Fourth Wish : Day 27

meu mundo 448I mentioned a couple of blogs ago that I came up with the title of my novel-in-progress, The Fourth Wish, before it was actually in progress . . . and before I had any idea what my heroine might wish for. To be honest, I’m not at all sure what I would wish for, if I was granted three wishes (let alone a fourth wish). So, as a 53-year-old man, how could I begin to imagine what wishes a 14-year-old girl might make?
Of course, I used to be fourteen years old myself at one time. For about a year, as I recall. But that was way back in 1973. And I was a boy. Even if I could tap into that version of myself and conjure up some credible wishes, would they necessarily ring true as the wishes of a teenage girl in 2013?

Time, then, for some market research. In the two years since Flip was published, I’ve visited schools all over the country to give talks and readings and to run creative writing workshops – including three very enjoyable visits to Scissett Middle School, near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. The students who have attended my sessions at Scissett have been bright and engaged, a pleasure to meet and work with, and the librarians and teaching staff have always made me very welcome.

Me, at Scissett Middle School

Me, at Scissett Middle School

So I emailed one of the English teachers, Maura Ryan, to ask if she would mind getting a group of her students to respond to the question: “If you could have three wishes, what would you wish for?” I added the condition that each wish should be specific to them personally – so no wishing for world peace, or an end to famine, or for Huddersfield Town to win the Champions League.

I was both immensely grateful and, frankly, staggered that 81 students from Years 7 and 8 filled in their responses – making 243 wishes in all. Having sifted through them, I will be using two of these wishes for my central character, Gloria, and several of the others as wishes which she considers but eventually rejects. I won’t reveal which wishes I’m using because I don’t want to give away the plot (and the plot might change, in any case, as the novel progresses . . . my plots usually do).

But I thought it would be interesting to share some of the responses, to give a glimpse of what a cross-section of today’s youngsters would wish for. I’ve divided them by gender, to highlight the similarities and differences between what the boys and the girls wished for.

Most common boys’ wishes
1. travel back in time
2. infinite wishes
3. super powers
4. live forever
5. rule the world
6. be invisible
7. ability to fly
8. know (or choose) the time and place of my death
9. inifinte wealth
10. travel into space

Most common girls’ wishes
1. travel back in time/travel into the future
2. know what are other people are thinking
3. put right the wrongs I’ve done
4. eternal happiness
5. become famous/be a famous singer
6. live forever
7. infinite wealth
8. ability to fly
9. perfect face/body
10. ability to talk to animals

Among the wishes unique to individual students, as opposed to those which cropped up several times, my favourites inlcuded:

– for book characters to be real so I could be friends with Katniss Everdeen
– A TV remote that pauses real people you don’t like
– no more school, ever
– to know if there’s a Heaven and a God

and best, if most disturbing, of all:
– to be a vampire, to know what it’s like to suck the life out of someone you care about.

(The Fourth Wish is not a vampire novel, by the way.)

from The Book of Ruminations, by Qi Tinh (151 – 203 AD)

Who's the daddy?

Who’s the daddy?

As a celibate monk, Qi Tinh, of course, had no children. Some critics have argued that, while he never experienced fatherhood, his paternal instinct manifested itself in his teachings – in the passing of wisdom to the young novices at the monastic order to which he belonged. Qi Tinh, however, regarded himself not as a teacher but as a ruminator. Nor would he have had any truck with the notion that he dispensed fatherly advice.

He makes this clear in the coda to The Book of Ruminations, with perhaps the best-known and most widely quoted of his epigrams:
“I wish that I might travel back in time to meet my adolescent self and show him the true path. But why should that youth heed the counsel of an old man who has taken so many wrong turns?”

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