Saturday, February 27, 2016

How my nine-year-old granddaughter solved writer's block

Cait loved the decorative shoe box I'd made for her, and she liked the story about the young fairy girl so much I promised to complete the second story by Christmas. I began writing it within a few days of our visit. The plan was to elaborate on the world I'd created in the first story. Cait liked the characters, and I felt as if I was just getting to know them myself. I wondered where they would take me next. This time, when I began to write, the creative energy didn't flow as easily as it had with the first tale. I couldn't seem to develop a decent plot and found myself stuck on page one. The problem was - I needed a dilemma. I put the story aside.

One or two days later I received a letter from my granddaughter. Inside was a hand-written note:

"Dear Nannies

Im not sure what to say next so I want you to finish it for me"

There was no comma, no apostrophe, and no period. I have typed it just as Cait wrote it, and I will keep this letter forever.

Further down the page, she had drawn a big heart in the same purple fine-point marker she'd used to write the note. The heart was well drawn for a nine-year-old, I thought.  Next to the heart was her name, "Caitlin". This was paper-clipped to a computer typed note. I found out later, that with a bit of help from her mom, Cait had typed the letter herself. It reads as follows:

"Topaz and the wizard 2

Wake up Topaz wake up yelled daisy. Daisy was a young white fawn. When Topaz awoke he silently ate his breakfast, for his owner King Kittle had passed away. Then Bumper came in and broke the silence Topaz he yelled Ollie has been stuck in a tree and cant get down you have to help him. So Topaz followed Bumper when Topaz got their he soon saw ollie up in the tree he yelled up to Ollie are you okay Ollie replied:"

This is word for word just the way Caitlin wrote it, so capitals and punctuation are mostly missing. As you may have imagined, I teared up when I read it.

Not only was this act adorable, heart touching, and terribly sweet, it was the dilemma I needed to move this story forward. Ollie and Bumper were characters from the original story. But Daisy, the white fawn, was an entirely new character, and she was perfect. Eventually, Ollie, a Great-Horned Owl, and Bumper, a rambunctious raccoon, became Otis and Dooley; however, Daisy's name will never change.

Now, the thing I had to figure out was how a Great-Horned Owl could end up getting himself "stuck in a tree"! And it didn't take me too long to come up with a reason that got my imagination up and running again.

As the story moved along I found myself writing Daisy in my granddaughter's character. This was unintentional, and when I finally realized what I was doing, it worked out even better. I would think to myself: now what would Cait say in this situation?

Cait's title, "Topaz and the wizard 2" was a take-off on the title of the first story I'd written, Topaz and the Evil Wizard.

In Topaz and the Evil Wizard, fairy and elf children are missing. Nevertheless, Topaz only learns about this when Orange Blossom's older brother goes missing and Topaz's long time friend, Ollie, the Great-Horned Owl, finds this out and calls on him for help. By now ancient rumors about The Wizard of Scarford have begun to resurface and circulate amongst the forest folk, and this is how the name of the book comes about.

The first edition of these two tales was published under one title, Tales of Topaz the Conjure Cat Part 1 and Part 2. And so the second tale began as a continuation of the first. Later, when I decided to make each tale a standalone book in a series, I revised the stories. The latest revision will be out soon. It's a longer more descriptive version. In the meantime, book three was written, Topaz and the Green Fairies. But more about that book later.

Since the first two short stories, Topaz as a mystical superhero has evolved. To begin with, he was never an ordinary cat. He started out as a descendant from a particular breed of cat known as Yellow Conjure Cats, large muscular cats with eerie luminous eyes who were endowed with a unique mystical power. Due to circumstances, I won't go into now, Topaz had little knowledge of how to wield this power and was forced to learn through trial and error, or to, in fact, die trying. Follow this blog to find out more about Topaz and the world he lives in.

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