Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cause and Effect

My cat Scooter is not happy with me. He’s had a bad stomach for days so this morning I took his food away from him. He’s sure that it he meows and prances ahead of me to the food place in the kitchen, I’ll feed him because, after all, that’s what I’m for. That’s what I do—whatever Mr. Scooter wants.

Have you ever TRIED to explain to a pet WHY you’re doing something? Cause and effect and reason aren’t their strong points.

As a writer, I know about cause and effect. A writer has to use very careful motivation. If a cat is sick and wants food but the owner gives him none, there is conflict. If a man is sick and the heroine gives him ice chips instead of the steak he wants, there is conflict.

In the very first book I attempted, I loved my characters so much that I didn’t give them any conflict. The book was short and dull. A writer lives on cause and effect which leads to conflict. We may not like it in our “real” lives, but we love to put our characters through the wringer. We torture our characters to make the book interesting, to draw the reader in.

Excuse me. Scooter wants my attention again. He's hungry (cause). He meows and I leap to my feet (effect).


Elisabeth Rose said...

It's so hard to come up with a believable cause, isn't it? It's much easier to come up with the effect. That's always the danger --wanting to characters to behave a certain way without giving them sufficient cause.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Jane, You sound like my friend Ruth Logan Herne. She is always telling me to put those characters "through the wringer". And here I'm reading it from you too.

I guess I don't need to be hit on the head. I better look at my wip and put my characters in more trouble.

Thanks for the reminder.

Sandy Cody said...

Cause and Effect is a universal law, but I didn't know it (or any law) applied to cats.

I, too, have trouble giving my characters enough stress. They're too much like my children.

Zelda Benjamin said...

I once read that if your character is on a train - there better be a bomb under the seat. If it was only as simple as pleasing our pets we'd all be writing page turners.