Wild Words . . . Photos & Fine Art

Co-creating by heart with sandy cathcart through writers helps and art info, focusing on all things wild.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

What would your character never do?

James Scott Bell in his book,

  • Plot & Structure
  • asks what is one thing your character would NEVER do?

    Then he goes on to tell us to make our character do that very thing!

    I have been totally unable to do that . . . because . . . my character would never do that!

    Today, I have learned why . . .

    Today, I learned something about myself, something that is bound to change my life, something that I don't yet know what to do about, something that leaves me reeling. Perhaps, that's what my characters should go through?

    Arrrrgh! My poor characters. I so hate to inflict on them what I'm going though.

    The Cat Man is away, out muzzleloader hunting with his best bud, Dave Johnson. They are determined to fill our freezer with elk meat. I will write about their adventure as I have been doing for the past twelve years. I have also written about my own adventures in the wild hunting for the big one. But . . . and this is major . . . I've never written about me GETTING the big one, or the small one for that matter.

    Truth is, I've been hunting for 12 years and I have NEVER shot a thing! Nothing! Unless you count targets. Those I'm really good at. And this year is the first year I didn't even get an elk tag. I still can't believe it. I love to get out there and look for elk. Okay, maybe I don't really want to find them during hunting season, but I sure do like looking.

    And that is the problem!

    I have discovered one of the things I can never do . . . or at least I suspect I can never do.

    It all started this morning . . . well, that's not even true. It really started two years ago when I let a friend use my rifle while The Cat Man and I joined him in a short hunt. I was lagging a bit behind when I noticed a beautiful buck not far ahead.

    Boom! My friend shot that deer.

    I was so stunned that I fell to the ground in tears. He didn't notice. Neither did The Cat Man. I finally got myself together and was very pleased to discover he had missed! I took my rifle back and kept it.

    Then in another incident, a bear was coming toward me in the wilderness and I was scrambling to take a photo. The bear was too close for my big lens so I was reaching in my pocket for my little lens when I realized he was coming right at me! Then I realized I was supposed to be hunting. Cat (my husband) was to the right of me and hadn't seen the bear. I pointed and he finally shot and I was sooooo very glad he missed. That bear has been marauding our wilderness camp for years and I've come to think of him as needing to be there. He's kind of a friend. Cat saw him twice more but didn't shoot because he now knows how I feel.

    I'm a hypocrite though because I love elk meat, and I'm very glad my husband is a good hunter and treats animals well. He doesn't take a shot unless it's clean and drops the animal fast. Ohhhh, that makes me hurt to think about it.

    There's a cougar on our wall . . . it's like a rug but it has the head on it and the feet and everything. Cat shot it when it was coming after him last year. Every time I look at it, I think it could be my husband up there! Of course, it couldn't. We don't do that with humans . . . but if Cat had missed . . . I'm so glad God protected him. But it's kind of eerie having that cougar on my wall.

    Cat is very proud of it. Such a manly thing.

    Would I be proud if it were mine?

    So, today was the final incident . . . we no longer have a cat and we have quite a few mice so I had him set traps before he left. Wouldn't you know, I get up and find one of the traps is missing!


    Now, I'm thinking how could that be . . . and I know . . . it must have got its tail trapped. And I finally find him in my office . . . quite a long ways from where he was first trapped. He's very much alive. I know I'm supposed to kill him, but I just can't. I think about putting him outside, but how? And he'll probably come back in. And then he'll know what the trap is for. I don't want him back in.

    So I find a three-foot pair of tongs and pick him up, trap and all, and put him in a shopping bag. Then what to do? Maybe I could drop a rock on it. But that just seems so totally unfair. He has no way of protecting himself.

    Ohhhhhh I'm going to have nightmares. I just cannot do this.

    Maybe I could just put him outside, trap and all, and let something eat him. Ohhhhhh, more nightmares. So, I drive him, still in the bag, down by the lake to a permanent outhouse. He can get warm beneath the concrete (okay, no snide remarks here).

    I take him out of the bag and discover it's not his tail that's caught, but his foot. Ohhhhh, I'm so sorry for him. He's running around on three legs with the trap and I'm chasing him with my pair of tongs because he won't live long that way. Then I put him back in the bag and rifle through my fanny pack until I find my hunting knife.

    Yep. My hunting knife . . . I’m supposed to be a hunter, you know . . . but I don't use the knife to kill the troubled critter; I use it to get the trap off the mouse’s little foot. Then I let him go.

    He sits there and looks and me with big teary eyes. Then he tries out his foot and finds it's okay and he scurries beneath the concrete.

    Big mighty hunter, I am.

    Do I confess to all these hunting magazines I write for? Oh, dear me.

    So, that’s why I can’t get my characters to do things they would never do. Because I can’t even get myself to do that.

    Okay . . . I know what Jim would say. He would say I haven’t placed my character in a bad enough situation. And I have to admit he’s right. Things could have been different for that little mouse given different circumstances . . . I’m just not sure what those circumstances are yet.

    And that’s the crux, right? We have to gather all these circumstances that drive our characters crazy.

    By the way the cat pictures are of Paws, my Siamese. She’s already gone to cat Heaven, leaving me alone to fight this battle. She was the world’s greatest mouser.

    And yes, I know, she should not be sitting on my pastels while I’m painting, but do you want to try to move her. She was a wild one! And for those of you who will be inclined to tell me I should be painting with pastels on my kitchen table . . . hey! I know . . . but it was raining outside.

    The Cat in a hat (pun intended) is The Cat Man who was not here to save me.

    And yes, I have mouse pictures somewhere (a similar incident happened once before), but I couldn't find them. Yes, I know, I should be more organized. And no, I didn't take photos of this little mouse. I just couldn't stand to subject him to such trauma.

    Oh woe is me . . . how the mighty hunter has fallen!


    At 10:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Oh Sandy, this is sooooo YOU! Your writing is wonderful, as always, and the story a crackup. I'll never tell you about two mice I sent to Mouse Heaven, but at the time my intent was somewhere waaaay further south!

    At 10:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Oh Man I am still laughing! Thanks for the great story Sandy! I needed that. Nate

    At 9:56 AM, Blogger Roy M Pace said...

    Sandy: I really like your animal stories! They are so upbeat, and I can almost put myself in the poor creature's place. BTW: Dean Koontz breaks another rule, and I'm sure he's crying all the way to the bank...he uses quite a few passive sentences in his "Odd" series.

    At 10:28 AM, Blogger Roy M Pace said...

    Hope you are not getting this twice. I really love your perspective from the animal's point of view! Your site is very upbeat, very necessary to read on a Monday!

    At 8:40 AM, Blogger Taylor said...

    Hey Sandy,
    This is Taylor.

    I just wanted to let you know, that when you taught this part in class, about making our character do something from enough pressure that he'd normally never do, was extremely helpful to my story!

    I was wanting something truly sinful for my character to do, and decided on murder, because I wanted to portray God's ENDLESS ability to forgive. We all know God can forgive the itty bitty sins, but the truth is God sees all sin as equal. So I wanted to show people who might think differently that yes, God can forgive ANYTHING.

    so thanks so much!


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