Have you ever seen the old 90's sitcom, Mad About You with Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt? Remember Murray the dog and the mouse? For those unfamiliar with the series, Murray and the mouse was a recurring joke from about the third season on. Seems Murray, their dog, was obsessed with a mouse inside the walls of their apartment. So much so that all either character had to do was say, "Go get the mouse, Murray!" and the dog would race across the room. Then off-camera, there'd be this sudden Ka-thump! to represent the poor dog hitting his head into the wall.
I was reminded of that this morning, thanks to my cat, The Skitten. (Yes, that's her name. Beats "Little Miss Bella Wigglebottom," which was our first choice for her.) Skit's an indoor cat. Although she's terrified of the Great Beyond she sees through the windows, she's also fascinated by the wildlife so near, yet so far. This morning as I sat with my coffee in the kitchen, Skitten pulled a Murray. A squirrel dared to prance across our patio, and Skitten had to get a closer look. A streak of gray tiger stripe later came the Ka-thump! as she hit the sliding glass door head-first.
Writers often run the risk of that Ka-thump! moment, when we're so focused on one detail in a plot thread that we lose sight of the big picture. How do we avoid it? Some of us use detailed outlines, a white board, or the sharp eyes of critique partners. Me? I rely on sheer luck. I'm weird that way. I like to live on the edge so I trust my muse to catch stuff I might miss while writing. Lucky for me, Gertrude (my muse) is on the ball!
Case in point: the other afternoon I was writing a scene for my current story. I have a deadline of June 1 so I'm about 10,000 words and 7 days away from The End, which means a lot of what I'm writing is to begin tying up loose ends. I opened a particular scene with my heroine alone in a room and then had someone come up behind her and say "Boo!" Not in a bad way (this is a lighthearted romance for Avalon Books). The entering character could have been one of many options, but I--no, correction--Gertrude chose a very minor character. Okay, I thought. I'll play. I continued writing the dialogue between these two and when I sat back, finished with the scene, I had this overwhelming, "Aha!" moment. Gertrude had just tied up an end I'd completely forgotten about. And because this is a very minor character, the timing was perfect.
Lucky Gertrude gets to focus on the tiny detail while I keep an eye on the big picture. That's probably what makes us such a great team. If she didn't live inside my head, I think I'd buy her a drink to thank her.