Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chasing Squirrels

Woof and Arf love to chase squirrels.

Not a big surprise - they're dogs.

What is a big surprise is that yesterday Arf almost caught one. If that squirrel hadn't flicked up his tail at the last quarter second, it would've been between Arf's teeth. And I'm sure I would've been hauling a bawling Arf to the vet.

As it was, Arf believed that squirrel was Houdini himself - a master escape artist.

Since I'm smack in the middle of drafting a new manuscript, this little scene got me thinking about people and characters. We all have our Arf moments. Something is in our grasp. We know it's ours. Then - poof- it's gone. As it it were never there to begin with.

Think how that makes you feel. Perplexed, for starters. Depending on the situation, it can go in different directions from that point, but the general direction will be downhill.

Now apply that to your characters. Don't let the strong ones always get their way. Let another one snatch your protagonist's birthday cake out from under her nose just as she's blowing out the candles.

It should give you a good twist - just when you need one.

9 comments:

Terry Odell said...

great suggestion. Twists are what keep readers going.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

What a wonderful way to put it! Twists are great; and they happen all the time in life, why not in our writing? Thanks, Carol.

Elspeth

Carol Kilgore said...

Thanks Terry and Elspeth. I try to present little things that work for me. I get so engrossed when I'm drafting a new story that I sometimes forget about putting in surprises - until I wonder how to get from Point B to Point C.

Laura Eno said...

That's a good way to think of it - putting in Arf moments (or squirrel moments). :)

Helen Ginger said...

When editing, I've sometimes seen the opposite: secondary characters take over and leave the protagonist dusty.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Conda V. Douglas said...

Great fun example of the unexpected event, Carol.

Sheila Deeth said...

I love your suggestion, and your illustration. My brother's greyhound caught a squirrel once but didn't know what to do with it. The squirrel won. So maybe I'd better make sure I know what to do with those characters too, or at least be ready to let go when I have to.

Carol Kilgore said...

Laura - Squirrel moments . . . love it. We have some pretty sassy squirrels, so I'm sure his point of view is real different from Arf's.

Helen - Thanks for the heads up. That's a good point to keep in mind.

Conda - Thanks. I love surprises.

Sheila - I'm sure the squirrel did win. Greyhounds are much faster than Arf, a Blue Heeler, and Woof, a Border Collie. Letting go can be a good thing! Thanks for commenting.

Jack W. Regan said...

Good advice!

I can't remember what writing book I was reading, but it said something like, "If you feel your plot bogging down, have someone pull a gun." They weren't necessarily speaking literally. What they meant was to make something unexpected happen, mix things up a little (or a lot). Something that should happen, doesn't. Or something just goes terribly, terribly wrong.