Finding Your Way In #2

In my last post I wrote about writing as a process of discovery. I truly believe this to be the case. When you begin a story,  you have some vague notions about what you’d like to do and perhaps what you hope to do. Then, as you write, things change. Unanticipated problems show up. So do unanticipated solutions.

Recently, I blogged about a story I was writing called Snot Boy. I envisioned it as a middle grade chapter book. It would be very much a boy’s book with lots of gross, nasty descriptions of goo and mayhem. The emphasis will be on action. I want short sentences and a limited vocabulary because I’m not aiming at the top readers in the class. My audience, as I see it, are boys who don’t especially enjoy reading or do it well. My goal is to change their minds.

In my last post I introduced Two Face, the cannibal monster who is the story’s villain. After him came Snot Boy himself, the hero. Last time I sent Snot Boy off on his on his quest to rescue his sister Hummingbird and avenge his brothers, who were eaten by Two Face.

I’m pleased with the way the story is working out. I manage to write about four pages every day. Everything was going  well. My plot outline was a picture book text based on several Northwest Native American legends which I stuck together to make a story. However, as I kept writing I discovered a problem.

The plot was too direct. It didn’t have enough twists or turns. That’s fine in a picture book text where you don’t have a lot of space to work with. It’s not so fine in longer fiction. By the time the story gets going, the reader immediately perceives how it’s going to end. No suspense. If there’s no suspense or anticipation, why bother to read it?

The solution? Snot Boy needs a friend. Someone he can talk to. Someone with whom he can share the adventure. Someone to help him out if he gets into a jam. Who can that be? There’s no such character like that in the picture book version of the story.

Here’s where you need to start thinking. Who can be a companion for Snot Boy? I discovered a clue in the original picture book text. Snot Boy meets a family of slugs and helps them out by finding their lost babies. The grateful slugs then give Snot Boy advice about how to tackle Two Face. Aha! Why not push that a little farther? How about taking one of those little slugs and sending her on the journey with Snot Boy

Now what do I call her? I need a name. I can’t just call her slug. Or can I? Now the wheels start turning. I’m always surprised by how my mind makes interesting associations. They’re mostly unconscious, but they work.

One of my good friends is Jenni Holm. She and her brother Matt created the popular graphic novel series about Baby Mouse. Well, if it works with mice, it can work with slugs. Here’s my new character–Baby Slug!

See how easy it is? If you can just get your thoughts aimed in the right direction, you don’t have to worry about finding the answers. The answers will come to you.

Now how are Snot Boy and his new pal Baby Slug going to get rid of Two Face?

I’ll let you know when I figure it out. More later

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