Monday, September 22, 2008

No, Seriously. Just Try It.

In which I tell a story, eventually relate it to writing, challenge you, and introduce a new Monday feature here in Jacqui's Room.*

1. The story
I took Captain Destructo to the grocery store the other day. I don't know if I've mentioned it yet, but in addition to being, um, active, Destructo is, at 22 months, the size of the average three-and-a-half year old. I am not joking. So he can reach everything, including everything in the cart. His favorite thing to do is reach back, grab something (like say a loaf of bread or a package of raw hot dogs or a baby wipes), and to eat it straight through the packaging. Shopping with Destructo is like shopping with an over-caffeinated goat.

So I'm standing at the check out counter, tossing half-chewed items onto the conveyor belt, taking them away from Destructo and putting them back on the conveyor belt, promising him stickers if he'll just not. be. a toddler. FOR. FIVE. MINUTES, trying to hold my wallet under my chin, dropping my wallet, wondering how the heck a giant jar of mango and chipotle chutney got into the cart... The usual. And I hear a snicker.

I look up. There's a young woman standing there rubbing her little bump of a pregnant belly. And staring at me. Absofreakinglutely smug smug smug. You could practically see her brain saying, "MY baby is NEVER going to..." and "I am NEVER going to be one of THOSE moms!"

So I shouted, "Think fast!" and threw the hot dogs at her. No, I didn't. But I thought to myself, "Honey, NONE of us was ever going to be one of those moms. Look forward to seeing you here in about a year."

2. I promise we are getting to the part that's about writing soon.
So then I got to thinking: this is how life goes. One of the things that makes getting older bearable interesting is the way we tell ourselves, "I'll NEVER" and then we do, and there's a story that gets us there.

I swore I would never in a million billion years...what? What have you sworn you'd never do that now you do all the time? And how did you get there?

3. I challenge you to just try this:
In my wanderings through the world on online card craft blogs, I noticed they challenge each other a lot more than we book bloggers do. And they DO the challenges.** So, I am stealing the idea. I challenge you this:

Look at your work in progress or something you're revising or anything. What would your main character never, ever do, not in a million billion years or for a thousand dollars?

Now, make her do it. Make her do the one thing she would have sworn would never happen. And make sure to show (not tell) us how she got there. Tada! You've made your character more complex and your story more full of tension.

4. No, seriously.
Really, go write it. Oh, come on, just try it.
Which brings us to our new Monday feature: No, Seriously. Just Try It.
This idea grew out of three things I've been pondering while revising my novel.
1. My best writing comes when it's pressure free and I am thinking "just try it" and having fun.
2. One of the hardest things for me about revising is thinking outside the box; it's hard, when you're so wrapped up in something, to envision how it could be different and better in big ways.
3. I should blog more about writing.

So every Monday for the next six weeks, I'll have a No, Seriously. Just Try It (hereafter abbreviated N,S.JTI.) idea for you. But you have to promise me you'll try some of them, okay? And you have to tell us how it went in the comments. And I still want to know what's been crossed off your "I'd never" list.

Who's in?


* See what happens when I drink a triple latte?
** They also give each other a lot more presents, which they call Blog Candy. I'm working on that part.

17 comments:

Colorado Writer said...

Thanks for this. It's funny because I usually take all three boys with me to the store...and darn it if we aren't all crying when we leave. I usually have to have a cocktail when I get home from the grocery store.

Sharon Blankenship said...

Count me in, Jacqui. Could be great. Could be a disaster. But it WILL sure be fun.
Sharon

Jacqui said...

I have hives just thinking about taking all three!

Sharon, sweet. I can't wait to see.

sruble said...

I don't have children, but what you're describing sounds like how much fun it would be to dress my cat up in costumes (and then go to the ER because of all the scratches). I feel sorry for the parents shopping with kids that like to grab and chew.

I want to try your challenge with my WIP, but I need to get into the story a bit before I start throwing curve balls at it. Might be good for the middle if it starts to drag.

Jacqui said...

sruble, I think it's a "when it starts to drag" idea too. Let us know how it works out.

Elise Murphy said...

Um . . . my list is SO long. I was NEVER going to have Barbie's in my house (we now have about 25), I was never going to get a DVD player in the car (an absolute lifesaver for drives over 1 hour), I was never going to send my kids to a religious school (oops, did that) I was never going to clean the house instead of write, bug my agent with needy phone calls, yell at my husband in front of the kids, get fat,get re-addicted to caffeine, have TWINS (for God's sake). I am afraid to go on. My life is a lie . . . wahhhhhh!

And yes, when I get stuck, I will try your exercises. I like complicated characters.

Jacqui said...

Oh, Elise. Your life is not a lie. Your life BEFORE was a lie. Now it's just reality for all. :)

I was never going to let this blog eat up gigantic chunks of my writing time...

Vijaya said...

I'm revising and so I will do your exercise. It reminds me along the lines of: what's the worst thing that can happen? Do it to your character. Now what's the next worst thing ... and so on, and I tell you, I learned a whole lot about my character doing that.

Thank you for giving us a great exercise to do.

Jacqui said...

Have fun, Vijaya. Make sure to come back and tell us how it went, okay?

Kelly said...

Cute idea!

And I hear ya about grocery shopping with your young children...

C.R. Evers said...

I'll have to think about this a little bit. I was thrust into chaos at an early age, so it's hard for me to remember the days of "I'll never". I learned quickly not to say such things.

but I'll definately try that with my characters! What a great addition to your blog! You have the best idea's.

Brenda said...

I was never going to marry a farmer (they were always so boring in school) and I married a farmer...

I was never going to milk a cow (or get near one for that matter) and I milk cows on my hubs dairy farm...

I was never going to be one of those people who dressed up their dogs, etc. and I have the most spoiled dog you will ever find...he has his own little drawer space for his shirts/coats...every room in the house has a spot just for him and it is in front of the windows and is usually the best spot in that room...He has a carseat he sits in (front seat) when he goes for drives with me...the lady at the bank has gotten use to not giving him dog treats, instead she gives him a lollipops (that I unwrap and hold up for him to lick until he is done)...my son still claims I never bought him as many toys as I have my furbaby...and yes, my furbaby doesn't know he's a dog...he thinks he is human...

Great exercise...I have will give it a try...

Jacqui said...

Thanks, Kelly.

Christy, maybe yours is "I'll never say I'll never..."

Brenda, I can't wait for "Furbaby" the book!!!!

Marina said...

Hi Jacqui, I found you through Tabitha's blog.

I remember the pregnancy smugness thing. MY baby was not going to have a dummy. That lasted all of about 6 weeks, and I still remember the relief when I finally gave in and blessed silence descended.

My main character's already done something she'd never dreamed herself capable of, right at the start of the book. She's a devoted mother, yet when she left her husband she walked out on the kids as well.

Jacqui said...

Marina, welcome!

And oh, yeah, I was NEVER going to have a bucket of pacifiers in my house, some in my pockets, some in the car...

I'm intrigued by your character's "never." Nice one...

cindy said...

jacqui, what a great challenge! tho i am in the midst of revisions with my editor and she probably wouldn't appreciate it if my heroine got pregnant by accident at this point of the publication process. haha!

and i hope you see the smug prego mom again in a year for sho.

Jacqui said...

Come on, Cindy, throw her a curveball! :) Maybe in your picture book?