“Kill the bird.”
Okay, I totally realize that must seem like really strange advice to those of your reading this, because you have no point of reference for it. (“Kill the… bird? Why are we killing animals? What kind of sick sadist are you?”) But, trust me, it’s pretty genius. Just go with me on this, I’ll explain.
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the little things in books. You know, the chair the character is sitting in or the mug she pulled from her cabinet. Little things.
Forget the big things for a while with me. Put aside the characters, the major settings, the plot holes, and even the main theme. Got it? Good. Now lean a little closer and study that little thing. Like a prop on a movie set. Pick it up, turn it around. Examine every little part of it.
“What does this have to do with killing a bird?!”
Shh. Calm down. Keep studying that little prop. Notice that crack on the side of the glass. Yeah, and what does it really say right there? Good. You’re doing great.
NOW I will explain what any of this has to do with a bird.
Like those things you were just examining, a pet is a “little thing” in a book. Like a prop. They’re there, but they don’t always show up as a major character.
For instance: I’ve been writing a story with a writer friend, and in this story there is a minor character that is a bird.
(A BIRD! I get it! Wait… what? You killed the bird?! Talk about a spoiler!)
Wait. Hey, hold on. You’re getting waaaay ahead of me here. Back up a tick.
In this story, there is a bird. Said bird is the pet of one of two main characters. Over the course of this story, we’ve grown very attached to this bird. VERY attached. To the point that, when bandits attacked and the bird went missing, both of us were very distraught because we honestly hadn’t anticipated this and had no idea what happened to the bird. Was it dead? Was it okay? Had it pecked its attackers to death?
If you’re still jumping ahead of me, you’ll see where I’m going with this. If you are with me, congratulations! Now I can tell you what the very important lesson is in this blog post.
We’re worried about the bird.
Whaaa…? (cue minion confusion face)
Let me repeat. We. Are worried. About the BIRD.
Remember when I said the bird wasn’t even that big of a character? Turns out, it didn’t have to be. For whatever reason, people (bless ’em) have the tendency to overlook the big things and pay attention to the small ones.
When we messed with that one little, tiny piece of the story, things exploded. (Not literally, but that would have been cool).
The two main characters bonded over a lost pet. It set up a great scene for the bird’s owner to have some introspection time and created a host of opportunities for metaphorical situations.
Again, for some reason, people are weird. Kill a character? Pfft, they’ve seen it before. No biggie, there are always ways to replace them or bring them back. Kill a pet or smash a small object? They go into overtime worrying (and some crying).
Are you looking for a way to make your writing more impactful? To rip out their hearts and dance on their graves while they weep uncontrollably over your book? (It sounds more maniacal than it actually is). If so, kill the bird. People quickly get attached to animals, pets especially. And what could be more evil than a villain who can kill an innocent animal and not feel an ounce of remorse?
I feel like I should end by saying that after a long and terrible ordeal (with lots of agitation and tears on all the writers’ parts), the bird is fine. She’ll live and life will go on. (AKA: no animals were harmed in the making of this blog post).
So… How are you going to make an impact? What can you do to “kill the bird”?
I want to hear your stories about the small details!!! Whether you read it or wrote it, let me know what small detail changed to make you cry in a story you love.
Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!
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