Wednesday, December 10, 2014

December Theme: Paying It Forward
By Marcia Thornton Jones

I appreciate the concept that when someone does something nice to me I can ‘pay it forward’ by doing something nice for someone else instead of just ‘paying it back.’ I love hearing stories of people having their coffee, lunch, and toll booth fares paid by someone that went through the line before them. In fact, I tried to do that once by pre-paying the adoption fee at the Humane Society for the ‘next adopting family’ who chose an animal and filled out the paperwork (the Humane Society wouldn’t let me do that, by the way). The ideas and experiences already posted for ‘paying forward’ the good that comes into our lives are inspiring, and I’m looking forward to reading more this month.

But to be honest, I never totally clicked with the phrase because when I think of ‘pay’ I think of things like ‘pay back’, ‘you get what you pay for’, and ‘paying bills’. To me, ‘pay’ infers debt, responsibility, and obligation. I tried to think of a word that ‘felt’ better to me. Gifting is the closest I could come because when I think of ‘gifting’ I think of giving instead of paying.

Then I started wondering:

·         What kind of givers are my characters? Are they selfless? Do they shop for perfect gifts? Or would they buy the first thing they came across? Would they go to a mega-store and grab gift cards so they wouldn’t have to bother with shopping? Or would they go from store to store, searching for just the right things.
·         What were the best gifts they’ve given? Did those gifts involve special thought or effort? Were they store-bought or hand-made? Were sacrifices involved? Who were the recipients? What were the recipients’ reactions? How did the recipients’ reactions make the gift-giving characters feel?
·         What kind of gift-receivers are my characters? Are they gracious? Do they make sure the givers see them wear or use the gift? Do they ask for the receipt if they don’t like a gift? Do they roll their eyes and say, “I don’t want this,” before handing it back to the giver?
·         What were the best gifts my characters ever received? Were they hand-made? Was the monetary worth less or more than the sentimental value? Who were they from? What were the circumstances?
·         What were the worst gifts received? What did my characters do with them? Regift them? Throw them away? Toss them into a cow pond? Build bonfires and burn them?
·         Are my characters the kind of people that see the blessings, kindnesses, and good fortunes in their lives as gifts? Or do they consider themselves entitled to those things…and more? Do they appreciate the good? Does their good fortune inspire them to gift others?
·         Or do my characters focus on the negative? On the slights and the insults and the misfortunes? Instead of ‘paying it forward’, are they more intent on pay back? On getting even? On revenge?

Who knows? If I take a few minutes to answer these questions then maybe, just maybe, my characters will gain insights into their story journeys and then they will ‘pay it forward’ with transformative growth that resonates with readers and their own life journeys.


  1. I love the idea of letting my characters tell me how they feel about gift giving/receiving. A great way to add to the richness of our knowledge about them, even if it never ends up in the book. Thanks!

  2. What a fabulous list of writing prompts this list of questions could generate!