Saturday, February 22, 2014


When my son was quite young, we had to take him for a neurological evaluation.  The intern who was asked to help with the testing reported that he thought something was very wrong.

Already alarmed about the whole situation, we asked what he meant.  As an example he said that our son’s response to one of the questions was bizarre.  When asked, “What is the opposite of dog?” he told the intern there was no such thing.  The intern said that most children will answer that question by saying cat.

We were perplexed and not a little bit surprised that there was an answer to that question, but waited until the neurologist finished reading the report before asking how bad it was that our son did not have an answer for the opposite of dog.  The doctor put our minds to rest when he said he agreed with our child that it was a silly question.

Aside from in the above situation, silly doesn’t bother me. I live in a house where playing with words is a common occurrence and witticisms run rampant.  Double entendres and puns are the order of the day. Once started, the ridiculousness can go on for several long minutes until tears are running down our faces. I’m often left behind, rolling my eyes, pondering how to catch up with my clever family. So it’s no wonder that odd things occur to me.

The latest is this one and it hearkens back to the day of that intern:  Is the opposite of writing wronging?  I know that the spelling of write doesn’t lend itself to being the opposite of wrong, but sometimes when I write it does come out very wrong.  I can go on for pages in the totally wrong direction, down roads best left unplowed (sorry, there’s been so much snow here lately that all I can see is a brilliant white, like the blank pages that taunt me when I’m having trouble figuring out what to write next) and develop minor characters that do not even need to be in a story.  The character I have the most trouble with, invariably, is my heroine, who is often a muddled mess of inconsistency and contradictions throughout the first draft.

My writing group is very good at sending out the scouts to find and encourage removal of erroneous material, but they can’t help me clarify my character’s motivation.  The best they can do is wonder where it is, which of course sends me back to the computer to correct the wrongs I’ve committed and hopefully get the writing right.

Joani Ascher is the author of Vengeance Beyond Reason, Vengeance Tastes Sweet, Vengeance Cuts Loose, Vengeance On High, Vengeance Runs Cold, and Vengeance Acts up. The series was originally from Avalon but is now on Amazon’s Thomas and Mercer imprint. 


  1. I agree with your son - there is no opposite of dog. A cat is definitely not an opposite of dog. I'm intrigued by your raising Seeing Eye puppies and wondering whether any of your characters work with Seeing Eye dogs.

  2. Your post proves how subjective life is. Everyone has their own view on things and does not like to change their positions. I believe that's why reviews on our books can be all over the map, Thought provoking post. Thanks

  3. In this case, I think the child knew more than the doctor. Thanks for sharing this reminder that we have to know when to listen to the "experts: and when to think for ourselves.

  4. Many years ago, my mother was undergoing an evaluation where they showed her pictures and asked her to blurt out the first thought that came to mind. When they came to a picture of a crab, she said, "It's a female." The tester immediately came to the conclusion my mother had some kind of sexuality issue. She explained she loves hardshell crabs and females have more meat in them. Sometimes a one sentence answer can't convey what someone really thinks. It's all about perspective, experience, and personality.

  5. Good for him! (Your son, that is.) And the intern should know, the opposite of dog is not cat. It's god. The opposite of cat is tac, (as in Tic Tac). It's fascinating to hear about how a mystery writer processes information.