So, I put my daughter down for her morning nap, grabbed my laptop, and headed for the lanai (my usual workplace). The view from my screened-in patio is gorgeous. Beyond the curvy lines of my pool, lies a man-made, freshwater canal. It's always bursting with wildlife (including alligators) and serves as a relaxing atmosphere for writing or editing my manuscript. And today, it was this very environment that provided a light bulb moment that really hadn't sunk in completely--even after the fabulous Maass workshop at Backspace.
In a word, tension.
And thus comes the lesson from Mr. Turtle.
I'm chattering away on my laptop when I hear a huge splash in the canal so, of course, I glance over the top of my reading glasses to see what's happening. A very large turtle had fallen from the sea wall, landing half on and half off the muddy shoreline. On his back. But, to make matters worse, his head was under the water. So as this little guy struggled to right himself, desperate to survive, I stood, helpless, twenty feet away on the wrong side of the canal.
I couldn't get in my car and drive around the block with a broomstick to flip the poor little guy over because my daughter was napping in her crib and I couldn't very well leave her alone to save a turtle. My neighbors on the other side of the canal are all at work, so I couldn't yell for someone else to help him. I could call Animal Services, but the animal would surely be dead by the time they came out to save him and I definitely was NOT going to swim across the alligator-infested water to help him.
So. I stood there. Helplessly waiting for nature to take it's course. Either Mr. Turtle would use those little flippers to right himself. Or he would drown. And I was right there to witness the whole thing.
And, that, my friends, is tension. It's exactly what Don Maass was trying to explain in his lecture at the Backspace Writer's Conference. It's those moments that keep us turning the page. The odds for escape are low, the protagonist has our sympathy, and we are completely helpless to do ANYTHING about it. Wow.
So, you're wondering what happened, right? Have I drawn out the suspense long enough? Well, you'll be pleased to know that Mr. Turtle is just fine. He was able to scoot himself into the water and swim away, no worse for the wear. But, me...well, let's just say I feel like a changed woman. And a changed writer.
Back to work.
What I Write
My young adult novels are dark, edgy, and realistic. Although I love paranormal and fantasy books, I prefer to create stories that could really happen (and in many cases, really are happening). For me, the echo of a story set firmly in the real world always haunts me long after I've read the final word. If you like Ellen Hopkins, Jay Asher, and Neal Shusterman, you might like my books, too.
- ▼ June (11)