Jul 8, 2010

Read, Write, Drive

Road Trip!

Hitting the road (cars packed and everyone's waiting on me!) for our holiday in Brisbane. So, for your viewing pleasure, today we have a re-run of a January post. I'm taking this book along with me for the trip (and I'm still editing that WIP):

I've been stuck on a chapter for Dog Show Detective, 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 suggeststhe 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. I've not read that book by JSB but it's on the list. I'm currently reading his other book: Plot and Structure. He always has great suggestions.

  2. Thanks for the tip on the book - I'm currently reading Stephen King's On Writing, and it's quite good!

    Have a great holiday!

  3. The book sounds like a good one to have on hand, but I have to say that road trip pic is great! A gorgeous photo!

    I found you on Beverly's Versatile Blogger list! And I'm snaggin' your badge for my blog!

    Blessings & a bit o' sunshine!

  4. I read this book a while back and got a lot out of it. Hey! I'm giving you an award--check my site tomorrow 7/9/10 and pick it up. Http:wordsworldandwings.blogspot.com

  5. Sounds like one I'll have to pick up and add to my library. :)

    Glad you figured it out. Where'd you take that picture? It looks so much like the road out to the observatory. But, I suppose a lot of roads out this way look that way.

    Enjoy your trip.

  6. Lynda - I have Plot and Structure too - good book!

    Writing Nut - Thanks, holiday is going well so far :-)

    Ruthi - Thanks! I'm going to head over and check your blog out now!

    Catherine - aww thanks :-) I really need to catch up on posting about awards (good reminder).

    MPax - you may be right, I must now confess: it's not one of mine, I snatched it from the net - but I will have some of my own soon! :-)

  7. Oh, that book looks wonderful, I'm going to check it out!