till it boils the outside of your skin and then roasts all the non skin bits inside the outside and inside of your skin! AND YOUR EYES! Not so hot now are you, with your “rock and roll” and all that other devil music! Let me share a valuable lesson with you that hopefully will change your listening habits to something more wholesome and bland. There’s no need to thank me when your soul sighs in relief.

    *(Tipper Gore was a friend of mine…)

  • quietglow

    If only you’d ministered to me before! My hairdryer broke so I tried to dry my hair with candles, but I forgot I can’t light candles. Now half the house is burned down and what’s left of my hair smells dreadful.

  • Persia


  • Rakka

    See, that’s what happens when you leave your undies behind after a LARP. No mercy to the abandoned socks!

  • Ruby_Tea

    Apparently Jenkins enjoyed the Seinfeld episode where the men took to heating up their pants in the oven before wearing them.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    “We’ll leave here tonight, as soon as the sky is black,” Buck said.
    “Then, however long it takes a 40-foot wood boat with two outboard
    motors and six adult men aboard to get to Alexandria –”

    Ritz was laughing. “This is my first time over here, as I think I
    told you,” he said, “but one thing I’m pretty sure about: if you think
    you’re coming from where you are to Alexandria without carrying that
    boat across dry land to the sea, you’re kidding yourself.”

    You know, L&J could’ve saved so much trouble if they’d had Nicolae be all a-twitter about redeveloping the Holy Land just so, and embarking on some sort of megaproject to extend the Jordan River all the way to the Suez Canal.

    And why not? Other improbable things have happened! Miracles are being performed again! A shitton of nukes all failed to go off over Israel, two men are at the Western Wall and clearly exhibiting powers not established to have any obvious material origin, et cetera and so on.

    Who would think twice about Nicolae flicking his finger and extending the Jordan, and in doing so, give Bucky his chance to give those outboard motors a real manly workout?

    EDIT: And don’t forget RTCs say God will end up doing his own form of world redevelopment when TurboJesus comes back, so whatever Nicolae does is totally reversible.

  • ReverendRef

    L&J could’ve saved so much trouble if they’d had Nicolae be all a-twitter

    L&J wouldn’t know a twitter feed from a hummingbird feeder if you slapped them over the head with it.

    Ba-da-dum . . .

    Sorry, it’s late. I’ll go to bed now.

  • Melissia

    Remember, RTCs do not believe that their god is all-powerful.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    But….. TurboJesus. (;_;)

  • Melissia

    TurboJesus sounds like a Shadowrun character.

    I think I’m going to go open up my rulebook and see if I can muddle through chargen to make him actually. Probably an Adept or a very, VERY heavily juiced up cyborg Street Samurai, hrm.

  • Muriel Volestrangler

    There’s a real project to connect the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba to fill it up again – Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Territories have just signed the agreement in principle (there are environmental worries). I suspect it’s as a pipeline rather than above ground, though (there’s desalination and hydro-power involved too).

    But they could have just used some similar mass irrigation megaproject to do the “make the desert bloom” stuff without messing around with Chaim’s Magic Potion No. 9 and all the dubious handwaving descriptions that’s involved.

  • Eric Boersma

    Nicolae be all a-twitter

    Just extended the Jordan River all the way to the Suez Canal. Might go all the way to Cairo. #youonlyruletheworldonce #suckitmoses #nomoredrylandtowalkon

    Something like that? I think annoying hashtag usage is considered a sin to RTCs.

  • Invisible Neutrino


    That said I was using an older meaning.

  • Matthew Funke

    Actually, since Nicolae seems to have figured out the secret of making nuclear weapons non-radioactive (“It’s this switch over here! Who knew?”), maybe things like Operation Plowshare became a reality and the megaproject you describe could be dug with relatively little time and effort.
    Lesson being, I guess, that nukes can be used in Israel, but only for civil engineering projects.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Indeed. Say Nicolae proclaims he can damp radioactivity, and then carefully sets off one of the hitherto-unexploded Russian nukes to prove it (say, underground in Nevada or suchlike). He then initiates grand river diversion projects in the Middle East, which gives Buck his trip down the Jordan to Alexandria later. :P

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Hey, does anyone know where JessicaR is? I’ve tried searching for her posts and it looks like her Disqus account got eaten.

  • JessicaR

    I’m here! My disqus account did get eaten in a computer fritz out.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Okay, whew :) I managed to find the email address for that funding you were doing though. :)

  • P J Evans

    Great sympathy – I had a hard drive die, and after replacing it, then something else died. New computer….

  • Daniel Björkman

    Dear lord, yes! But I don’t think it’s isolated to Christians. It seems to be the standard behaviour in anyone who thinks they stand for something. Conservatives lecturing you on fiscal responsibility are always keen to tell you that they’ve “made mistakes” too, though not exactly what they were. Liberals lecturing you on tolerance always make sure to tell you that they are not free from racism or sexism, though they tend not to specify just what those bigoted feelings are or what sort of actual behaviour they cause. No one wants to be accused of being holier-than-thou, so the message they try to present is “I am not perfect, just a whole lot better than you are!”

    The exception, as you say, are people who believe that they used to be bad but now they’re good. Ragging on the person you used to be is awesome, because it lets you have all the moral superiority without the guilt. And it gives you an excellent false equality to hit people over the head with: “See, I’ve admitted that I used to be bad. Now you must admit that you’re bad right now.”

