The Mysterious Stranger

Today, while looking for pearls of wisdom I found Michael Levin, the author of “Books are my Babies.”

Honestly, he is brilliant. Well worth following. In this case I disagree with him so completely that I am doing the opposite of his advice in this video. I am writing about the stranger that suddenly showed up and gave me needed advice.

Out of respect for his wishes, I will not point to any of his other videos. He is a mysterious stranger that suddenly showed up and gave me advice. Apart from this particular video, all of the others that I have seen so far have given me instant free and wonderful insight. You will have to search for that wisdom on your own, Grasshopper. I am told that it would be bad writing for me to hand you wisdom too easily. To me this rule seems pretty irritating.

Michael Levin advises you to avoid putting the stranger who provides advice in your story. He is right, it is overused. It is how things happen in real life. We don’t invent everything. Giving a character a problem that needs more than just himself to solve is giving a character a good problem.

I think that some of Michael Levin’s advice may help me get published. If I do really well, I will consider myself in debt to him the tune of one trip to Majorca. He is really, really smart, but I don’t think that his advice is going to solve all of my issues between here and my desired destination.

Even with simple issues, I disagree with Michael Levin on the grounds that all things are new again. I also disagree on the grounds that good writing is above such limits. Unless you manage the magical mysterious advice of a giving stranger well, it is going to be trite. It is also a weak shortcut. Well done, Yoda.

Obi-Wan and the Fairy Godmother are icons that should not be left out. If needed, make things a bit hard. At the very least, have the mystical stranger live in a swamp on a remote planet and have him hit your character with a stick repeatedly. In stories we like characters to have to pay a price for wisdom.

I can’t tell you how many fairytales, myths, legends and great authors have mysterious strangers appear and help the character. Don’t listen to this advice and leave the Fairy Godmother out of Cinderella. Let’s not ignore the writing of Dickens. His stories consist of brutal events punctuated by encounters with odd strangers with wisdom and assistance. If you dared to  edit J.K. Rowling using this rule, you would be hunted down by an angry horde carrying long sharp sticks. You just eliminated half of the good characters. Hagrid kicked the door down so he could tell Harry what Harry needed to know.

As a writer, it is wise to examine the limits that people advise you to take on. Don’t follow the advice. Instead, examine your work and make sure that you are doing it well. We all have limitations. A lot of the advice people give you is good. If you follow all of it, you might as well give up writing.

Bob

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