Monday, July 18, 2011

The Soapbox

Got any pet peeves?

Ever get cut off in traffic?

Have a rude customer service rep?

Or experience anything else that challenges your patience or makes you want to hop up on the soapbox?  

Me too.

While I believe that these episodes are opportunities to build character, (work with me here) I also see them as fodder for writing ideas.

For example, while attending a funeral, I witnessed an interesting breach in etiquette. To be fair, it wasn't anything horrific; funerals are awkward and people are often at a loss as to how to behave. I was probably only attuned to this hiccup in decorum because the service was for a relative.

I wasn't upset, but rather, inspired. My thoughts turned to writing an article, perhaps entitled Five Things Not to Do at a Funeral. Once the wheels were turning on that idea, I had a few others, and was pleased that something that might have sparked a soapbox speech provided a creative opportunity instead. 

Soapbox topics can be tricky. They generate enough emotion to make us jump up there, but I think tact is necessary. What good is a blistering speech if it turns readers off? On the other hand, an emotional and thought provoking commentary has its place too.  Granted, not everyone will agree with your stance, but well written prose will gain attention and respect. What do you think? How would you maintain a good balance?

What makes you want to hop on the soapbox? What writing ideas do they generate?

Happy writing,

P.S. I am approaching 300 followers! I think it is nearly time for a giveaway to celebrate. Stay tuned!

Photo credit: Stock Exchange


  1. Hi Karen - frothies .. of the soapy variety! I used to have so many - I now realise that only I can deal with my own things .. others must be accountable for theirs.

    Can't say it pleases me and I need to let off steam .. but now I know that the soap box no longer needs to be ascended .. is a waste of time (usually) because of the negativity and emotional baggage we carry around ..

    I toddle off into the distance - I do agree though - lots of opportunities on food for thought re posting or story telling opportunities ...

    Blogging etiquette and hence social etiquette would be a two+ ... but different countries, different social norms, and different expectations - we are just not the same ... thankfully!

    Congratulations on nearing 300 - that is a magic number ...

    Enjoy the week .. Hilary

  2. I love when inspiration strikes. So what did the person do to attract attention?

  3. This happened to me on my trip to Haiti last week when a woman (not in my group) began taking pictures of some very impoverished Haitians as we visited their homes and delivered food to people who otherwise would not have eaten. I wanted to rip her camera from her hand and stomp on it. But I also got an idea for a character.

  4. Hi Karen -

    I like the way you turn a negative into a positive. :)

    Pet peeves? I have my share, but I think I'll meditate on how I can turn them into an article or post.


  5. I try not to rant online, although my biggest pet peeve is drivers on cell phones.

  6. I think Donald Maass was the one to write that we can nail those great lines in novels that we always wish we could say out loud and in person but can't think of at the time.

    I recently felt pretty offended by something and had to chomp down not to speak my mind. But I remember those feelings and you betcha, I'll use them in a novel.

    ~ Wendy

  7. Hilary,
    You make some great points! So we have lots of food for thought, anyway, don't we?

    I know, me too! Suffice it to say that some people are not as sensitive to the family and what they have going on.

    It is interesting when people don't think about others' sensitivities, isn't it? Glad you got an idea!

    Thanks a bunch! I think you have the right idea, turning them into something good.

    Excellent point. Ranting isn't very productive, is it? Not appealing either.

    This is a great point too! I think we can live vicariously through our characters!


  8. Stupidity is my pet peeve. Ignorance is simply not knowing but being willing to change while stupidity is knowing and doing the wrong thing anyway.

  9. My biggest pet peeve is people talking and driving and people trying to jump queues.

  10. I have a soapbox essay that my husband won't let me send out for publication because it would ruin family relationships. But at least I got it off my chest.

  11. Drivers who make left turns from the right lane and people who don't use their turn signal is a bit of peeve with me. Haven't used it in a book though. Yet... LOL

  12. Diane,
    My sister knows someone who says, "There ain't no pill for stupid." That might make a good bumper sticker...?

    Talking and driving is something I try and avoid, unless they are live people in the car with me. :) It was illegal to talk on the cell phone and drive where I used to live in NJ.

    Okay, so here is a tricky one. I guess I would have to agree with your husband. :) You could count it as therapy, though!

    Ah yes, I would have to agree with you. It does make it hard on the other driver. Let me know if you include it in a book! :)


  13. Now I'm curious--what on earth happened at the funeral?

    I like your idea of sparking writing outlines, rather than jumping on our soapboxes.

    My biggest pet peeve right now is people who are chatting on cells or texting while doing business. They act like the person in front of them is less valuable than the one on the other end of the phone.

    Shall I write a humor article about babies being born with cell phones in their hands,rathter than silver spoons in their mouths? Aha!


    P.S. If you could pop over to my blog this week and enter to win a prize, I'd get down off my soapbox in a hurry!

  14. I try to think of soapbox articles as fodder for discussion. But sometimes they are so deeply biased as to turn off most readers...somehow I doubt yours would be like that. :)

  15. Human injustice always gets my motor running. I'm quick to say my piece for the under-represented, the minority, the one with less. Putting these into characters is a great idea.