    Speaking as someone who is extremely well-acquainted with deep, genuine, no-holds-barred SHAME, I find that deeply inadequate. Most people are such amateurs when it comes to feeling guilty! They need a lot more practice, I say! :P

  • fraser

    What annoys me are the politicians who use it as a get-out-of-jail free card. Gingrich once brushed off a question about his adultery with “Yes, I’m a sinner. You’re one too.” and suggested that being settled, they move on.

  • Amtep

    I’m deeply puzzled about why he didn’t apply this same reasoning to Sandra Fluke.

  • P J Evans

    Because female.

  • Platonic Spheroid

    For the footnotes: In all honesty, the prisoner’s dilemma is just about how working together can net better results even for individuals than just mashing the “all against all” button, but that you’d have to be a complete dolt to expect people to behave in a way that makes sense.

    “Innocent as doves but wise as serpents,” basically.

  • Scary Loki

    This has nothing to do with the post, so a pre-emptive sorry… but I need to vent about something…

    Dear Conservative Christians,

    If you want to put a stop to prostitution, the only way to do it is JOBS THAT PAY A LIVING WAGE. The overwhelming number of prostitutes go into that line of work because of economic necessity, not because they are bad, bad, immoral people. Making prostitution illegal is not going to change that, just make prostitution less safe.

    Thank you and good night.

  • Jenny Islander

    Any job that pays crap seems to be regarded as a sign of bad morals–not on the part of the employer, but on the part of the employee. There’s an article over at NBC about possiblymaybeeventually raising the minimum wage to $10.01, which would put it at about 2/3 of what it was worth when I was a kid, adjusted for inflation. The first page of comments is mostly variations on “Poverty is punishment for bad people” with a nougaty filling of “Poverty is what you get when you’re stupid enough to work for poverty wages.”

    All because some people inside the Beltway are floating the idea that someday minimum wage may be 2/3 of the way to actually covering the basics of life, the way it used to.

  • Hagglund

    Poverty is what you get when you’re stupid enough to work for poverty wages.

    Mmmm… I love the smell of moralistic tautologies in the morning.

    In my hometown there were a three poverty-wage factories — I worked at two of them for $5 an hour — mandatory 10-hour shifts, on your feet all day, etc. It being a small, conservative town most of the employees accepted their wages as their lot. It was a deeply weird to hear my coworkers make this kind of comment about themselves. It was perfectly natural to them, for instance, for the factory owner’s son to own — I shit you not — a jewel-encrusted shotgun, because if he didn’t deserve it, god would not have blessed him with the money to buy it.

    It didn’t help that a number of pastors in town preached an anti-union message from the pulpit (un-American, godless communism, etc.)

    Anyway one of the factories got NAFTAed, another moved south of the Mason-Dixon shortly after they were cited labor and safety violations, and the one that remains still pays notoriously bad wages for doing body-breaking work in dangerous conditions. But they’re one of the few places that still don’t require a high-school diploma and they throw a pretty damn fine annual picnic, and so there’s that.

  • P J Evans

    Or they’re telling people that minimum-wage jobs are for kids and people who aren’t smart enough to ‘raise their skill level’. How people are supposed to get education and training when they’re working a minimum-wage job doesn’t actually come up. Nor does the fact that that’s what most of the available jobs are.

  • Ross Thompson

    Minimum wage jobs are for middle-class teenagers to supplement their allowance. Those poor people using them to try and raise three kids are just taking jobs away from real Americans.

  • Isabel C.

    Right. I would be fine with minimum-wage jobs being for high-school kids earning pocket money on the weekends or whatnot, *if* that was actually what was going on. But that’s not the world we live in.

  • Ross

    I still think the government should just pay everyone a living wage and we can all work for Pin Money.

  • Jenny Islander

    Imagine if the gov’t just paid every adult what is already considered non-taxable gift money: medical expenses, tuition, and the annual exclusion (currently $14,000).

    What would you do, that you can’t do now, if you knew that no matter what happened you would have all medical expenses paid, tuition if you needed more education, and $14,000 to help cover your basic living needs?

  • Isabel C.

    Oh, me too. And I believe we have enough money to do it, or easily could, but…y’know, FREDERM, SOCIALISM, ZOMG.

  • PepperjackCandy

    they’re telling people that minimum-wage jobs are for . . . . people who aren’t smart enough to ‘raise their skill level’.

    Off the top of my head, I know of five people at my store (and one other who has gone on to another better-paying-but-still-not-college-graduate-level job) who have college degrees and cannot find work in their fields. I also know another four or so who are trained in a relatively lucrative field but who were unable to find work and ended up letting their skills, or license lapse.

    In our society, we are taught that any job is better than no job. So we take any job, even if we end up seriously underemployed as a result.

    I finally convinced my mom that adults take minimum-wage jobs by simply pointing to her then-in-her-late-60s sister-in-law, who worked the counter at an Arby’s to supplement her social security.

    Edited to make it clear that I’m arguing with “them,” not you.

  • SororAyin

    “Poverty is what you get when you’re stupid enough to work for poverty wages.”
    Oh bloody hell! These are the same people who ask unemployed people, “What? Do you think you’re too good to work at McDonalds?” Such people make me sick.

  • Melissia

    When I was unemployed, I tried to take temp work at McDonald’s while waiting for a “real job”.

    They wouldnt’ take me. Said I was “overly qualified” with my college degree.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    When I was unemployed, I eventually to a job, a $10/hour, that paid me less money than my unemployment checks, which I was afraid were about to dry up, which is the only reason I took the job at all.

