Day 29: Mapping Out Writing Time: Beware the Shifts in Power

See Beau.

He looks a bit fuzzy in this photo, but don’t hold it against him. Isn’t he cute?
My sister-in-law asked us to puppysit for five days and four nights. Look at Beau. How could we resist?
The girls were thrilled. They love Beau.
He really is cute.
Except…Beau woke all of us at 3:15 IN THE MORNING the past four nights, barking up a storm, quieting down every once in awhile, and then breaking out into low whimpers. Perhaps you’ve heard them before. The PAY ATTENTION TO ME, MY MOMMY IS GONE whimpers that make you ignore how tired you are so you will protect said puppy.
The first night, I brought Beau outside, thinking he needed to relieve himself, but all he wanted to do was play. The second night, we tried to ignore him and hoped he’d quiet down. By the third day, all of us, even Beau, were a quivering mess of nerves. Thank goodness, Beau is so sweet and adorable.
Imagine, if you will, the shifts in power over the past week. Beau is so cute, we all want to cater to him. Every bark, every whimper, commands a power so great, at least one of us springs into action to take care of the little puppy, especially since he had a couple accidents in the house. Does he want to play? Go out for a walk? Sit next to us and hang out? He’s such a loveable dog, we’re captive to his charms.
The three girls argue over who gets the honors of walking Beau. The little guy is overwhelmed. He’s not used to the noise of our household–plus multiply the chaos with all the friends who stop by to admire him. I’m on edge because of sleep deprivation and trying to keep too many prying hands from grabbing at Beau. The little guy realizes I’m the power source to food, water and calm from the kids, and constantly follows me around. Spy Girl notices my mood and does everything possible to ensure Beau stays, including taking Beau on long walks and picking up the poop, which makes Beau, Ninja Girl and Wonder Girl think she’s a goddess.
Ninja Girl loves Beau so much. It turns out she isn’t allergic to him, which makes her want to play with him even more. This makes her feel normal, in a world where she’s allergic to practically everything, and it makes my heart melt, until she falls asleep in school because she’s so tired from Beau’s early wake-up nudges. Husband wonders when his sister will rescue us, so our life will return to normal and he gets more attention than the puppy. Wonder Girl and Ninja Girl specialize in terrorizing Beau, pouncing on him every chance they can, showering him with hugs and love and his absolute favorite–playing in the snow. All they have to do is get the leash out and Beau runs and jumps on them, tail wagging, barking with delight.
In the five days and four nights, Beau became part of our family. Yes, we took care of him and loved him, but Beau also watched over us and loved us. A tiny part of me misses the early morning wake-up calls, but…not too much. The next time Beau stays with us, he’ll sleep through the night. Right?
Remember in your writing, even though there is one Alpha Dog, there will be little shifts of power, depending on the situation and the characters. Perhaps it’s enough to overthrow the Alpha Dog. Or, it can simply be an interesting study of human behavior. Pay attention and let the scenes unfold with the little power plays. It’ll bring interesting conflict to your story, as well as keep your readers on their toes. Not everything will be as it seems, and this, my friends, will make your readers want to read more.
Write-a-Scene Writing Prompt: Analyze your characters and bring out their dominant and recessive personalities to the surface with a little power play. Figure out your scene. It can be something as simple as taking care of a dog or as dramatic as running for class president, prom queen, or saving the world. Who are the characters? What does each character bring to the table and how must they be appeased, bribed, praised, etc. to bring your plot along? There should be plenty of conflict and great opportunity to bring in emotion and/or humor. Beware the shifts in power…have fun!
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Vivian Lee Mahoney

Consider yourself warned: I write books about rebels. I'm also a postergirlz for readergirlz, a literary advisory group for teens. Who knew going back to the teenage years would be so rewarding?

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