Friday, July 15, 2011

The Turtle Joke - and an update

A friend of mine loves to tell this story.


THERE WAS THIS family of turtles who were going on a picnic. They packed up a wonderful lunch of really great sandwiches and also some bottles of pop and chips and stuff like that. The littlest turtle was so excited about this picnic, but being the youngest, he was always worried about being left out.

So the family sets off for the picnic grounds but soon after they leave, they realize they forgot the bottle opener. So big brother turtle turns to the littlest one, and says,

"Hey, run back and get the bottle opener."

"No!" says the little turtle. "I know how this goes. You'll all get to the picnic grounds and then eat all the sandwiches before I get back."

"We won't," says the big brother. "We'll wait here until you get back."

"You'll still eat all the sandwiches," says the little turtle. "I know you will. You always do."

"No we won't," says the brother. "We won't touch them."

"Yes you will! You always do!"

By this time everybody's getting hot and bothered, and mom turtle intervenes.

"Junior, got back and get that bottle opener. NOW!"

So the little turtle pouts and turns toward home. The other turtles sit in the shade and wait. And wait. And wait. It takes forever. Pretty soon it's noon. And then it's past noon.

And still the little turtle doesn't show up

"What's taking him so long?" says one turtle.

"He's pouting," says another.

Pretty soon it's later in the afternoon, and it's too late to hike all the way to the picnic grounds anyway. The turtles decide to give up on the whole thing and just have their picnic right there. They pull out the sandwiches and start to eat.

And just then, the little turtle, who had not gone home at all, but was hiding in the bushes the whole time, watching, jumps out and says:

"Ha! I KNEW you would eat those sandwiches while I was gone! I knew it!"


One lesson of this story might be that you get what you expect. If you really believe something will happen, you will act in a way that brings it about -- for good or bad.

I think there is another lesson of this story, though: When you obsess about things which are out of your control, you take your eye off the ball and you destroy everything. If that little turtle had stayed on task, the picnic would not have been ruined.

And regarding the subject of Staying On Task:

Since Tuesday, I haven't had a lot of word count on The Man Who Did Too Much, but I have made a lot of progress. I have finally got all the pieces together and found a way to structure them and get them organized.

I was a little overwhelmed with this, I think. But I found a method which worked: I set up folders for each chapter, and I gathered all the notes and versions and scene snippets into each folder. If I had notes for multiple chapters I cut and pasted the various parts in to separate documents to put in the right chapter.

I did this in a cold and practical way -- just organize, don't decide. Except, of course, I naturally did have to make decisions as I sorted this stuff out. Where's the chapter break? When I cutaway to another character, should I cut that scene in among this sequence, or have it happen in the next chapter? Is there a way to simplify that? Do I need another scene here? And just like when you clean out a garage, there comes a point when you are no longer overwhelmed. At first you do the easy decisions, and then harder ones. As things get into place, you see where other things go.

The other great progress I made in the last couple days is I got a clear vision of the next couple stories for the series.

THE MAN WHO STEPPED UP, in which an old woman dies from a fall on the poorly maintained stairs in her house -- even though she promised George she would not use those stairs until he could come back and fix them. (It's also possible that this could be called THE MAN WHO SLIPPED UP, but even though he does physically slip -- and later when she slips, he feels like he slipped up -- what he actually does is step up when others don't. I'll have to see.)

THE MAN WHO RAN AWAY, in which George takes the job of being the fox in a "clean boot" fox hunt -- that's when the hounds and riders hunt a human being through the woods. (I don't have a murder yet for that one -- but I'm assuming that either George or the hounds find a body. But maybe that's the expected thing -- and I need to come up with a twist.)

My biggest problem is that now... The Family Has Landed! I will be wrapped up in family events for the next week. (Plus it's the end of the semester again!) I think I have worked out some pockets of writing time, however. We'll see what happens.

On Tuesday, I'll post a classic old joke which you should know, if you don't already. And I'll let you know how far I've got with the story.

See you in the funny papers.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Another thing about cleaning out a garage (or a cabinet...which I did today) is that it gets messier before it gets cleaner! But then there's always that great satisfaction at the end. :)

The Daring Novelist said...

Oh good gracious yes.

And that's where I was with the story -- where there were stacks of things all over the place.

And I think I have got a handle on it now. I got a good writing session in this afternoon, and I hope to have more.

I do notice that, for me, a mystery is particularly prone to this sort of issue. There is so much to weave in, it takes a lot of organizing.

Li said...

Too true - I'm easily distracted by what ifs and telling myself that "it won't work".

The Daring Novelist said...

Oh, and doubts are especially pernicious. That's when it is good to go with Dean's old motto "Dare To Be Bad!"