  • Laurent Weppe

    If they press you on this, say you ran a scenario based on the Swedish variation of the classic prisoner’s dilemma. I’m fairly sure there is no such thing, but again I’m also fairly sure your manager won’t know that

    And what if the manager read this blog?

    He’ll tell you “I see what you did there” with a wink and a knowing smile, then make a quick note in his office “Fan of Fred Clark, Very Likely to become a troublemaker

  • Daniel

    I used to know a Swedish interrogator. Trust me, there is a Swedish variant. It involves self-assembly prisons with incomprehensible instructions. In the back of a Volvo.

  • themunck

    While the car is trying to dodge moose.

  • Abel Undercity

    Mind you, moose bites can be pretty nasty…

  • Daniel

    Oh no- have I opened a can of worms? Are you about to start with a load of Danish jokes about Swedes?
    “Have you ever noticed the way Danish guys design furniture? We’re like “Yeah, that’s a cool chair, it looks a bit like an egg” and Swedish guys designing furniture are all like [nerd voice] “yeah insert rod a into slot b and tighten with the 3 3/4 inch pigeon spanner…” Yeah. Swedes are so nerdy. And have you ever noticed the way Swedish welfare programmes are nowhere near as cool as Danish welfare programmes…and the Swedish cross is so fat and yellow? What’s up with that?”
    Sorry. This is just how I imagine 1980’s Danish stand-up comedy. It probably wasn’t anything like that.

  • themunck

    How dare you. We were perfectly willing to make stupid jokes about Norwegians as well.

  • Daniel

    Their flag’s like Iceland’s- but the other way round! What’s going on there? And not independent until 1905? Come on Norway!

    I admit I have no idea how inter-Scandinavian humour works, nor what your stereotypes of each other are. I shan’t organize a stand-up tour there any time soon.
    *edit- do you take the piss out of the Faeroe Islanders too? All those puffins… and jumpers…*

  • themunck

    Honestly, the only joke I’ve heard involving the Faeroe islands is from a varity show in 1998. Other than that, we tend to forget them. But if you’re really interesting in nordic stereotypes, Here’s a webcomic exploring them.
    Edit: The art improves a bit over time. The jokes improve a lot, imo.

  • Daniel
    I’ve been meaning to ask, actually… as we’re in recession (still) any chance we can get some (or all) of the Danegeld back?

  • themunck

    Depends. Can we get a fleet to replace the one Admiral Nelson stole from us?

  • Daniel

    Yeah, sure. Let’s do it in order that they happened- so we get the money now and in roughly 1000 years we’ll give you some wooden ships. I probably sound like a right Cnut right now.
    (sorry, that joke has been bottled up for ages. It’s truly awful but really really hard to resist.)

  • themunck

    Hmm…new plan. We give you some money and we get to replace Elizabeth with Margret as Queen of England? (To be fair, you guys still got 3 more kingdoms to play with. You can spare one).

  • Daniel

    If you’re willing to take Charles & Philip too it’s a deal. And rest assured- no questions will be asked about what you do with them. I hear Copenhagen has a very deep harbour though… I imagine it gets quite slippery when it rains… be a shame if anyone fell in… anyone wearing a full admiral’s uniform would probably get dragged right to the bottom?*
    Oh, and there’s only two kingdoms. Wales is a principality and Northern Ireland is a… borderline theocracy?

    *I want to make it clear for GCHQ I am in no way advocating the drowning of our unelected heads of state’s family in the harbour of Copenhagen. This is more a thought experiment, akin to Schrodinger’s cat… which also gives me an idea…

  • Daniel

    And thanks to those comics I’m getting ever more sure that I need to go to Denmark.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    That comic is fantastic :D I was just about falling out of my chair laughing at some points. X-D

  • SororAyin

    There’s one thing I know. Don’t mention Finnish black metal in the presence of a Norwegian black metal fan. And vice versa.

  • VMink

    I prefer Vegan black metal, myself…..

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Here’s some inter-Scandinavian humor: Scandinavia and the World. (Also includes Scandinavian stereotypes of just about every other country on Earth.)

  • themunck

    Beat ya to it ;)

  • SororAyin

    If your manager reads this blog, he/she is probably rather fond of troublemakers.

  • Abel Undercity

    Any discussion of flaws in protagonists makes me think of The Unincorporated Man by Dani and Eytan Kollin. The main character is basically a Randian superman from our time, awakened from suspended animation in the future. The authors apparently have an investment in making the hero as perfect as possible (IMO, he’s a dick, but anyway). It gets to the point where, when he starts showing some actual personality (he gets temperamental, with a tendency to butt heads with the villains), they have these flaws surgically removed.

    That’s when I put the book down.

  • SororAyin

    The main character is basically a Randian superman from our timehe’s a dick, but anyway
    Those are redundant statements, aren’t they?

  • Abel Undercity

    That’s how we roll in the Department of Redundancy Department. ;-)

