Friday, July 5, 2013

Emily Gets a Puppy...That wasn't in the outline!

So I'm writing along on my new novel, following my carefully prepared outline, and suddenly I read back over the last few pages I've written to make sure I'm not dreaming because for some reason, my main character just acquired a puppy. I go through my notes. No puppy. I read through my typed draft. Definitely a puppy and a very significant presence for the rest of the story. What happened?

First off, let me explain a couple of things for those of you who don't know me, I don't have pets. I can't have pets. It isn't as if I don't like dogs and cats. In fact, I love little balls of fur that love you unconditionally and rub against your legs and play fetch and sit on your lap to watch TV with you and greet you at the door after a long day's work. (I don't like the cleaning up part after them, but that's part and parcel of taking care of another living being!) I'm highly allergic to fuzzy animals. Pretty much all of them. Including guinea pigs, which I had at one time. And since I don't know a lot about animals or how to care for them, I generally try to avoid writing them into my stories and having pet people cry "fowl" (hehe) when I say something that makes no sense.

But as I was writing Emily's story, the puppy made sense. As Stephen King said in his novel on writing, it's almost as if the puppy in the story was already there and  I was simply the archaeologist digging up the bones, revealing the history of what had been hidden.

Revision isn't only about changing your mind, it's about reading the mind of the world you've built and discovering where it leads you. A scientific experiment of sorts. Sometime that's a good thing. If you've done a good job of world building, you end up with a surprise puppy that leads to great plot twists. (Seriously, this puppy is one of the best things that has happened in this book. Tied together some loose strings I didn't know how to work in and made some of the plot twists even twistier. With just a puppy!) But you also have to be careful. Puppies can also lead to tangents that will take the plot too far off track or worse, ruin the flow of the book. That's why it's so important to have your rules already established for what works and what doesn't, especially in fantasy or science fiction writing.

So find the puppy, the surprising twist that binds together the strings of your life that you haven't been able to pull together. It's a sweet, tender moment to realize beauty still exists in the world, you don't have to be angry all the time, and that happiness is attainable when we find someone to love and trust.