Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Conversations with Baby Jaguar

I have a young kid, and as you might have guessed, she’s up the phase where she is making up stories. She takes her toys around the house and they talk to each other. It’s absolutely adorable. That being said, there’s a recent trend in her games that I’ve also noticed from time to time in writing.

Of course, the young child’s version is really obvious what shouldn’t happen, but it crops up more subtly in other writing (including my own!).


“Hello, I’m Horsey!”
“Hi! I’m Horsey too!”
“But you’re Baby Jaguar!”
“Oh, you’re right. I am Baby Jaguar.”

If I were to name this trope it would be Identity Crisis Solved Because I Said So! Or Once Spoken It’s True. In my fiction it tends to crop up when I’ve lost track of how I’m giving information and I decide someone needs to know something. So I have someone tell the MC (hold out on this for the biggest drama: “Luke, I am your…” You get the hint). The problem is that when I’m drafting, sometimes *I* didn’t know that’s what they were until I had a character say it. That means that everything that’s been said or done so far has to be retooled to account for this new piece of information.

More specifically, the character who had the information should act like they know the information. For instance—I know this is pretty old school, but stick with me—in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, Christian Slater’s character is a real twit. And when he divulges the information that *Spoiler alert* he is Robin’s brother, it makes sense that he was a complete twit up until that point.

Now, having said all that, I’d put this as a revising tip. First drafts are almost impossible, so just write the story, fill it with Once Spoken It’s True, but then go back through and make sure that people are acting like they have this information all along. It’s not as hard as you think, but it’ll help. I promise. No really, it’ll help.

So what about you? Are you a Once Spoken It’s True writer? I am. I’m terrible that way (my first drafts are comparable to a hot mess with a personality disorder).


  1. I just pray I catch them all in the rewrites! I will have an epiphany while in the middle of a draft, so I will stop...grab my handy dandy notebook and scribble something like, "Go back to and make Darth Luke's Father!!!"

    It's the perfect pro solution!

  2. that's supposed to be, "Go back to beginning and make Darth Luke's father!"

    1. For a second there, I wondered if you'd gotten the order wrong "Go back and make Luke Darth's Father." Now that would be a story...

    2. Let's do it! Wow. We're going to be rich!

  3. No matter how much planning you've done, characters will take you by surprise. --This is one reason I despise first drafts. They're so messy! That said, getting all the details smoothed carefully into a later draft is sheer bliss for me. =)

  4. I feel like have of my revisions are going back and changing things so they fit the changes I've made at the end of the book. That way the "Aha moment" doesn't make the reader want to scream or make my MC look like an idiot.

  5. First off, i really love the "once spoken it's true" term. That's a little peice of genius right there.
    And yes, this happens to me all the time. Because even though i use an outline, it's jsut bare bones of what happens, not how they get there

  6. I'm constantly going back and making changes that require rewrites of everything that happened before. I thought outlining before I began writing would solve this problem in my latest WIP, but it's still happening. Apparently I get my best ideas while I'm writing, so I'm doomed to go back and replot everything over and over again.


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