  • Daniel

    Ritz was laughing. “This is my first time over here, as I think I told
    you,” he said, “but one thing I’m pretty sure about: if you think you’re
    coming from where you are to Alexandria without carrying that boat
    across dry land to the sea, you’re kidding yourself.”
    Ordinarily Buck didn’t like being laughed at, but this time it was fine. Ken Ritz had got it right- there was no way to paddle a boat into Egypt from Israel along the Jordan, and if there had been Moses would definitely have mentioned it in those books he wrote. Buck had character flaws, just like you, and he was good humoured enough to laugh when they were pointed out. But often the “flaws” people laughed at were ambiguous, and therefore not funny. In this case he was objectively in error. The traits that other people (sensibly shod people) had described as flaws were not so clear cut- they described Buck’s certainty as “stubbornness”, his righteousness as “pompousness”, his clear vision and insight as “arrogance” and his fortitude as “cowardice”. These “flaws”- ambiguous assessments of abstract ideas- were not, in Buck’s opinion, grounds for comedy. People were wrong in their judgements of him, where he was right. No humour can arise from a discrepancy between what a person thinks of themselves and what every one else thinks of them. What really arises from this is persecution.
    “Yeah Ken, my face is certainly red now!”
    “You know, Buck, before now I was always a little unsure about you. I used to think you were too good, you know? You’re always right about everything, and your stories are amazingly well written. You ask all the questions anyone could ever need answering, and you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty- I mean, you’re currently in the middle of the desert with no power outlets: that takes some courage. But now I, and by extension the readers, can really relate to you. You’ve made a mistake about geography, and most readers of this book will be so incurious about the world they won’t know you’re wrong unless another character, me, tells them you are. If anything your idea about rowing the boat to Egypt shows you’re too ambitious, too pragmatic. In your mind the world should work a certain way, and I have to say if it did things would be a lot better. It’s just a shame nature won’t listen, Buck, really it is. So you see, you’re actually just like the readers, salt of the earth, and my feelings toward you have warmed.”
    “That’s very nice of you to say Ken.”
    “Yeah, you see, there’s another flaw they can all relate to- you’re too generous. You want to be careful of your good nature, Buck, too many people will try to take advantage of it.”
    “Do you think?”
    “Yeah. But I’m glad you called me. I mean, it’s always great to talk to someone as wise as you- particularly given that you’re still so young it never ceases to amaze me just how wise you are. But this conversation has really fleshed you out, really allowed me to see you in three dimensions, as a real person who sometimes misreads maps.”
    “I think you’re pretty three dimensional too.”
    “That’s kind of you to say Buck- you really are too generous with praise. I know I’m only one dimensional. You see I realised when I took this job on I’d mostly just be used to paper over plot holes and expound to the readers just how awesome the main characters are. It’s not like I lost a family or anything- or at least not in any real sense, not so anyone would care- I’m mostly just here as support, to try and disguise the points where the very limiting single-character point of view narrative derails.”
    “Is that really how you see yourself?”
    “Oh of course- don’t feel bad (I’ve always said you’re too sympathetic and compassionate). Some other authors would have packed this narrative technique in long ago, or at the very least just switched to a previously unknown character in a seemingly unrelated situation just to jog the story on and give themselves and their readers a break…”
    “But then what would they have done?”
    “Well in the hands of more skillfull writers what started off seeming irrelevant could eventually be revealed to be crucial to the main body of the story. It’s surprisingly common in fiction, as you’d know if you weren’t so amazingly focused on your work and read a few books every once in a while. But anyway, I’m basically just here to cover up those bits where the narrative technique employed in this book becomes restrictive and loses its way. So in short, yeah, I’ll see you in Alex for an ice cold Carlsberg.”
    “Film reference. Honestly Buck, you need to learn to relax and unwind sometimes. Watch a few films. Stop being so hard working and diligent for once! Those are real character flaws!”
    “And I guess it takes a really brave writer to include so many in a character based on himself?”
    “You bet it does! Only the bravest, most honest writer would make a character that shares his profession this flawed- a lot of people would assume the character was a stand in for the author, so it takes a lot of guts (nearly as many as you have) to be able to write a character who is so flawed. Whoever wrote this is not afraid of staring truth in the face however uncomfortable and revealing it may be. I’d think about enrolling on one of his courses, if only I could find the time between cameos in this text and not existing at all. It’d be worth the money- whatever he charged!”
    “And whatever his flaws!”
    “Hahahahahahaha! That’s so funny Buck! You’re too funny- I’d work on that.”

  • Jamoche

    I know I’m only one dimensional. You see I realised when I took this job on I’d mostly just be used to paper over plot holes and expound to the readers just how awesome the main characters are.

    Since Ken sounds like he knows he’s living in a Thursday Next bookverse:

    He felt kind of sorry for Buck – always on demand, never getting any downtime from the readers, constantly in character. Whereas once the reader got past this scene, Ken could take some time off, maybe hit the One-Note Bar and hang out with other minor characters.

  • Isabel C.

    I think it also depends on your perspective. As a relatively new driver in Boston, I do see road rage as a pretty big flaw: you’re handling a one-ton piece of potentially-explosive metal at sixty miles an hour, and anything that fucks up your state of mind under that situation could end really badly. If a pastor approached sin from that perspective–“even the things we think are no big deal really could be” or “we need to recognize how much we’re responsible for everyone else”–I’d be down with that.

    But the pastors in your example don’t. It’s just a form of humblebragging, like on FB.

  • Helena

    “Syria is Iran’s path to the sea!”

  • Launcifer

    Nah, Syria’s within one thousand miles of Georgia and is therefore Sherman’s route to the sea ;).

  • P J Evans

    Because Iran already has a seacoast.
    (I don’t think Sherman’s march ever actually got to the sea.)

  • Launcifer

    Somehow, that just makes me think it’s even more likely that such an error would appear somewhere in these books…

  • PepperjackCandy

    From what I can tell, Sherman himself only made it to Savannah, which is about 18 miles from the sea. That’s pretty close. “Sherman’s march to the closest city to the sea” loses something, however.

  • VMink

    How to get arrested in Georgia:

    State Trooper: “Son, nobody goes that fast in Georgia.”
    You: “Sherman did!”
    State Trooper: “Son, step out of the car….”

