Of Serendipity, Quick Writing Fixes Vs. Writing With Depth

Last week my regular walking friend was out-of-town, so my husband joined me on my morning walk.   As we made our laps around the track, I searched for the regular dogs who normally greeted me.  Hmm. 

Where was Brownie? Shelby? Lola?  No dog kisses.  No wagging tails of warmth.    After all, they are the real reasons I go out for exercise. 

But then, a beautiful black lab I had never seen before, loped toward us.  His tail wagged,  he ran circles first, as if begging to play.  

“Where’s your mommy and daddy?” I asked as he romped around.

“I’m sure they’re in the parking lot somewhere,” said Bob.  “It seems like that’s where he came from.  They probably let him out to run.” 

But as we walked along, the mystery dog stayed by my side, as though he owned us.

“I think he must have got out,” I said, calling him to me.  He came willingly and I read his collar, which wasn’t so easy to do, as it had faded with time, as my eyesight has done.   “Cocoa!”   I said, which was the first thing I could read from the bone-shaped tag.

He wagged his tail in recognition.   Bob recognized the address as being on the other side of the park and open space.  

“I wish I had a leash with me,” I said. 

Bob heaved a sigh.  Not quite the dog lover as I.  “He probably knows how to get home.”

“But dogs aren’t always good with cars,” I said. 

Next, a small deer, with antlers rising far above his head – – nearly larger than the deer itself – – leaped across the grassy field.   We stopped in awe to watch his graceful dance. But then Cocoa took off after him.

“No!” I shouted.  “Cocoa!”

He ran faster than the deer.

“Stop!” yelled my husband.

Cocoa applied his breaks.  At least someone taught him to obey. 

“Come, Cocoa!”  I clapped my hands and Cocoa came.  The deer bounded up the hill safely.

Close call.

My heart still beat fast.  We walked in silence. 

 I said a silent prayer for a solution, one that would work for both Bob and me.   

It appeared right in front of us in the next moment. 

A man wearing a Hawaiian shirt, with a blonde dog on a leash, came down from a side trail right in front of us on the track.   Cocoa greeted his dog with barks and howls, jumping all over him.

“This dog came to us out of nowhere,” I told this dog owner.  

He shook his head.  “I’ve dealt with him and his owner before.  His owner has a gate with a broken latch but when I’ve returned him, he yelled at me for not calling.  Which I did but he didn’t answer his phone.” 

We all shook our heads this time.  

  He unhooked the leash from his own dog and attached it to excitable Cocoa.  “I’ll return him again,”  said Hawaiian shirt.

“Thank you!” we said. 

The three of them walked away in the direction of Cocoa’s house.  I wondered what Cocoa’s living situation is like.  It doesn’t seem like his owner cares much that he gets out, or that he inconveniences other people.  Does he realize his dog could get hurt or killed?

And then I think about the kids in a friend’s class.  Their parents act in ways like the dog owner.  I’m glad I was raised by parents who cared enough to take time for me. 

Writing Prompt:

1. Take a deeper look at your writing.  Did you fix a problem temporarily where it may crop up again in a later chapter?  Fix any loose holes or leave any strings unattached?

2.  Did you create your characters with depth so that each one rings true?  Does each one have a flaw?  Why do they have this flaw?  What is the worst thing that can happen in your story because of this flaw?  Have you forced your character to confront his or her weakness?

3.  Are you ever presented with a problem in you writing you don’t know how to solve?  If so, ask for the answer.  Write down your question.  Sleep on it.  Mull it over as you take walks, wash the dishes, or mow the lawn.  Sometimes serendipity strikes and your answer will land right in front of you.  But if you want a deeper fix, sometimes you have to dig more deeply into your characters or plot to discover the answer.

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