My finals are over! Whoo hoo! I hope to start posting a little more consistently, at least during the semester break.
In last week’s installment, Book!Merikay was wondering whether or not she was really saved. This is a mind fuck that I’m sure all Christians go through, at some point. Her solution is to read the bible and sing hymns.It’s not how I would deal with it, but I understand that not everyone deals with it the way I would.
I think this is a good place to introduce God as a character. Were I critiquing this for Merikay, my advice would be to have the protagonist say something like, Hey God, I know you’re busy with the whole apocalypse thing, but like, I’m freaking out over here. And then God could say something like, You are saved. You love me, and you accepted me as your savior. Hold on Merikay, for I am coming.
This is a good example of how God could be a character in the story (even though he technically doesn’t appear at all till the very end), and also a good way to stick in some prayer without feeling clunky and awkward. (And I have to give it to Merikay, so far she’s done really well at avoiding clunky and awkward prayers.)
As Book!Merikay sits there sweating like a racehorse, Pat, who is reading Steps To Christ, seems to be very calm. At least, that’s Merikay’s perspective. My perspective is that he is trying to reassure himself when he says out loud:
“It says here….that we must accept the promises of Christ, not from feeling but out of faith. He said He would keep us, and we must believe that He will.”
Book!Merikay thinks it’s strange that Pat should read this passage out loud just as she is thinking about possibly not being saved.
Seventh Day Adventists are really big on the whole “pray and then read something, and that something you read will be the very thing you happen to need at that moment.”
Which sometimes works. There have been times where I was like, “wow, that verse was exactly what I needed!” But there have also been times when the verse I read wasn’t really relevant to the situation. Of course, one could go through some kind of mental gymnastics to make the verses fit the situation…
But I do not think that is what is happening in this passage, so, we can move on.
The news broadcasts were filled with wars, riots, uprisings, and mob actions in the cities. Epidemics were breaking out in different parts of the country, and always there was the news of that approaching date, on and after which, murder was condoned by law.
If Merikay had handed this to me to critique, I would have asked her to maybe expand on this a bit more. What wars? Why are people rioting? What are the mobs doing in the cities? What type of epidemics?
I can see why she wouldn’t have wanted to name the date where the death decree became law. End times writers like to avoid using dates, and fair enough, I suppose. The thing is, I would like to know approximately how close this day is, from the characters’ perspective. Merikay wouldn’t need to get specific, but she could say something like, “Today is Monday. The death decree will become law on Insertdayoftheweekhere.” This would give us a sense of perspective, but it could also create a sense of urgency. “The death decree becomes law in 3 days. We have to make it to the mountains by then!”
What I would also like to see Merikay expand on is why exactly there is a death decree going out for those who don’t obey Sunday laws. I get that the Sunday Laws are supposed to be a sort of plot McGuffin–something that drives the plot but isn’t really all that important and we’re not supposed to look into it too closely–but just throw out something. Anything. I can put some plausibility aside for the sake of a good story. That is something else I would have brought up if Merikay had handed me this to critique.
We finally reached the foothills of the Smokies….stopping for gas, we got out of the car to stretch.
Hang on, I thought you said earlier that God was taking care of the gas tank so that you didn’t have to? Why did he suddenly stop?
In any case, along with gas, they also have the attendant wipe their windows. This might have just been what was done in that part of the country in the 1960s, so I won’t snark on it too much. Otherwise, I’d make a note that this seems like something that would draw a lot of unnecessary attention. But, I know some places used to be (still are?) weird about drivers pumping their own gas, and maybe window washing was just part of the package deal, sooooo I dunno. Plot convenience, we’ll roll with it.
In any case, as the attendant washes the windows, he notices the bibles and asks what church they all go to. Which sounds like an odd question to ask. But, you know, with the Sunday laws, maybe not. Maybe, if Sunday Laws were a thing, everyone would constantly be asking what church you went to, whether or not you liked it, if the sermon was boring or interesting, if the church attendance police were particularly strict….
I should do a separate blog post on logistics of Sunday Laws. It would save me soooo much typing.
In any case, instead of telling the man that they are from out of town and he probably wouldn’t know their church, they tell him they are Seventh Day Adventists.
His face changed to a horrid color. It was a kind of gray–so hard and mean it could have been made of steel. Quickly, he walked into the station, picked up the phone, and asked for the police.
Here’s another thing I would make note of if I were critiquing this for Merikay: in order for this scene to work, I would need a reason. Why are Seventh Day Adventists so hated? They don’t conform to the Sunday Laws, but it was never established why conforming to the Sunday Laws was such a big deal, sooooo ??
In some ways, I don’t blame Merikay for this. I blame whoever published it without some serious editing. Even the best rough draft is just that: a rough draft. I know that whoever published it edited it to make it shorter, and probably edited for spelling and grammar, but books need more than that.
In any case, The Coopers, Merikay and Pat get into their car and drive off. They’re driving through a town described as “not a big city, but a large enough town to permit us to get quite well lost from the police car.”
Fair enough, especially since most big cities are full of riots and mob actions. I think this is something Merikay got right, actually. If the cities are full of riots, mobs, and other uprisings, it makes sense for them not to want to drive through major areas right now. But you would want a town big enough to get lost in.
This part is very believable, and even smart.
Although the gas meter registered empty, the car ran perfectly.
I thought you just filled up?
So, for those keeping track at home, God caused the car to run on an empty tank for… a long time, probably. At least long enough to get from Michigan to Tennessee. Then God stops letting the car run with no gas, so the Coopers stop for gas… only to drive off without actually getting gas? Or is God pulling another miracle? But he couldn’t pull enough miracles for them not to need to stop at a gas station in the first place?
In fact, now that I think about it, this makes even less sense. How were they planning to buy gas if Adventists are unable to buy or sell? Ohhhhh you know what? I bet that‘s why the gas station attendant got really really angry at them. If Adventists aren’t allowed to buy things, then has the attendant basically washed their windows for free? I could see that. If I were that gas station attendant, I’d be pissed. That’s basically kind of like stealing, especially if he also filled their gas tank.
Did the Coopers just forget about the laws? That could actually work, if you were going for absent minded characters. Especially since the prohibition on buying and selling don’t seem to have had much affect (effect?) on the family so far.
Another suggestion I have for how Merikay could have done this is to possibly have the characters get stopped at a border crossing. I learned in criminal justice class that the cops can do a border stop at any border, including state lines. At such checks, it is legal to search the car. With all the riots and uprisings going on lately, it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility for certain states to set up troops at the state lines to protect themselves. Instead of having the characters make an inexplicable stop at a gas station, why not have them get caught by border patrol?
I think I’m going to stop there for now. Next time, we’re getting into some of the really interesting stuff. One thing I like about Merikay’s writing: she isn’t shy about putting her characters through some shit. In Project Sunlight, nothing bad ever really seems to happen to the main protagonists, and most of the action happens offscreen.
So, points to Merikay, her version of the apocalypse is interesting.