Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Unexpected Event

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.

She died.

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?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Places--Books and Odd

The last few Sunday posts have covered a wide range so I was going to cover books with this post but my good friend Kathy of Well Placed Words just blogged about books and her choices are fantastic. I'd add Writer tells all : insider secrets to getting your book published  by Robert Masello and Thanks, but this isn't for us : a (sort of) compassionate guide to why your writing is being rejected by Jessica Page Morrell.

Here's a link to a one line pitch contest with an agent at the Query Tracker blog: thanks to Suzette Saxton of Shooting Stars. Thanks, Suzette.

Next, why I've been absent the past couple of weeks because of an unexpected event.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Telling truths, telling lies

Helen of Straight from Hel awarded me the Creative Writer Award a couple of weeks ago. Since then, I've read and enjoyed several other award winners. But it got me to thinking about truth, lies and fiction and where the lines between them all are. Or are there lines? Any boundaries at all? Doesn't a story change as the storyteller changes? Don't we all "tell to our audience"? Even when writing the truth in the form a memoir such as Elizabeth of Sixth in Line, I believe writing or simply telling changes the tale.

Part of that is because truth is so odd, so fantastic, that it must be explained or simplified or something to be enjoyable to read. As proof here are a few truths that read like lies:
1. I graduated from college 3 months after I turned 19, the same year I was supposed to graduate from high school. This created many problems with employment as nobody believed me.
2. I can chew my own toenails (but don't).
3. The photo above is of the first blooming flowers on the original Oregon Trail. The trail is a few feet from my home in a suburb and my great-great grandfather traveled this same trail 150 years ago. This flower is considered a weed by many people because it grows wild.

So, dear readers, what do you think? Am I right about my ideas? Wrong? And what are some of your fantastic truths? Please share.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday Places--Classes

Hi all,

This week has been one of computer problems and taxes. Hence, my absence from the Web. I'm baack...this time with some classes to increase writing skills.

First, the online classes: offers inexpensive (usually $30.) on a wide variety of subjects with excellent writing coaches. offers different classes (again usually $30).
The Romance Writers of America's Suspense and Mystery offers classes ($30--this seems to be a standard).

Writing advice, much of it fantastic, abounds on the Internet. A couple of my favorite sites: has a wealth of articles interesting to the writer (and markets).
Margie Lawson's newsletter contains great lessons and contests to win her lecture packets.

Now, before I'm knocked off the Web, I'm headed over to visit some of my favorite blogs, some of which are listed in my sidebar (more soon).

Any classes or sites, dear readers, that you'd like to add?