– Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary
A reader wants to feel she is personally experiencing or observing the events in the story, therefore, the author must write the story in such a way to allow the reader to experience the story in this manner. So, have you ever wondered why you've read some books that create this feeling and others that are just...ok? To successfully create such a scene, it must include the following three elements.
- What does the character see? (The setting seen through the character’s POV)
- What does the character think or feel? (How does the current situation personally affect him?)
- What does the character say or do about the situation? (Dialogue or action, or both.) I will use a condensed/edited scene from my latest novel, Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey's Diary to illustrate.
What does he see? Setting: Black Cat watched as a woman wearing dark glasses and a large black hat that shaded her face crept through the gate. Rosebush stickers on the fence caught at her sleeve. She paused, unhooked the thorns and then, tip-toed down the sidewalk toward the house.
Black Cat lowered his ears and crept past the corner of the house. What was she up to? His gaze swept toward the Wisteria vines where Angel’s golden tail swished back and forth beneath the hanging purple flowers. Angel!
What does he think (or feel?) Perhaps this woman intended to steal something from the front porch. He crept closer. It was his duty to protect the family’s belongings. He could almost see tomorrow's front page headlines in the Fern Lake Gazette. Plucky Local Cat Foils Attempted Grand Larceny. Despite overwhelming odds, the daring and plucky feline protected his master’s valuable rhododendron plant from the clutches of a 200 lb. female assailant determined to…so forth and so on…Maybe his photo…
The portly woman dashed the last few steps up the sidewalk, leaned down, and yanked Angel by her tail, out from under the bush.
What does he say or do? Dialogue or Action: Black Cat raced across the lawn. Angel! He leaped at the woman’s arm, teeth bared. The woman jerked away. His fangs caught the edge of her sleeve and ripped through the material. Having missed to connect with her arm, he tumbled to the grass with a shriek. “Brett! Brett! Help! Help!
The thief waddled down the sidewalk with Angel, desperately thrashing against her hip. Still grasping the thrashing cat, with one hand, the woman struggled to open the front gate . “Stop fighting me, you little…”
Not my Angel… Black Cat sprinted through the gate, leaped over the hood of the car, and scrambled around the open car door.
Once she reached her door, the woman flung Angel onto the passenger seat, and flopped into the driver’s seat. Before she could slam the door shut, Black Cat leaped into her lap. She grabbed her purse and struck at his head, knocking him sideways. His head struck the dials on the radio and he fell to the floor, momentarily stunned. As though through a haze, he heard Brett yelling. Angel huddled on the front passenger seat, her nails clinging to the vinyl seat, frozen with fright, mewing pathetically, Black Cat! Black Cat!
To learn what happens next, you can purchase Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary for $3.99 at Amazon https://tinyurl.com/vgyp89s
Let me know your thoughts regarding this writing process. What thoughts to you have regarding how authors create a more satisfying read?
In 1950, I was 8-years-old, and the apple industry was the major industry in our town. My mother worked in an apple-processing factory and Daddy was a carpenter. Our parents felt children should be industrious, therefore, my teenage sister and brother were required to care for me while they picked up worked in the apple orchard, picking up apples for five cents a box. On a good day, they could earn $5.00 to $10.00. This was considered good money for a teenager, and with their earnings, they bought their own school clothes.
Most days, I brought my dolls to the field and spent a good part of the day stacking apple boxes on end to make my house. My imaginary plates and dishes consisted of sticks and leaves and clumps of dirt. Daddy said I should not waste the entire day, though, and required me to pick up at least ten boxes of apples every day.
Being a spoiled and willful child, there were many days I played with my dolls late into the afternoon and no amount of scolding from my sister could make me complete the required task.
Day after day, I fell so short of Daddy’s expectations, that one night he warned if I didn’t meet my quota the next day, he would spank me. Our parents believed in the biblical admonition, spare the rod and spoil the child, which was rarely, if ever, required in our house.
As I had no recollection of Daddy ever spanking me before, I’m pretty sure his threat fell on disbelieving ears. The next day, I played all day in the apple field. My sister’s warnings were of no avail and by the end of the day, I had only three or four boxes to my credit.
We returned home and I began to play. There was no mention of my disobedience to Mama or Daddy. So much for that problem...
In those days, our toys didn’t come from a store with a sound chip and an interactive computer screen attached. We had to use our imagination and made our own toys. On this evening, I tied a string to an empty oatmeal box and found a couple of long sticks to use for drumsticks. It made a fine toy drum and I went about the house thumping out a tune.
Daddy found me pounding away on my new toy. He towered over me as I sat on the floor with my drum and asked, “Did you finish your ten boxes of apples today?”
I gulped. “No. I forgot.”
“Then, I’m sorry, but I told you I’d spank you if you didn’t obey me.” He picked up one of my drumsticks and applied it to my seat of knowledge. Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. Proverbs 13:24 NIV
Daddy definitely loved me that day. Using my own toy against me was far more humiliating than the spanking. With the absolute absurdity of childish logic, I screamed, “You’ll be sorry! Tomorrow, I’ll pick up 100 boxes.” That would show him!
I worked all the next day. My sister took pity and helped me late in the afternoon. Together, we finished the last fifteen boxes and completed the goal of 100 boxes (an astonishing accomplishment for an 8-year-old, looking back on it). And I earned $5.00 for my efforts!
Victory! Daddy would be so sorry. He’d regret punishing me. I’d show him! Thus, thought the child. I was yet to learn the lesson of responsibility he was trying to teach.
With great pride and indignation, I announced that night, “I picked up 100 boxes of apples today, so there!”
Did I expect him to fall down in shock and remorse, apologize and vow to never again accuse me of being lazy? Maybe. Instead, he replied, “I knew you could do it. Now you can do that every day…”
I recall this event so clearly, but I can’t recall my response. Disbelief? Shock? Tears? My pride had backfired. Now I’d be required to continue this backbreaking expectation every day? Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18 NIV
Of course, Daddy didn’t really mean it. “You did great, honey, but if you’ll just do your ten boxes every day, I think that’s enough for a little girl.”
I still brought my dolls to the apple field every day. I built houses out of apple boxes and made dishes out of leaves. However, I was careful to stop playing in plenty of time to accomplish the required ten boxes of apples. Daddy taught me a hard lesson that day, one I never forgot.
Daddy never again challenged my ability to live up to a required expectation. He claimed this particular victory. With this valuable lesson, I learned about pride, obedience and work ethics; one day with 100 boxes of apples, an oatmeal box, and a stick. Surely the lesson helped develop my character and my values throughout my life. Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 KJV