School is officially out for the summer in my part of the world. For those of us who are parents working mostly from home, this is both a joy and a curse. I love having my son home with me, but it is much more difficult to work. Which is approximately 56 hours of any given day. Living in a single-level, two-bedroom apartment only exacerbates the issue, especially when my son decides to watch his movies at full volume in the room adjacent to my “office”, aka this sad little corner of my kitchen table. There is not even a wall between my work space and the living room.
Despite the insta-migraine this creates, my brain adapts to the situation by attempting to make every bit of data it collects from my environment relevant to my work. A few days ago, my son was watching The Lorax, which is a brilliant movie based on a brilliant book. But it’s very colorful and loud and not very conducive to the quiet time required to get my work done. After I’d downed a shot of Excedrin between jovial exclamations of “Thneedville! Thneedville!” the mind meld began. Everything I saw and heard in the other room was suddenly relevant to what I was doing in my sad little corner of writing and editing.
1. When a story begins with seemingly happy characters in a seemingly perfect world, there had better be Utter Doom ahead.
2. According to O’Hare Air, people will buy anything in a plastic bottle. So put your books in plastic bottles and watch your sales soar!
3. Don’t let anything stand in the way of your author dreams. Unless those dreams require deforestation. In that case, eBooks!
4. When the going gets tough, the tough eat marshmallows.
5. The Once-ler repeatedly cut his story short and told Ted that if he wanted the rest of the story he’d have to come back another day. Give the reader what they want, but not all at once. Holding back the juicy bits until just the right moment can draw out the tension.
6. The Once-ler: “How nice to see someone so undeterred by things like, reality.”
7. The Lorax: “Nobody’s gonna buy that thing.”
The Once-ler: “Well, fortunately, you’re not the target market. Weirdo.”
Ignore the haters. You aren’t writing for those weirdos.
8. The success of the Once-ler’s Thneed comes out of nowhere.
No one knows why certain books take off and others don’t. But when a book does skyrocket, people are going to notice, and then they have to see what all the fuss is about. And then everyone thinks they need to read that book, even if they know they won’t like it, just so they can have an opinion on it. This can work in your favor. It can also not work for you at all. As was the case with the Once-ler, a jolt of unexplained success is not always good for the long run.
9. Ted’s main goal is to get a tree for Audrey. Half-way through the movie, when Grammy asks if the Once-ler has told him how to get a tree yet, his answer is no. In fact, Ted doesn’t get that tree for her until the very end.
Here’s the thing about main plot goals–they require the entire length of the story to achieve. Whatever the main goal of the plot that’s presented at the outset, this will be resolved at the climax. No sooner. Every minor goal along the way is a building block toward completing the major goal. Conflicts must arise that cause setbacks. New goals must be made to overcome those hurdles, all with an eye toward crossing the finish line.
You must know what your protagonist’s main plot goal is so you can keep him from reaching it until the very end. If the main conflict is resolved too soon, the tension is lost. At best, the ending falls flat. At worst, you lose the reader before they even get to the end.
10. The Once-ler’s family is all-too ready to help. After his invention is in demand. When you are successful, everyone you’ve ever known will claim to have been in support of you all along. This is an inevitable sack of lies. Be prepared for it.
11. The Once-ler’s mother: “You have to do what’s best for the company. And your mama.”
Actually you have to do what’s best for you and your stories, that’s it. I’ve heard this can mean displeasing your mother from time to time. ~whistles innocently~
12. Every villain is a hero in his own mind. The Once-ler truly believed his destruction of the forest was a good thing in the big picture because he was providing something people wanted.
13. As soon as the Truffula trees are gone, so is everything and everyone else. No more Thneeds, no more need. Then Mr. O’Hare steps in by providing the new thing people need–fresh air. If you chase a trend, you’re replaceable as soon as the next trend rises. And there is no guarantee the trend that brought you “success” will ever rise again.
14. “Let it grow, let it grow!”
True of your imagination, your stories, and your career. Because the only thing that doesn’t change in the world of publishing is that the world of publishing constantly changes.
Have a wonderful, productive summer, WUers!
image courtesy of Gualberto107 / freedigitalphotos.net