Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Thing in the Tree

We have two yellow labs, Jake and Cooper. They are litter-mates so we call them "The Twins" but they couldn't be more different if they came from different litters or different breeds.

Cooper is afraid of new furniture arrangements, and sometimes the floor if it is slippery or a new texture. He only barks indoors and only at people in the house, even us sometimes. Cooper is aloof and occasionally wants to be scratched but most of the time he's content to be in the same room with us but out of the way. He isn't very smart and only knows two commands: sit and shake. After that he's a lost cause. But he is pretty. He is classic lab and very photogenic and if he could have followed directions like "stay" he would have been a good doggie model and we'd be rich. But he's just pretty.

Jake, on the other hand, is the smarter of the two. He can sit, shake, speak, and stay. He is not pretty. He's crooked. He has a pointy head, his ears are not seated on his head the same way on both sides and his eyes are not level with each other. He is asymmetrical. He is tall and leggy and when he runs, he is not fast and all his legs run in different directions. He is, however, friendly and playful and social and loves to be scratched and petted. He would be perfectly content to settle his 100 pounds in my lap to nap or watch TV.

Every night at precisely 8:30 Jake asks to go out. He paces the fence a couple of times and then the barking starts. There is a creature that comes out at night and runs along the fence. Jake's "job" is to tree it. I don't know what type of creature it is. It could be a raccoon, squirrel, possum, or a neighbor's cat. Jake probably doesn't know what it is. He just knows it has to be treed. Every night. At precisely 8:30.
The result, however, is a stalemate. The creature cannot get down and Jake can't get at it. And all he can do is bark and jump up and down. And that leads my husband, or me, to have to call him and call him and finally coax him in with a treat. Every night. At precisely 8:40. And at the age of almost 10 years old, Jake has a bad hip with a touch of tendonitis, a touch of dysplasia and a touch of arthritis. And every morning, his hip is sore from the running and jumping. But by evening he's limbered up and ready to go out. It's an endless cycle.

I take from this that in writing it is important not to get "treed." There are some subplots, back stories and even characters that just won't work in the story no matter how loud we bark or how high we try to reach. And we need to edit those out (no matter how interesting they may be to the author). Do we really want our readers to have to reach? Sometimes, however, there are juicy morsels in the tree that just need to be shaken a little and they will come into your story and add so much flavor!
I recently had my main character's back story fill in. It was a revelation! And finally, I know why he does some things and why he doesn't do other things. And I can't wait to get back to writing to complete the novel. Because while I was shaking this morsel out of the tree, I realized that this part of his back story is a story of its own that needs to be written.

No comments:

Post a Comment