Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Illusion of Choice

funny dog pictures - Cyoot Puppy ob teh Day: So Many Puppies!!!
see more dog and puppy pictures

When I was twelve years old, my parents finally gave in to my years of constant pleading, and said I could have a puppy. Being an engineer's daughter, I immediately read up on the proper way to choose a strong and healthy puppy, beginning with how to pick the puppy up and examine it, looking for signs of disease, for the right sort of features and temperament, all of that. I was Prepared.

When we arrived at the breeder's, the strong, healthy puppies were running around, playing, wagging their tails while I studied them, trying to choose. And while all my attention was focused on that, one small puppy detached herself quietly from all the rest, ventured over and sat down and looked at us.

She was the runt. She was small, and unsociable, not bouncing round with her brothers and sisters. Her jaw was not properly aligned, so her bottom teeth stuck out in an underbite. She didn't meet any of the guidelines I'd just read about. But when I saw her, I knew she was Mine. (Well, all right, Ours. My mother did most of the training and feeding and work). And for 16 years that little poodle was part of our family.

Did she choose us, or did we choose her?

And more importantly, why, on a blog about writers and writing, am I going on about puppies?

Well, being an engineer's daughter, I don't reach the end of one book without having a well-formed idea of what I'll be writing next. I knew, when I finished The Firebird, what book was meant to come afterwards. I'd even started the research, and made a new ring binder for it, and looked into travel plans. I was Prepared.

But while all my attention was focused on that, a new story idea came quietly out of my subconsious and sat there, the characters forming and taking shape, "looking" at me in a way that I recognized. It's not perfectly formed, and it carries some challenges, but when I saw it, I knew it was what I was meant to be writing, and so did my editors.

Sometimes it isn't a choice, what I write. Or at least, it's not my choice. The book chooses me.

Has this happened in your life, with novels (or puppies?)

(Come back and read Julie's post, Thursday)


  1. This absolutely happens. I frequently fight the urge to start that new project that haunts me because I suspect it is my subconscious sabotaging my current project. Thing is, if I don't give in, the project that I'm supposed to be working on suffers because it is not in the forefront. I'm learning to accept that when I'm visited by a muse, I should take advantage and write what wants to be written.
    Great post.

  2. :) :) :) :) :) What did you name your puppy? Yes, that's the way it goes with both. I LOVE my "fictional" characters.

  3. Yes to both questions! My oldest dog definitely chose us as he was the only one out of a litter of five to show any interest in us (and yes, he was the runt too, with a serious underbite!). He and I adored each other on sight :) And funnily enough, my first dog was bought when I was twelve so maybe that's the age most parents either give in to the pleadings or consider kids old enough to have responsibility of a dog?
    As regards stories and characters, they just come into your subconscious and refuse to leave - no point fighting it!