  • Chris Campbell

    As someone who’s trained in game theory, yes, the rational behavior is to always give yourself maximum scores in everything, even if the self-evaluation game was an honest attempt to learn more about the workforce instead of an exercise in screwing over employees. It actually *is* very like the prisoner’s dilemma, but far more rigged against cooperation because of the number of actors and the fact that the entity administering the game (your boss/management) is also a participant in the game.

  • Amtep

    Actually I see one possible downside, in terms of rational self interest :) The company might decide to invest less in training for employees that have excellent scores already.

  • Chris Campbell

    Well, sort of. This is where the similarity to the prisoner’s dilemma comes in: in the classical form of the prisoner’s dilemma, the actual best outcome for both prisoners is double cooperation, but the expected payoff from cooperation (because of the chance that the other guy will defect/rat you out) is low enough that the expected payoff from defection is still the right choice.

    In this case, if all the employees and the employer cooperate (the employees honestly assess themselves and the employer is trying to measure employee competence in order to target training resources), the outcome is probably* the best possible. So if everyone involved is a Kantian rationalist, everyone’s happy. On the other hand, any defection makes the people who cooperate worse off (because they look bad on their self-assessments compared to the defectors/liars), and unless you have very good reasons to believe all of your coworkers are cooperators** you simply can’t risk the negative payout of not getting promotions/losing your job/etc. And, as Fred has pointed out, the simple fact that an employer is using quantitative self-assessments to evaluate employees suggests that the employer already defected and that rational self interest boils down to “sauve qui peut”.

    *Probably, because any employer who would resort to quantitative self-assessments as management tools doesn’t know enough about either social science methodology or basic human interaction to come up with a better outcome. Anyone who wanted to actually interact constructively with employees almost certainly would come up with a better outcome.

    **This is where game theorists start to talk about repeated games versus one-shots, shadows of the future, and similar things that boil down to the basic fact that getting to know someone tends to serve you better than treating them as an anonymous homo economicus playing the other side of a life-and-death-and-taxes game. Which non-game theorists knew already.

    ETA/TL;DR: If you find yourself in this situation, you probably don’t want the kind of “training” you’re likely to receive and can’t trust your coworkers to be enlightened in their self-interest.

  • Taneli Huuskonen

    The whole beauty (or ugliness, really) of the classical two-player PD is that the expected payoff from cooperation for yourself is always less than the expected payoff from defection, no matter what, but defection hurts your opponent more than it benefits you. So, even if you know for sure the other player is going to cooperate with you, your game-theoretically optimal choice is to defect anyway.

    As you said, things are considerably more complicated in real life. I just wanted to correct your (literally) parenthetical mischaracterization of the theoretical setting.

  • Ken

    The iterated PD is quite a different beast, which is good because it’s more like life. The best play in that version appears to be a simple “tit-for-tat” – cooperate the first time, and then do whatever the other player just did.

  • dpolicar

    The best play in an iPD depends on what strategy the other player is using, and also on how much “noise” there is in the system.

    Two players using “tit-for-tat” will endlessly defect if either of them ever defects for any reason, or even if either of them perceive the other as defecting. This result can be improved on.

  • Sue White

    You tell your manager you’re applying game theory, he’s liable to make a note that you think the evaluation is a game.

  • alfgifu

    Self-evaluations are a game and the game is already rigged against you. Play the game, but don’t agree to the rigging of it. Give yourself all 5s.

    The self-evaluation process at my office doesn’t actually come with a scoring system – it just has boxes for you to put down some personal goals at the beginning of the year, and a space for you to review what’s happened in the middle and at the end of the year. My manager (who is generally affable and supportive) thinks the whole thing is a waste of time. I find it really useful – it gives me a record, a way of organising my thoughts, and a source for snappy little comments / examples to sift over to the CV should I leave.

    My husband, on the other hand, works in an office where he moves from team to team and manager to manager depending on the project. After each assignment (twice a year or so) he gets and assessment form from the manager with scores as well as comments. These scores feed into his annual review, affect pay grades, and they’re incredibly frustrating – people use different base rates, so they’re not comparable, and if you get a harsh marker by chance that can influence both your pay and your prospects of advancement.

    All of which is to say, these systems are often deeply flawed, but I can understand why they get used. I’m just glad I’ve never been in a place where the most sensible thing to do was to give yourself all 5s.

    (I’m not sure that game theory would always make giving yourself all 5s the best option – as I understand it, a big part of game theory is that by changing the rules of the game you can change the best strategy. Sometimes giving yourself all 5s might in itself cause a problem – eg, if those scores were seen by a senior type who decided you were having a laugh and marked you down to all 1s, thereby negatively affecting your pay etc.)

  • Amtep

    I don’t remember whether I read this in Paul Graham’s blog or Joel Spolsky’s, but I remember an essay about how two big problems combine to make employee reviews harmful:

    1. Most people are devastated by a review that’s worse than they expected, and not all that encouraged by a review that’s better than they expected
    2. Most people see themselves as more competent than they really are

    Therefore, even accurate reviews are going to be terrible for morale and therefore terrible for productivity. The author’s recommendation for managers caught in such systems was to always write glowing reviews for all their employees.

  • Lori

    If you follow this “everyone gets a trophy” advice what you’re going to end up with is contentment among your mediocre employees and dissatisfaction among the ones who are actually worth the most to your business.

  • PepperjackCandy

    Wouldn’t both your Point 1 and Point 2 make a case for communicating clearly with your employees all year? If either result comes from your review being either a good or a bad surprise, wouldn’t it behoove management to ensure that reviews are not a surprise?

