Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Time to Lick a Few Frogs

Every now and then I reach a point in my WIP (Work In Progress. Though maybe I should call it my NIP. Because it's a novel. Whatever. Maybe I'm just overly fond of irrelevant parentheticals) where I lose momentum and start writing mildly diverting, but irrelevant (hey, like my parentheticals!) plot side-trips. Sometimes they work; sometimes they just lull me into a false sense of having accomplished my word count for the day.

Now, these little side-trips can be loads of fun, like when you're on a road trip and you decide to take the scenic route instead of the monotonous highway, and you come across something like this:

Or this:

Or even this:

Odd scenery adds color. Color is good. It makes the reading experience more enjoyable. Sure, stopping to stare might slow down the story a tad, but honestly, if all you want to do is plow through the story as fast as possble, wait for the movie.

But you can't spend the whole trip on the side roads, because variation is key to not falling asleep behind the wheel (or with the book on your face, as it were).

[Are you wondering yet where the frogs come in? You are? Good. Planting seemingly innocuous questions (even when they aren't phrased as questions--tricky, huh?) is also key to holding the reader's attention.]

To bump yourself out of the writer's equivalent of a scenic reverie, sometimes you have to toss a big "HUH?" into the story. A bit of action that shakes the reader awake with its unexpectedness. (I call this "surprising the reader." Brilliant, huh?)

[Here comes the frog part.]

Some people lick frogs to get high. Yes, odd as that sounds, it's true. I know this because I read in on the internet:

When I heard about frog-licking, my first thought (after "Eeew, gross!) was, how in the hell did anyone ever come up the idea of licking frogs to get high? Who was the first person to say, "Gee, I wonder what would happen if I just licked this frog?"

Obviously, this person was an adventurous soul, curious for curiosity's sake. He (or she; though, pardon me for being sexist, but having both a girl-child and a boy-child, I suspect it was a "he") wasn't bound by a "nobody's ever done this so I can't either" state of mind. His heck-I'm-gonna-try-it attitude was rewarded with some sort of euphoria, it's fair to assume, otherwise why else would so many people follow him down the frog-licking path?

When I get to a point in my NIP where I know something needs to happen, but I'm not quite sure what, I think about licking frogs. In other words, I come up with some crazy-ass scenario, and then just try it. Doesn't always work (some frogs are poisonous, after all) but often enough it's just the kick in the pants my characters need to liven up the trip.

So, here we go (no, this isn't really me; it's emblematic, for goshsake):

[Legal disclaimer: Some frogs really are poisonous. Do not go around licking frogs indiscriminately, because you could get hurt. Or die. Or turn into an amphibian. And I wouldn't want that on my conscience.]



LOL, love the frog licking idea (though I promise not to try it myself).

I do know what you mean about coming up with odd tidbits for stories and then having to test it out yourself. I once wanted to have a character get handcuffed behind her back and somehow maneuver herself so her hands were in front of her. I was drinking wine with a bunch of girlfriends that week, one of whom happened to have a pair of handcuffs (don't ask). We all attempted it and failed miserably, except for one girl with an exceptionally tiny butt and rather long arms. Voila! I went back and gave those traits to my heroine, and everything worked out just fine for her!


Linda G. said...

Oooh, sounds like a fun scene. Wine and girlfriends: the perfect research companions. :)

For a previous book, I had to figure out how easy it would be to slash an assailant's femoral artery if one's arms were pinioned. Got my hubby to help choreograph the action with me (used a pencil instead of a knife--there's only so much help hubby is willing to provide). Great fun, actually.