Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ransom Notes

1. A ransom note is a bill issued by a kidnapper, demanding a specific payment for the return of the person or thing held by the kidnapper.

2. Some ransom notes would include an article of clothing or jewelry worn by or associated with the kidnapped, attesting to the authenticity of the kidnappers' claims. Other ransom notes would include an appendage, say a little finger or toe, of the kidnapped, while others still would include threats of dismemberment if the demands for payment were not met. In a remarkable novel by Joseph Wambaugh, dealing with the inner workings and politics of dog shows, the ear of a kidnapped poodle was sent to its owner.

3. One of the more notable historical ransom notes was that sent by the kidnappers of Richard II to the people of England.

4. A more contemporary ransom note is the one sent by Hillary Clinton to the registered Democrats in the state of Texas, demanding their votes in the forthcoming primary election on pain of even more aggressive behavior and ads for television that are worse than Caddyshack.

5. Some ransom notes are sent to writers. Instead of cash payments, these notes demand that the writer loosen up, not take things with such mordant seriousness, possibly even demanding the writer get a life. These ransom notes have the same effect on the writer that reason has on Hillary; each makes the target become more serious, well past the point of self-parody.

6. More often than not, writers have pigeon holes in their desks, filled with the essence of writerly currency, the SASE, the self-addressed stamped envelope. Writers are known to send themselves ransom notes.

7. Even bloggers send ransom notes. These usually begin: "I was too overwhelmed to blog today."

8. Kidnappers have a common bond with writers: Each is in it for the reward.

9. More often than not, the kidnapper is in it for the reward of money.

10. Who ever heard of a kidnapper kidnapping because he had to or because he'd been dreaming of becoming a kidnapper ever since the age of six, when a well-meaning grandparent read aloud to him Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped?

11. Not many writers of ransom notes would worry about whether or not to italicize the question mark in the previous sentence. That is because writrs of ransom notes don't bother to consult the Chicago Manual of Style, which dealse with such things.

12. Number 11 was a digression, which writers often make and which kidnappers, who are task oriented in a different way, do not take.

13. No know books on writing techniques, not even John Gardner's, suggest exercises in writing ransom notes.

14. Writers of ransom notes and short stories have in common high expectations and nervousness when they begin.

15. Hillary had high expectations when she began.

16. Now she has nervousness and Mark Penn and Terry McAuliffe.

17. Writers of short stories have different types of expectations and nervousness.

18. Writers of poetry have keys to a myriad of locked doors.

19. Writers of ransom notes are rarely if ever sued for plagiarism. One size fits all.

20. Writers of novels and short stories and poetry often have things and persons of consequence held in ransom, but they persist in their craft.


x said...

Of all the notes you've described, I love ransom notes the best. I might just have to write one.

Unknown said...

Quit rifling through my desk, Shelly. I'm saving my ransom notes for a rainy day, and here you are airing them for all the world to see! :oP

I find myself consulting Hodge's Harbrace, that is my writer's bible.

I was waiting for Run, Hillary! Run! But I suppose the humor in that has over exerted itself.