  • alfgifu

    Therefore, even accurate reviews are going to be terrible for morale and therefore terrible for productivity. The author’s recommendation for managers caught in such systems was to always write glowing reviews for all their employees.

    I can certainly see that logic, particularly in the case of reviews entirely written by others.

    On reflection, the part of our system I find most beneficial is the part where I set my own goals and record my thoughts about my growth / challenges / issues etc. If I didn’t trust my manager enough to be open about it, that benefit would vanish – it would become an exercise in writing what I thought other people wanted to read.

    Because it’s a joint project, it’s also unlikely that I’m going to get a review that’s worse than I expect – we draft the thing together, and have a conversation about it before anything goes down on paper. My manager’s input is mostly important because it adds a second pair of eyes to the process.

    So there is (for me at least) a significant up side to having an annual review system. It would be harder to get better at my job without it.

  • P J Evans

    That’s how evaluation was where I worked. We always, always had ‘safety’ as one of the goals, though. The review affected the annual bonus, although the main effect was goals being met from individual up to corporate.

  • Muriel Volestrangler

    See also: Gwaihir.

    Wise words. For anyone who hasn’t read Bored of the Rings, which does for Tolkien what Fred is doing for Hayes/Jenkins (but with more love and affection), the best comment I’ve seen on Tolkien’s plot problems is when the eagle shows up at the end with ‘Deus Ex Machina Airlines’ painted on his side.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Those fracking eagles, man. They could solve so many more problems than they do…

  • Abel Undercity

    Just leaving this right here:

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I’m gonna guess this is the “How It Should Have Ended” for LotR…
    …aaaaaaaaaaaand I’m right.

  • alfgifu

    Two problems with the eagles-drop-the-ring-in-Mordor scenario:

    1) How do the eagles avoid detection when they enter Sauron’s airspace?
    2) Once Sauron knows that his Ring is soaring above the plains of Mordor, how do the eagles evade:
    a) Sauron’s well documented mind control thingy (where he extends his will to control his armies / intimidate his enemies) when his entire focus is on them?
    b) the flying Nazgul who have no distractions, are drawn to the Ring, and are still powered by active Sauron-sorcery?

    The eagles get into Mordor at the end because Sauron is busy melting and his Nazgul are at first flying straight for Mount Doom and then fizzling out like spent fireworks.

    The whole point of most of the rest of the plot is that Sauron is extremely powerful and actively looking for the Ring, so everything has to be done by stealth. A couple of hobbits on foot are a lot more inconspicuous than Gwaihir and his 101st Airborne.

  • Muriel Volestrangler

    Ah, but scheduling the bombing raid for when they’re gathered at Rivendell gives it a very good chance of success. The nine Black Riders have just been overwhelmed at the ford, and so are unavailable for piloting Sauron’s air defence squadron, So it’s just Sauron’s mind mojo, and that, against the eagles and Gandalf who also defy Saruman at the height of his powers won’t be enough, what with Boromir mooning The Dreadful Eye to distract him at the correct moment.

    Plus it has a decent contingency plan: rather than relying on Gollum to attack Frodo when he decides to keep the Ring after all (and when they hatched their “million-to-one chance, so it might just work” plan (thanks, Terry Pratchett), they didn’t even know Gollum would be anywhere near), Gwaihir can just drop Frodo into Mount Doom if he starts having doubts, as well as the ring (notice he’s been carefully placed in the talons, not on the eagle’s back – someone was thinking this through).

  • Ross Thompson

    I dunno, I don’t think I’d trust those eagles.
    (Other comics in that strip are not safe for work, but that one’s good).

  • AnonaMiss

    I was just about to mention that!

  • Jim Roberts

    Fred, thanks. You just made my next lesson for my AWANA kids that much better. Crossed out a whole section of notes with the notation “humblebrag.”

  • $190147

    If the preacher is one of those redeemed sinners whose colorful ‘personal testimony’ tells of being saved from a life of wanton debauchery before they were born again, then this part is easy. All that preacher has to do is recount one of those juicy stories from back before he was saved.

    Toldja there’s a reason those guys are popular.

    The take on self-evaluation expressed here is exactly right. I don’t know whether it’s right in terms of game theory or not, but it’s right in terms of rightness. Division of labor exists for a reason, and the nature of worker self-evaluations is such that they’re bound not to be worth much. (Were that not the case the workers would be paid at a management level, which they’re not.) The only value worker self-evaluations have (other than as a testament to management cowardice) is that they provide the boss with the evidence he needs when the time comes to incriminate a worker or kick the worker out. (Heaven forbid.) It’s silly to co-operate under circumstances like that; on the other hand, the minimum thing demanded of the worker is that he/she must appear to be playing along. So the answer to the whole thing, if you are the worker, would seem to be (since you’re being gamed) to turn to whole thing into a game, to the extent (ultimately) of blaming the Swedes (sounds like a punch line, no?) Great thinking — deserves at least an 8.

  • Lliira

    A Gary Stu or Mary Sue is not recognized by their abilities. You can make a purple-eyed, drop-dead gorgeous, uberpowerful magical character who rides about on a fire-breathing pegasus, and not have written a Mary Sue. You can make a pathetic, weak-willed, ugly, ignorant, unlikeable, untalented, dull character and have written a Gary Stu. A Gary Stu or Mary Sue is solely defined by the effect they have on other characters. Do other characters treat Bob like Bob is the center of their universe, for good or ill, when there is no in-world and in-character reason for such a thing? Bob is a Gary Stu.

