Friday Fable: The Writers’ Group Driver and his Three Passengers

You may have heard the classic fable, “The Lion and his Three Councillors:”

A lion caught a whiff of his own rancid breath and thought, “Maybe I’m not as kingly as I ought to be. I better check.” He called to a sheep and asked, “Say, does my breath stink?”

“Yes it stinks terribly,” said the sheep. And immediately the lion killed her because she was so rude. The lion then called to a wolf and asked, “Say, does my breath stink?”

“No, not at all. It’s the sweetest breath I ever smelled,” said the wolf. But alas, the lion killed him, too, because he was such a flatterer. Finally the lion called to a fox and asked, “Say, does my breath stink?”

“Sorry, I have a bad cold,” said the fox. “I can’t smell a thing.” And away he trotted–with his life, his wits, and the lion’s breath but a rancid memory.

And the moral is: It is not always wise to share your opinion. 

That is a good old tale. But if Aesop were a modern slave to the written word, he might have called his fable, “The Writers’ Group Driver and his Three Passengers:”

Once there were four writers who carpooled to the monthly critique meeting to save on gas money. Every month for months on end, the driver read from a draft horror novel about a cursed iPad that sucked people inside its camera and forced them into nightmarish apps like Pocket God and Temple Run. One month, during a particularly agonizing MahJong scene, the driver caught the sound of snoring coming from his companions. “Maybe my prose isn’t as riveting as it ought to be,” he thought. “I better check.”

On the way home, he asked his peer in the passenger seat, “Does my novel stink?”

“Yes, it stinks terribly,” she said with relief. “You should work on something else.” The driver dropped her off and said, “You can find your own way to the next meeting, meanie.”

He turned to his peer in the rear passenger seat and asked, “Does my novel stink?”

“No, it’s magnificent, really, the best horror novel I’ve ever read,” he said. (The battery on his car had died in the last blizzard and he had no other way of getting to the next meeting.) “Really?” the driver asked. “Is it better than The Haunting of Hill House? Scarier than The Exorcist?” “Oh for sure,” said the passenger. “It’s better than those two put together with Dracula thrown in.” “But you told me you never read Dracula!” the driver shouted (otherwise he’d never have suspected his friend for a flatterer). “Get out, you liar. Find your own way to the next meeting.”

Finally the driver turned to his peer in the seat right behind him and asked, “Does my novel stink?”

“Sorry, I have a nervous disposition,” she said. “I can’t handle horror stories. I have to wear earplugs while you read. Otherwise I’d have nightmares.”

“Really? That’s too bad,” the driver said. “Same time next month?”

“You bet.”

And the moral is: Your opinion is not always wanted, even when it’s requested. 

And that’s my first Friday Fable of 2013.

Late, I know. I have been sick lately. I am a sickly sort of person, sad to say. While I like to think of myself like this:

old-young woman

I fear I’m really more like this:

old-young woman

Or worse, this:

rabbit-duck image

Oh well, at least it’s only January. And the days are getting longer.

May all your Fridays be fabulous.

6 Comments on “Friday Fable: The Writers’ Group Driver and his Three Passengers

  1. Interesting theory. I really like how you made a fable like that into modern day, and used people instead of animals. My questions would be this: If you ask for an opinion that you don’t actually want, will you be content with the lies you receive? And if you aren’t, why ask for such an opinion in the first place?
    I am a stickler for opinions, and when it comes to opinions, there are two extremes: Those who ask for an opinion and appreciate all the input they get, and those who just don’t ask. The ones in the middle are hard people to deal with, because they seem to be looking for a “right” answer, and the only right answer is no answer at all, which isn’t an opinion. So, while I agree that in some cases you should just keep your mouth shut (like when your ride depends on it), other times you have to state your opinion even if someone doesn’t ask for it. It’s one thing that makes human society so complicated.
    I hope you get better. Thanks for listening to my opinion.

    • Thanks for commenting. Many critique groups have a pretend seeker of opinions: someone who likes their own work and wants to continue with it but wants the express support of others to do that (without hearing any real criticism). Usually other members begin with real criticism but eventually just nod and smile.

      As for stating your opinion even if someone doesn’t ask for it, well, you’re in the right society for that. There’s not much people share these days that doesn’t elicit an unasked-for opinion. Good or bad? I don’t know. But I do know that when people give their opinions, they say at least as much about themselves as about whatever they’re opining on, and so they sometimes say much more than they intend.

      • This is true. Most times, people say much more than they intend, sometimes without saying anything at all. I think this is why we, as human beings, enjoy communicating without seeing each other face to face. Body language, the face in particular, can speak volumes, and sometimes we feel we need to hide it. Again, as you put it, good or bad? Regardless, cyber-communication has become a large part of the same society where unasked-for opinions are common. Households, businesses, even schools rely on cyber-communication now, and as a result, we’ve seemed to have lost some of the emotion.

    • You are too kind, Cathy, but thanks! I am glad to get back to the fables. (They’re like yoga – I love doing them but somehow have to drag myself to get started. Much like writing, no?)

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