Dead Elephants

When my kids were little, we lived around the corner from the library in South Hadley Falls, Massachusetts. Every day when their father went to work on the afternoon shift at the Air Force base, the kids and I would walk to the library and gather several picture books that we brought home. They cuddled up close on either side of me on the front porch steps while I read to them. One day I read them The Story of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff.

When the mother elephant got shot, both of my little children cried and cried. I thought, oh no, I should never have read that book to them. After dinner they asked me to please read them the Babar book again.

“Any part in particular?”

“The part where the mother dies.”

I could have wondered if they had sadistic feelings toward mothers. Me? Naa. Not their sweet Mommy! Instead it made me realize that as humans we LIKE to feel our emotions.

So here’s the thing I want to do:
I want to pop the stopper, so your tears can flow. I want to write stories that move you—not sappy, melodramatic, or sentimental stories. Instead, stories that surprise you, catch you off guard and bring you that wonderful wet release.

Stories that make you smile with satisfaction with your face embarrassingly wet.

What does that?
A kindness where it’s not expected?

Fear of harm coming to a character, that we’ve grown attached to? Relief when said character is finally safe?

When I was editing Intentional, a novel, every time I read over the part where Grace dyes her hair black, and she tells her grandmother she’s in mourning, I cried. For Pete’s sakes, I wrote the damn thing. But every time I reread that part, it got to me.

Rain Ripples

So I’d like to write something that will make you cry, something that touches you so deeply that you get tears. But I really don’t want to kill off any mother elephants.

When my grandmother died, I couldn’t cry. I wanted to, but tears just wouldn’t come. This was in 2001, and friends had told me that Titanic was a three tissue movie. Well, wouldn’t you know, the timing was perfect, Titanic came on TV. I watched, but not a dribble fell from my eyes.

My most recent cry, I’m embarrassed to say, was over a TV show. I like watching  Netflix at lunchtime. In an episode of NCIS, Jimmy is trying to stop a young man from jumping off a roof. He’s risking his life. The episode includes a lot of flashbacks of Jimmy over the past seasons. I was so afraid that this was the way the scriptwriters would eliminate this character from the show. But he lived! And I cried.

We all know that personal tragedy brings tears (usually). But what about the tears over the media in our lives?

What touches you? What makes you cry?

So, Dear Friends, here’s your homework:
Please share in the comments section below, what has touched you enough for tears lately? Literature? A TV crime show? A movie? Art? Music? A Tweet? (hmm, let’s forget that last one—we could get way off topic.)

P.S. Right now, at this very minute, my granddaughter, Julia Ruble, is on her way to Thailand to be a volunteer in an elephant rescue sanctuary. Yay, Julia!

14 Replies to “Dead Elephants”

  1. My children’s suffering makes me cry.

    I’m thrilled for Julia. Will she have a blog (with pics) I can connect to?


    1. I don’t know how good her internet connection will be. Maybe she’ll do something fun and creative about her experiences when she gets back home to Colorado.

  2. I always cry when I watch the movie Beaches, when Barbara Hershey’s character dies from viral cardiomyopathy.

    I get emotional and sometime cry if I do not change the channel fast enough when the commercials for animal shelters and cruelty airs.

  3. Besides crying from personal family issues, i last shed tears over the movie United Kingdom. No one with me was touched by the movie, but it really got me. Another big tear maker for me are weddings. I think I’m a romantic and live the hope people have in the future.
    Thanks for asking

    1. When a movie or anything for that matter, moves me to tears, and the others around me are unaffected, I figure they weren’t paying attention…or I try to blame my allergies.

  4. In a nutshell: Man’s inhumanity to man and beast.

    My surroundings:
    When my loved ones hurt and I am powerless to make everything ok.
    Losing loved ones…two legged and four legged.

    Subdivisions carved out of a beautiful field or forest leaving what I imagine to be a host of bewildered animals.

    Trees that have taken a lifetime or two to grow, being cut down for stupid reasons by stupid people.

    Old abandoned houses looking forlorn …as if waiting to be rescued.

    Knowing animals die so that I can eat.

    Good things that will bring tears:

    A gorgeous sunset …or sunrise… with the sky turning the most beautiful palette of colors with rays of sun streaming through.

    A new child or grandchild held moments after birth.

    An early summer morning.

    A deep snowfall that covers everything with beauty and a hushed quiet.

    Christmas Eve memories.

    Ave Maria …

    A bagpiper playing Amazing Grace

    Hearing Kate Smith sing God Bless America.

    Seeing our flag flying and knowing our blessings.

  5. Relationships – heartwarming ones, love-lost ones, love-struggles ones – in real life and fiction. Wine, soft lights, peaceful surroundings add to leaking eyes.

  6. I suppose this is an odd admission, but I have been doing the final proof reading of my new novel and ALWAYS cry when I get to the ending. I believe it is because I have shown my characters in terrible peril for 20 years of writing ( this is the last of a four volume series) and my own longings for a better world are all tangled up with theirs. So my answer is that you want to convey the deepest longings of your characters so that your readers feel them too. I hope mine do!

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