Eddie Jones is founder and CEO of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. He is also an award-winning author with Harper Collins. You can find Eddie on his Amazon author page or at Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (LPC).
The Day I Met JFK
Please note: what you are about to read is all hearsay. Perhaps even wholly fabricated.
I was there, but it was half a century ago and I was only like four or five at the time. My sister swears it happened, so it must have. My sister is are always right¾even when she’s wrong. That’s the first rule of diplomacy for little brothers.
In the summer 1960 Grandmamma Jones lived in a home we called the Green House. When I say “Green House” I am referring to the color of the home, not the name of the owner. It’s important to make this distinction because there is a branch of Greens growing out from the Jones family tree. There is also a cluster of Gays mixed into the foliage, but the Greens and the Gays have nothing to do with this story. I’m just pointing out the fact that home was green, not owned by a Green Jones.
Grandma Jones was a neighborly woman. By neighborly I mean nosey. She often visited her neighbors, even when she’d been warned to stay away. On this occasion, she marched us down to the Governor’s Mansion. I forget why. Knowing Grandma Jones, it most likely had something to do with canning tomatoes or picking up sticks. Grandma Jones would often hire us out for the day to clean up from some stranger’s yard. This was her way of getting us out of her hair while and teaching me to want more out of life than hard, physical, manual labor. That summer I decided I wanted to become President of the United States.
“She led us around back of the Governor’s Mansion,” my sister recalls, “and we sat on the back steps. The maids brought us lemonade.”
I do not know what Grandmamma Jones did while Marji and I sipped lemonade. I suppose she advised the governor on how he should run the state of North Carolina. Grandmamma Jones excelled at giving advice. She had the spiritual gift of discernment. By this I means she enjoyed discerning for others.
At some point, I wandered around to the front of the Governor’s Mansion. Around the same time JFK arrived in his motorcade. He wasn’t president, yet, and so the parade of vehicles wasn’t nearly as long as it would become later. Still, it was a big deal, so I stood and watched as JFK worked his way down the rope line.
“The President patted you on the head,” my sister recalls, “turned and walked up the steps into the Governor’s Mansion. Then you followed him. You got as far as the front foyer of the mansion before Grandmamma Jones rushed in and pulled you back out.”
Isn’t that the way it is with story telling goes sometimes? You get the action started, characters introduced, and hint at the main character’s motivation. (Little Eddie doesn’t want to really work. He wants to be in charge and boss people around, like his grandmother.) Then there’s the inciting incident: the event that alters the direction of your main character’s life.
For me, inciting incident occurred when Jackie and John Kennedy adopted me into their family and shipped me off to the Kennedy Compound in Kennebunkport, Maine
Wait, what? That didn’t happen. If it had, my trip to the Governor’s Mansion that day would have been a huge deal and altered the direction of my life.
As writers, it’s important to discern the “casual events” in our stories from “causal events.” “Causal events” contribute to a character’s transformation. “Casual events” are simply props on a set. A green house. A family of Greens and Gays. A grandmother who is nosey and neighborly, but also leads the main character to his inciting incident.
I see anecdotal writing a lot in the novels pitched to me at writer’s conferences. Good writing, compelling characters, vivid scene development. Then I ask, “What does your main character want? What’s her inciting incident?” Often the answer is a blank stare.
Let’s have a little fun with this story. Suppose we changed the name from Little Eddie to William Jefferson Clinton and the location from Raleigh, NC to a small town in Arkansas. Can you see how the incident might take on new meaning? Same anecdote only now, instead of the grandmother pulling little Bill Clinton from the foyer he goes into the governor’s mansion, sits near JFK, and decides he will become president. Perhaps Jackie writes little Bill a note of encouragement. Now we have an inciting incident and possibly, a story.
Introduction, motivation, inciting incident. Without all three, you only have an anecdote. And without your sister along to recall the events, you might not even have that.