    Also, self-insert != Mary Sue. This is an extremely common mistake on the internet. There is nothing wrong with self-inserts. Many writers would do a far better job if they inserted their real selves into their writing.

  • Jamoche

    Idealized self-inserts, though, do tend to be Mary Sues. I see it as part of the learning process, especially for teenagers who are still working out who they want to be. But adults should not be inflicting their teenage daydreams of being the Best Insert-The-Blank Ever on their readers.

  • Jenny Islander

    Yes, this! If a Tenth Walker accompanies the Fellowship of the Ring on their quest and the quest takes a different course because she is there, and she is gorgeous, hypercompetent, and highly respected, that isn’t a Mary Sue. But if she shows up and the Nine Companions completely forget about the quest in order to jump into a plot that’s all about the author’s character, that’s Mary Sue to the max.

    Another sign of Mary Sue/Gary Stu is that the canon characters veer wildly out of character whenever he/she is around, regardless of whether the author is inserting him/her into a canon plot or inventing a new one. Gandalf the Grey lets a 15-year-old girl snot off to him; Boromir of Gondor forgets all about Gondor because all he wants is the purple-eyed half-elf-half-dragon he met last week; every female elf named in LOTR hangs breathlessly on the pearls of wisdom that fall from Gary Stu’s lips and wears her prettiest sexy dresses just for him; and, yes, I have read stuff like this.

  • Jenny Islander

    And you already said all of this, ga-doy.

    But in the interest of actually adding something new:

    Explanation: This little poem creates four “Suewarts” houses for bad Harry Potter fanfic. I think it’s a pretty good outline of Mary Sues and Gary Stus in every fandom.

    Sparklipoo: Fantasies of being the prettiest nicest most loved ever. Sparklipoos are the ones most people think of when they think of Mary Sue. Their eyes change color with their moods, they have hair down to their heels, they always overdress for the occasion, and the hero lives to hang on their every word. Sometimes they have sad pasts so that the hunky canon character(s) can love them all better. There generally isn’t much plot when a Sparklipoo is around. IME, unlike other types, Sparklipoos tend to be female.

    Bitchiwitch: Fantasies of letting negative emotions hang out all over the place. Sometimes canon characters are turned nasty or downright evil to give the Bitchiwitch a chance to be an outcast, or un is kidnapped or raped and then gets to enjoy revenge, or the Bitchiwitch comes with the cruelest family that ever existed. Bitchiwitches may also be characters at the top of the heap who get to be rude, violent, even sadistic, in ways that would get canon characters in deep trouble, but Bitchiwitches never face consequences.

    Tootsitramp: Fantasies about having sex with canon characters or the actors who play them, fantasies about having the guts to express oneself sexually or just wear that one outfit, fantasies about being desirable to everyone. Again, generally there isn’t much plot.

    Qanonreip: Instead of writing un’s own character, the author takes over a canon character and lives out un’s fantasies through that character. There is usually a plot, but not a good one: getting one’s honey away from the nasty so-and-so who wants un is fairly common. Qanonreip plots may also be a ficcer’s attempt to “fix” what the original author did “wrong” by writing things that make the readers think un needs a checkup from the neck up. The creepiest Krafft-Ebing-tinged fanfics, the infamously awful ones, are usually Qanonreips.

  • Hawker40

    I was only familiar with House Sparklypoo, as I had seen a wonderful comic strip online talking about it.

    Found linkage:

  • Jamoche

    By an amazing coincidence, I’d just tracked this down for someone who thinks the middle Hobbit movie is veering into bad fanfic territory(*) – it’s spoofing the Tenth Walker Sue:

    (*) I’m waiting for the Hobbit Phantom Edit. I’m holding out hope there’s a good 90-minute movie hidden in there.

  • PepperjackCandy

    I think that a new character who was so amazing that he or she solved the quest all by him or herself would also count as a Mary Sue. At least the distance between him or her and the position of a Mary Sue would be almost imperceptible to the naked eye.

  • VMink

    And sometimes the Mary Sue/Gary Stu fanfic makes it into publication. Forget 50 Shades — Piper from Dreadnought! and Battlestations! by Diane Carey. The character who out-logics Spock, out-engineers Scotty, out-strategizes Kirk, out-pilots Sulu, and saves the Federation. And gives a five-page lecture to a Vulcan on why the Federation is a libertarian paradise. Only Captain Princess Marissa Amber Flores Picard Gordon,* and Kirk from Shatner’s take on Trek, beat Piper for sheer WTFery.

    * – HEROINE of the FEDERATION! but, alas, not professionally published

  • banancat

    I recently started a new job and we did our self evaluations. We don’t have a rating system, but it asks about goals and things to work on. So I listed the things that I want to learn how to do, what kind of projects I want start on a site-wide scale, training I want to take, etc. Only after hearing everyone else talk about it did I realize that that’s where you’re supposed to list your flaws as something to “work on”. That’s not how the question was worded and I don’t intend to ever do that nonsense. I already got through the interview, so I’m done with that.

  • Amtep

    That sounds like an excellent way to answer it :)

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    So, I’m a teacher in colorado and this is the new rubric for evaluations*:
    The way the rubric works is that as the evaluators observe each item, they check the little circle. Your rating in each “element” is based on the lowest rating for which all the circles are checked. So, even if a teacher manages to hit all of the exemplary circles, if they miss something under, say, proficient, they are rated as “partially proficient”.**
    Naturally, we were asked to self-evaluate using the rubric. And I felt that squeamishness about filling in every check box. Now, I can go in and revise it, taking Fred’s advice of not doing the evaluator’s job and going straight to exemplary. But here’s my dilemma***: I feel that by doing so, I am legitimizing the evaluation tool. Some of these criteria are, frankly, insane. Things that are impossible to observe, if they aren’t impossible to achieve. I don’t want to claim to do the impossible, because then the Powers That Be will ask for more.

