Last night I saw a dog walking himself.
I was strolling along in our local park just before sunset when a Golden Lab trotted by me, one end of his leash properly attached to his collar, the other end neatly folded between his teeth. There was no master-type person in sight.
I watched, transfixed, as the dog trotted purposefully along the park walk, but then as dogs will do, picked up an intriguing scent and veered off on the grass, heading over the nearest hill. At that point, a jogger in the distance, turned around, and, catching sight of the dog about to disappear over the hill, gave a holler. The dog, fortunately, did respond and galloped back, leash in mouth, to his owner.
I couldn’t help smiling, and thinking, as I’m apt to do, how this very situation reminds me of my story writing process. Too often, I forget that I am the author, the master of this story, and I let it go galloping off, far from where I was initially headed. “My character just took over,” I say sometimes. Or (worse) “I think this is just one of those plotless stories.”
Nope. It really isn’t so. What’s usually happened is I am so busy being “creative” I’m not taking the time to plan out the story, or to periodically go into my editing mode to see if plot, character, setting and all those other writerly things are happening in my story.
I’m letting the story go off on its own, just like the dog last night. At first it may seem to work, the story may trot along on a nice story arc, but sooner or later, without a little tug on the leash from me, I guarantee that story will gallop off over the hill, and I probably never will find a decent end for it.
It’s a good thing to ponder at the end of my writing day.
Coming up soon: Part 2, Creative Detours,
Or: Is it ever better to just let the dog go over the hill?