  16. Jen,
    I'm still tempted to hop on my soapbox. I do mentally sometimes. :) That is an interesting one - the cell phone thing. I suspect they'll make them soon for babies. lol Will hop over to your blog!

    Yes, the deeply biased thing is true, and I think this is where we need to be careful, and responsible, don't you think?

    Me too, and I think you are right. Putting them into a story is an excellent outlet.


  17. Great idea to write about what not to do at a funeral.
    One of my pet peeves is when younger people are rude to older people.

  18. That's what I love about writing fiction. If done well, it can be life-changing. After all, Jesus taught using parables, right? :)

  19. I think when someone asks me my advice on a matter and I give it to them, knowing they don't really want to know my thoughts, they've already made up their own minds. I don't rant to them about it, but it sure does irk me! :O)

  20. Donna,
    Yes, I need to actually write it all out and submit it somewhere! I agree, I hate seeing people treated rudely, no matter what their age.

    This is true! I need to take that into deeper consideration with my WIP. :)

    Yes, I've had that happen. It is frustrating, but then again, it isn't worth the stress, is it?


  21. I have too pet-peeves to mention. And like Jeannette, I'm dying to know what happened at the funeral. I like how you skipped answering, though. You're very slippery, Karen Lange. Must be why I love your blog so much.

  22. Rude people!!! I can't understand how someone can be rude to someone else.

  23. Karen, I learned something new from your blog: I didn't know the term soapbox, or hopping on the soapbox for that matter :)

  24. Joylene,
    Suffice it to say we had someone monopolize my Dad's time at my sister's funeral at an inappropriate time. Perhaps I'm not so slippery any more? :)

    I know. We all have a challenging day from time to time but we shouldn't be rude. Do unto others, right?

    Glad to be of service! To be fair, you aren't from the US, so you wouldn't necessarily know. :)


  25. I don't mind ranting. However, one thing that makes me mad here in Mexico is few people buckle their children into car seats. They let their children just jump around in the back or they will let them sit on their laps in the front seat.

  26. Hey Neighbor! LOL, do not get me started on people and their peeves. :) Narrow mindedness will start me rolling in a heart beat though.

    Have a great week, I'm still buried in drawings. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  27. I struggle with bad customer service and how as a Christian I am to respond. Should I ignore it or say something? Not sure.

  28. Clarissa,
    I hear you. This is the way, as you know, it used to be in the states. I know two families who lost a child because they weren't buckled in. So I am an advocate for this too.

    Hey back! Glad you are busy and making some cash. We'll get together soon! :)

    I know, it can be a tough call. I try to think of what Jesus would do. Although it is hard to picture him on the phone on hold. :)

    Have a good week all,

  29. I agree - I think that "soapbox" topics should be approached with tact as well as honesty. I've come across articles which did contain good points, but the tone was so harsh and condemning that it was difficult to accept the truths it contained.

  30. Really poor customer service really irks me, and I'm being generous here. I can put up with a lot of things, but not that. Oh, and people who talk with their mouths full of food. I mean, what's up with that? Not cool!

  31. Oh, I've gotten some great mileage out of my pet peeves, including a column I wrote where I set New Year's resolutions - for others. Needless to say, that doesn't work, but it was a funny piece. :)

    Great ideas!

  32. I used to hop up on my soapbox a lot more when I was younger but your observation hits the mark--a preachy speech can alienate listeners and work against you.

    I still spring up there every now and again over blatantly offensive song lyrics played on popular radio stations. (Just wrote a post on that front!) I'd like to think one can be expressive and tactful at once. Maybe that makes me a curmudgeon nowadays. Eh.

    Glad you got a creative spark from what otherwise would have been a soapbox speech. Great advice about flipping an annoyance into an opportunity!

    Be well and enjoy the rest of this week. :-)

  33. Becky,
    Very good point! (You must have been raised by a smart mom.:) A tactful and kind delivery can make the point.

    No, not cool! My parents were sticklers for making sure we didn't talk with our mouths full. So I'm with you.

    This is true, you can make such a great point with humor too. You have that gift!

    Yes, there are things that set me off too and sometimes I go off on a tangent. And then I consider the scripture that says "A word fitly spoken..." and I reign it back in. :)

    Happy week to all,

  34. 7 away, YaY!

    Inspiration out of frustration can come from anywhere. I remember when the YA is too Dark debate started, I waited, annoyed about the original article until I spoke about the article with my students. Thus, a post was born!

  35. A friend of mine wore a shirt the other day that said something like "Careful or you'll end up in my novel." I thought it was perfect for using situations and life scenario's for your writing benefit.

  36. Theresa,
    I know! I'm excited. :) Ah yes, I remember your post on that topic. You just never know where they'll come from, do you?

    Love that! Think I've seen that on a mug. It's a good one, that's for sure.

    Thanks for stopping,

  37. Karen, I loved this post. It made me think about some of my own ideas and how they manifested themselves. Never in the way you expect!
    Hugs and blessings

  38. Thank you Katt! Yes, things pop up all the time, don't they? :) Good to see you!

    Blessings to you,


Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Have a blessed day!