    * This rubric is actually 50% of our evaluation. The other 50% comes from “student performance”. Some of this is things I can control (I can submit student work I think is good) and some I can’t (standardized test scores and overall school performance).

    ** As near as i can tell, this rubric is designed to make teachers feel inadequate.

    *** I’m also worried because I’m technically probationary. I’ve been teaching 15 years but only 3 in my current district. So I could get non-renewed (i.e. fired) for being a smartass about the evaluation. Not that that’s likely to happen – my evaluator is the Athletic Director, who’s generally a nice guy, seems to have no strong opinion about me, and keeps blowing the deadlines on his side of the process – but it still causes me concern.

  • We Must Dissent

    I took at that guide*, and that’s brutal. Ours are bad, but not like that. And they, too, seem to have the goal of making teachers feel bad about themselves.

    *I want to time-punch whoever it was in education that decided rubric, literally “red [letters]” and referring to headings in medieval manuscripts or directions in liturgical church services, means “scoring or evaluation guide”.

  • AnonymousSam

    I like when a character has various minor flaws. They just have to be believably human, and if they are, it can make them even more so.

    Katherine, the central character of the short stories I’m writing, has a nervous habit of licking her lips. Of all the traits I wanted a supernatural entity to have, chronic chapped lips was too good to pass up…

  • Charby

    I think what you understand and Jerry doesn’t is that having minor foibles doesn’t actually make you seem human. Bella Swan is clumsy but that doesn’t really make her an interesting or compelling character — it’s just a Thing that gets mentioned occasionally.

  • Ross

    As a general rule, anything that is added to a character specifically as a prophylactic defense against accusations of mary suedom do not actually work as defense against accusations of mary suedom

  • Yawny

    I personally love it when character tics are tied to personality. For example, one of mine touches his pocket wheneve he’s worried or thinking. It’s because his pocket holds a picture of his family, which he loves deeply and is often absent from.

  • Charby

    Self-evaluation is one of those things that in theory might be useful but is usually managed so poorly that it’s either useless (as in, “you have to give yourself all 5s or you get fired”) or actively harmful. One area where it gets harmful is in accounting, or really any profession where you have to bill hours to client.

    What ends up happening is that the accountant has to fill out their own time card for each procedure or analysis they conduct, with emphasis on getting the procedure faster than the last person who did it the year before. Of course, the last person who did it was trying to beat the person before her, and so on. The actual hours billed then has nothing to do with how long it actually takes to do the job, and the managers start to develop hilariously unrealistic expectations.

    The end result of course is that you feel like a failure for not being able to actually match the time given, the firm loses money since they are doing 12 hours of work and only getting paid for 7 hours of it, and you’re getting rewarded for basically screwing yourself, your colleagues, and your employer over.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    And such is the strangeness of Stakhanovite behavior being imported into the USA.

  • Ruby_Tea

    Verna Zee Sensible Shoes Confrontation Countdown: 138 pages

  • Ruby_Tea

    If the preacher is one of those redeemed sinners whose colorful “personal testimony” tells of being saved from a life of wanton debauchery before they were born again, then this part is easy. All that preacher has to do is recount one of those juicy stories from back before he was saved.

    Shameless plug: I’m doing my usual Wintermas critique, and this year’s Christmas romance features just such a preacher, who…

    …had once spent more time in the county jail for drinking and disturbing the peace than he did in church. Just looking at him reminded [the heroine] and everyone else of the amazing redemptive power of God’s love.

    The preacher also has weird ideas about people coming to kill preachers, so he’s a fascinating puzzle to me.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    We’ve discussed quite a bit how the dual protagonists of the Left Behind series are wish-fulfillment surrogates for the books’ dual authors. Rayford Steele — graying at the temples, but irresistible to women due to the way he steers his massive, “fully loaded” jet engine — is Tim LaHaye’s fantasy of how he wishes he were perceived by others. Buck Williams — rebel-cool, the writer every other writer desperately envies — is Jerry Jenkins’ Mary Sue.


    All that’s missing is to make Rayford & Buck Immortal Alicorns.

    (Though Rayford DOES show one of the Secondary Sexual Characteristics of an Ayn Rand male hero — the bone-crushing Manly Man Handshake. To truly be a Randian hero, he needs the other two characteristics — heavy smoking and constant obsession with whether he’s gaining weight — “Am I getting Fat? Do I look Fat? Does this make me look Fat? Do you think I’m Fat? Do I look Fat? Am I getting Fat? Does this make me look Fat?”)

  • rizzo

    Hey now Gwaihir is a perfectly good deus ex machina and not just a pilot!

    Also I love your theory on the self evaluations, I always gave myself top marks just because the whole thing is stupid but I’m going to use your excuses next time I run into that situation.

  • lowtechcyclist

    If only you knew what’s inside of me now
    You wouldn’t want to know me, somehow

    -Moody Blues, “Never Comes the Day”

  • Daniel

    Thanks for burying that right in my ear. I’m now caught in a dreadful infinite regress that should I sing that song and someone was to look inside of me now, they’d only find that song, encouraging them to look inside me now, to find that song, like some awful Justin Hayward Russian doll.