Jan 4, 2010

New Year Resolution - Finish Novels!

Happy 2010!

Blogging got forgotten during the holidays for me, I had a great time with my father visiting our little country home and even building an outdoor bar area for us, I think it'll be my favourite place to write!

Editing also got conveniently pushed aside over the last few weeks, but on the 2nd of January I sat back down at the computer, determined to finalise the last chapter of Dog Show Detective (the story of 11yr old Kitty who takes her Miniature Schnauzer to dog shows and solves mysteries). 

I've been stuck on this chapter for a bit, so, I had a crazy old guy pull out a gun and shoot a character, that got things moving! I then had my MC faint and wake up inside a caged and padlocked pen. How was I supposed to get her out of there?

The idea of the gun wielding lunatic is an old trick of adding  surprise to a narrative. In Revision & Self-Editing (James Scott Bell), surprising behaviour is a key way to liven a story that drags. Bell quotes Raymond Chandler as saying when things get boring, "Bring in a guy with a gun" (I sure did).

My puzzle now is how to get the Lead character out of the cage where she's trapped with her friend and a badly wounded boy. Bell has also helped me out with this predicament, he suggests the Lead character needs to show inner courage, experience conflict and act with honour. This great instructional book tells the self-editor to write a list of at least ten things that the Lead character could do, what would be unexpected?

So I wrote, keeping in mind all of the above suggestions, this is what I came up with:
When the old man returns with his gun, so does the wounded boy's dog. Just as the man raises his gun, the dog leaps and knocks him down, the bad guy hits his head and is unconscious. Kitty eventually gets the keys and opens their prison, they want to run, but Kitty won't be able to leave the boy bleeding with a bullet wound. Here is Kitty's conflict, she's only eleven, she wants to get to safety, but instead sends her friend for help and picks up the crazy man's gun, in case he wakes. Kitty chooses bravery and honour.

Bell also suggests if you come up with some outrageous solutions, it may be a good idea to use the 'Pull-Back Technique', basically you invent an over-the-top solution and then tone it down by about 25%. For example, I thought I would have the bad guy wake up and Kitty would have to shoot him. That's too extreme for a kids' book, so instead, I'll have Kitty think about what she has to do, get scared and decide that she can't kill a person. Kitty will lower the gun, and shoot his foot. That should be enough to keep them safe until help comes - extreme, minus 25%.

Revision & Self-Editing is proving to be a valuable tool for my first experience at editing a novel, I definitely recommend you check it out.


  1. Welcome back!

    Great post, Charmaine, and a great lesson on plot. I want to read Dog Show Detective. It sounds like a fun story! :-)

  2. Thanks for the great tips and examples. Your story sounds like a fun read!

  3. Thanks so much guys! I am finding the process of editing absolutely fascinating! Who knew? I think I might even be enjoying it.

    That story was easy for me to write because we have a rascally little Mini Schnauzer and my daughter dreams of showing, so we get to do lots of fun research. Hopefully she won't shoot anyone (although I have my suspicions of the younger one...)