Monday, August 6, 2012

If It's Dead, Let It Die

Caution: This blog may be traumatic for some of you. This definitely has an 8/10 rating on the WTF scale.

Growing up wasn't easy in my house. Sometimes it was an adventure (like the time we went to Niagara Falls), but most times, it usually left scarring memories that would some day equate to yet another, more detailed, memoir. Or hours in therapy. Whichever.

One such instance took place at the Shepherd House. This is the only place I've ever truly called home, and we lived there from the time I was in kindergarten until the early parts of my eighth grade year. With that being said, I can't remember how old I was, I just know it had to have been before I was 14.

My mom had been gone a lot (staying at her boyfriend's house an hour away). Once, late at night, she burst into the house, frantic, throwing newspapers down on the kitchen table (where we ate dinner, mind you). Soon, she carried something grey and lifeless in, and laid it on the table.

"Oh God, oh shit!" she chanted. "Come on bunny!"

"Mom, what happened?" I asked, looking at the fluffy adorable thing sprawled sideways on the table.

Not a bunny.
But we do have a fascination with
dead things now...
"I hit the bunny with my car," she said as she proceeded to administer CPR to the lifeless rabbit. I'd like to blame my youthful ignorance, but as I stood there watching my mom pressing on the small creature, I imagined what it would be like to have a pet bunny (meanwhile, the day after this, we would discover our bird dead in its cage. Why? Oh, we forgot to feed it....for a couple of weeks).

The CPR went on for a few minutes until she dug a mirror out of her purse and held it to the bunny's pale pink nose to test if it was breathing. It wasn't.

Standing at the threshold of the kitchen and living room, I adjusted my position, and saw the underside of the bunny's face. It was streaked red, from its eye downward. Clearly it wouldn't be hopping off the table any time soon.

"Mom," I said, tears threatening to spill out at any second. "It's dead."

"What?" she said. "No, there's still hope!"

I pointed to the blood. "Look."

She flipped the bunny over and pools of blood were left on the newspaper. "Shit." At last she broke down and began crying. "I'm sorry, bunny."

I began to cry, too. The side of the face that wasn't leaking maroon was furry and adorable, and it was here, on my kitchen table, dead at my mother's hands. My sisters and I buried the bunny and the bird together in the animal graveyard to the right of the house.

So, what does this mean for writing?

Well, there's a point in a story or novel, where you just keep trying to give CPR to the dead lifeless sentence, chapter, whatever. You keep trying to breathe life into something that refuses to live. When that happens, you may need to adjust your perspective, it may already be dead and maybe, MAYBE you should bury it. If it's dead, let it die valiantly. (Though save a backup, you know, in case you can fit it in a future work.)

(I just hit 19,000 words with my WIP....In 11,000 I'll have to decide whether or not this novel, like that bunny, is already dead.)


  1. I don't know if I believe manuscripts really ever die.
    Which is not to say that I haven't read some dead ones, but I think maybe they all have hope.

    1. My first novel died. Don't get me wrong, I still LOVE the story, but at this point I'm not sure if it's worth it to try again. There is a lot of damage control needed.

  2. I'm not gonna let mine die. They'll just go into hibernation until I can find time again.

    Btw. Would've really preferred to see a pic of a cute fluffy live bunny and not the dead fish head. Just for future reference. :) (Was that a fish?)

    1. YOURS SHOULD NOT DIE! Do not give up on it! I meant this post as a smaller scale, like some chapters or sentences are dead, or unnecessary. (Maybe even characters, I've done that before..they didn't do anything for the story, so though I loved them, I deleted them).

      I looked for a cute picture, actually. And then saw this one and was like "..I have to..." :)

  3. I've hit that point multiple times (generally around 50 pages), where I'm not sure if it's worth continuing. For me it's more, "Is this idea original enough? Is it worth spending time on?" Wouldn't it be nice to have an agent or editor to advise us when we get to that point?

    1. I have a general rule of thumb: if I don't have the main plot figured out by 30k, I'm calling it. (Thankfully, I hit 20k last night and it smashed into my brain, as did a title for the new WIP! Yay!)

      And yes, I CANNOT wait to get an agent and be like "So...I have this idea..."

  4. Yeah, I've hit that point multiple times too. Sometimes no matter how you try to force something to work, it simply doesn't! You have to let it go!

    1. Even when I let it go, I take a deep breath, pull up another document and save it. Maybe I can fit it into another work :)

  5. Sometimes (through the miracle of revision) we can create a Frankenstein monster out of a once dead work. Everyone loves a good monster :)

  6. I've hit that point a couple of times. In one case, simply rewriting from a different character's perspective really bounced it back to life... or hopped it... :-)


Please know that if you comment and I don't respond, it's not because I don't love you. It's because I don't have wifi, but I do have a bad memory.

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