Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Roads and Detours

I enjoy walking in the evenings. There’s nothing like the blue sky with a fluffy cloud or two, a gentle breeze to cool my face, and the soft call of the dove, or the "Bobwhite, Bobwhite" of the quail to relax me and sometimes to let me work out a problem I’m having with a story.

My characters usually start down a certain road. Maybe they’re pursuing a dream. Maybe they’re in trouble and are trying to figure out a solution. Or maybe they just follow along with the crowd, wherever their friends go, they go, their destination unclear. Whatever the reason for choosing a particular road, what happens when they reach a crossroad and there’s more than one path to follow? Or the way they’ve been going is blocked, and they have to take a detour.

Oh wow! That’s when the fun begins. When I’m walking, I might see a butterfly flitting around the flowers, so I change directions and take a detour from my planned path to get a closer look at the butterfly. What kind of butterfly is it? Can I take its picture?

Or I may see an unusual wild flower, one that I’ve never noticed before. Of course I must investigate. How did it get in my pasture? Will it survive in its new environment? Only time will tell. (Pardon the cliché.)

One day when I was walking I saw an ant trail. It isn't real clear here, but you can see it faintly running through the middle of the picture.

A few steps later this is what it looked like. See the fork in the road.

Some ants evidently decided to take a detour. They must have seen something that intrigued them. (Normally the field is green and lovely,  but this summer we broke all records and had the hottest, driest summer ever recorded.)

Of if a baby bird is just learning to fly, I have to stop and watch it awhile. If an armadillo is digging for its supper, I can’t resist taking a closer look. I can learn much about nature by observing an animal's behavior or what is growing around me. Sometimes what I see even leads to a book, like my first picture book, Frankie’s Perfect Home, about … you guessed it … an armadillo.

When our characters decide to take a detour, it’s sometimes frustrating, at least to me. I want them to go in a certain direction. How dare they mess up my plot. However, if I stop and listen to my protagonist, he/she may have much better plans than I have. Who am I to argue? It is her/his story, after all.

Shh. Don’t tell my characters I said this. They think it’s all their idea. But I love those detours that lead me to unknown places and strengthen my plot into a story that’s more exciting than my original tale.

It’s time to take a walk, I think, because I’m stuck at a crossroads with my current story.

See you later. I wonder if we'll take a detour.


  1. I need to take a long, long walk too. My agent just suggested that I put my 340-page novel into 1st person, from 3rd.

  2. Oh my goodness, Catherine. Well, take that long refreshing walk. Enjoy the clouds and the birds and the butterflies. Then you're ready to go. You can do it. :) Have fun.