Cleo (wearing her dress)
December 2002-March 17, 2009
On St. Patrick's Day this year, I took Miss Cleo into the vet for her blood test. We were trying a new drug to help her with her autoimmune hepatitis. We don't know when she first developed this deadly disease. She was a rescue and perhaps always had it. But she'd been in remission for years and now the disease had returned. She wasn't ill, yet, this was a preemptive strike against the disease. The drug wasn't working and made her dehydrated and so they gave her fluids. Being a curious basenji, she always enjoyed the vets, always loved the activity. She was sitting up, watching the world, then laid down and stopped breathing.
This is the unexpected event.
First, I know all my wonderful readers will be sympathetic and empathetic and thank you. It's been a rough couple of weeks, but the family is recovering from the loss of this sweet dog.
Second, as all you creative people know, everything is used for our art. The last few days, I've been considering what many writing coaches call "The Unexpected Event." If used well, it's one of the most satisfying parts of a novel or short story or screenplay, etc. IF, that is. After this unexpected event, I realized some of what is needed to make it work.
The event must be improbable but not seemingly impossible or random. Although the vet was shocked and horrified that Cleo just...stopped breathing, she did have a serious, often fatal, disease. Although her disease seemed to be in remission, there was no knowing how much damage it had done, or even if it was in remission. Cleo was a basenji. All basenjis in the US are descended from 4 breeding pairs, so all basenjis suffer from inbreeding. Who knew what else was wrong? As the vet said over and over, "I didn't EXPECT Cleo to die today."
So the groundwork has to be laid carefully when writing the unexpected event--not too much or the reader will guess what's going to happen. Not too little or the reader will think "Where'd this come from? Ridiculous. Absurd." Having an unexpected event happen in my life has helped me sense where that balance of enough planted information or enough setup without forecasting the event.
Dear readers, have you had an unexpected event in your life that you can think of? Or several? Or many? How about in your writing?