Let the Cat Die Already

bastet

Statue of Bastet, Egyptian cat goddess via http://www.egyptpast.com

It’s halfway into the first week of NaNo, and even though I’m only half-participating this year (editing and overhauling my MS), I thought I’d do a blog post on writing. More specifically, on killing the cat.

I know, I know, everybody likes cats. LOL or Grumpy or big or small, everybody likes them. The Egyptians worshipped them, and all.

But guys, the cat must die.

Have you noticed how lately at the movies—especially the big, blockbuster type movies—that while you may enjoy it for the various jokes or shenanigans, overall the plot just leaves you kind of.. eh?

Like, you’ve seen that movie before, and you already know who’s going to come out on top of every scene before it happens?

I have to say, I have felt a lot of this. I went with my family to see Pacific Rim on opening night, and don’t get me wrong, I loved that movie. It is fun, fun, fun, especially if you’re a fan of Guillermo del Toro’s other work. (Which you should be!)

But we went to the midnight showing—or maybe 10 pm showing—and I was tired. For the first time since I was a kid, I fell asleep in the movie theater. But when I told my husband and my brother that, they laughed at me, because I fell asleep during the fight scenes.

Ridiculous, right? That’s where the action is!

Except…

I knew exactly how each of those battles was going to go as soon as they started. Sometimes I’d rouse myself mid-battle and nod and let myself close my eyes for another minute, because the fight was following the pattern I was expecting and so I didn’t really need to be paying attention. Somehow my subconscious knew that, and knew when I did need to pay attention—like looking just in time to see the Newton’s Cradle bit.

Everything new and wonderful about that movie was the jokes and the effects and the character back story that leaked out bit by bit. Which yes, I admit, still made for a fun movie. But the plot turns did not do anything like surprise me. This is the same reason why so many people were bored with Iron Man 3 and why it’s only been the recent, funny Thor commercials that have gotten you excited (that’s not just me, right?).

The culprit behind all of this is the widely-hailed book on screenwriting (that has been used to inspire lots of book-writing, too), Save the Cat, by  Blake Snyder. The book is subtitled “The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need,” and gives pointers on exactly (in the terms of screenwriting, down to the minute) plot points and downturns and… well, everything you need for a plot, needs to go.

And this is great. It really has helped a LOT of people write books. Or movies. Or whatever.

But it also means that people, whether consciously or not, are getting used to the pattern, and getting bored of it.

This is why things like The Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead are so popular right now. Because they subvert the expectations that people have—no one is safe, and no one is immune. Anyone could die. And that keeps readers on their toes.

Now, I don’t have stories where people are dying all of the time, and most stories don’t. But the principals are the same.

So the gist of this post? Okay, take advice where you want to. But don’t follow the advice to the letter if that’s not what’s going to work for your story. Yes, stories need high and low points. Yes, your character needs upswings and downswings. But sometimes something out of left field is what is really going to be remembered. Sometimes, you have to kill the cat.

What I’ve Been Up to this November

 

That lovely group of ladies are who I spent the first few days of November with, on my first-ever writer’s retreat, in a cabin outside of Heber, Utah. There were a whole bunch of awesome talented ladies there, including Karen Hoover who organized the event, the illustrious Ali Cross, master of the Writing Dojo, where I sometimes write, CK Bryant, a rising star in the Indie-publishing world, and so, so many more. (Can you spot me? I’m right in the middle of things, in the teal top!)

It was beautiful there—and cold!  But I have to admit I did not spend a lot of time taking in the surroundings. Instead I did a lot of this:

Except with less smiling at cameras and more typing. (I also listened to wonderful, inspiring mini-lessons at mealtimes by Annette Lyon, which were an awesome boon to the experience!) I won a paperback copy of Ali Cross’ Become, by the way, which I’ve started and is gripping so far!

Anyhow, most of the ladies there were there to get a great kick-off to their NaNo Novels, understandably, and there was some awesome progress made by some—we’re talking tens of thousands of words! One gal wrote an entire 35K novella and started work on something else!

Me? I had one goal in mind, and one goal only: finish the WIP I’d been working on for oh, long enough that it would be embarrassing if those years hadn’t been interrupted by a marriage, out-of-work stress and a stay-at-home job working my butt off to try and pay the bills, and several (I’m not kidding, SEVERAL) cross-state-lines moves. I have been “close” to being done for probably a year now, but I needed one final push. And guess what?

I FINISHED MY WIP

In three days, I wrote 13,500+ words and finally got to write THE END. Now, I still have a lot of editing to do, but after that, I decided I needed a reward. And I decided my reward was going to be to NOT try and win NaNo. I’ve “tried” to win NaNo the past four or five years, though the closest I’ve ever come was 35K or so. (Which by the by, was this same manuscript). I decided this November I was going to take it easy and actually enjoy the holiday season a bit, rather than lock myself away in a room and ignore The Mr. all month long. Instead I was going to step back and enjoy my accomplishment for a little bit.

But now it’s time to get back to work. And I have to admit… I’m looking forward to it as much as ever!

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Thanks to Donna Weaver for the photos. 🙂