March 23, 2010

Tuesday Edit Crunch: 5 Lessons From the Pup

Welcome to Tuesday Edit Crunch, an informative, fresh, concise, and important part of this nutritious... blog...


Today's Crunch is inspired by a little friend of mine.


I sit here with a black curly-haired pup on my lap. A place he designated as his favorite when he weighed 5 lbs. Now, he is nearly 11 lbs. What do I do when he's all grown up? Technically, he shouldn't get much bigger. But there's a chance. Oh well. He's warm.
Lesson #1: Know how your story ends. At least a general idea. I'm an outliner. I need to know how it's going to play out before I get too far. It's better if I know before I even start.

He's a cocker spaniel/poodle mix. A cockapoo. When we told my oldest daughter we were getting a cockapoo, she made a face and said, "What?! A caca POO? That sounds disgusting!"
Hmmm.
Lesson #2: Choose the right word. Most of the time, it's the first word to come to mind. But when you need to, choose carefully. Mark Twain said, "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug."


We almost named the pup Booker, which I thought was perfect... until we practiced the name out loud a few times. "Here, Booker!" quickly sounded a lot like, "Here, Booger!"
So, no. I wouldn't do that to anyone.
Lesson #3: Read out loud. I can't stress enough how valuable this is. See more here.

We had a family vote and named him Brodie. We're training him, and it's going pretty well. But my youngest daughter has some things to learn. She has lapsed into calling the pup "Vro-d?" As in, "C'mere Vro-d?" The 'B' is soft and the 'd' is just a touch of her tongue on the roof of her mouth, and it pops up at the end like a question. Granted, she sounds pretty laid back and cool as some 7 year olds do, but the dog doesn't know she's even talking to him. He doesn't know what to do, what she wants, and she gets pretty frustrated. So I say, "Brodie, come." And the dog comes, and she looks at me and throws her hands out, exasperated. I explain, and she tries again. "BRO-DEE, come." The dog comes. "Brodie, sit." And the dog sits.
Lesson #4: Know who your characters are, know what makes them tick, know what makes them move, or you'll lose them to some laid back, slurred-talking womanchild who will only confuse them and your plot.

As I said, we're training. House-training. It isn't the nightmare I thought it would be. The pup is eager to please and very smart. As a matter of fact, if I recognized his signals more often, we would have even fewer accidents. My desk is in his room, and when I'm writing, and he needs to go outside, he nips at my elbow, tugs at my sleeve, uses his teeth a bit. He uses the same signal when he wants to get on my lap, only without the teeth. Often, I don't want him on my lap, so I brush him away, throw him a toy, and keep writing.
Then, I smell something. Oops. He was telling me what he needed. He needed me to follow his signal.
Lesson #5: When you know your character well enough, something amazing can happen. It may well be one of my favorite parts of writing. I literally gasped the first time it happened. Even if you have an outline and plot turns and pinch points, your character may have his own idea of how you are going to connect the dots. So listen. Follow him to the next point. See what happens. When you realize your character knows what he wants, what he needs... begins tugging YOU along... IT. IS.  AWESOME. Don't frustrate your character so he piddles in front of the washing machine. Put him on a longer leash and see what he can do.

And that wraps up our Tuesday Edit Crunch! I hope you enjoyed it, and remember,
"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." -Groucho Marx
Are you finding lessons in unusual places?
Watch out for the the K's, they're especially crunchy. 


4 comments:

M. Gray said...

I love your last tip. Wouldn't it be awesome to actually meet the characters we made?

Hm. Maybe that's why it must be cool to be God.

Elana Johnson said...

Excellent advice! I struggle the most with #1, because I don't outline. I have a very vague idea of what I want the arc to be, but it's hard because I don't really KNOW.

And #5. I really don't know my characters until I write the whole first draft. They come alive for me in the rewrite.

L.T. Elliot said...

I'm definitely an outliner so this whole post really resonates with me. I know my characters, in and out, by the time I write their stories. Do they ever surprise me? Sure, but not in who they are. Great post, Krista!

Krista said...

M.! I love how your mind works!
I love the variety of methods I'm finding. Elana, I hit names and bios as soon as I've sketched the outline! I'm finding so much variety in methods. L.T., I find if I don't know my characters, they begin to sound the same... as each other or past characters in other books!

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