Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Posted by Laurel Garver on Tuesday, May 17, 2011 25 comments
I've had a few cool surprises in my lifetime: an engagement ring on Christmas eve when I was sure I'd have to wait till Valentine's day, the pink lines on the pregnancy test when a doctor told me I'd have to start fertility drugs in a few weeks.

I got another nice surprise like that after work yesterday, though not quite so life changing. This pretty half-Siamese stray kitten wandered into my life. She has been sleeping on my porch or in my flower garden for about a week now. My experience with the neighborhood strays has been mixed--some are as socialized as any house cat, and some are feral, more like a woodland fox than pet material.

This kitten not only let me pet her, she climbed onto me as I knelt beside her. She wanted to be held and went into a snuggle ecstasy when I picked her up. She was socialized, all right.

I called my family on the cell phone and asked them to come outside to meet her.

"I think our new kitten has found us," I said.

My daughter has been begging for a kitten for over a year now. While she had her heart set on a gray tabby, she's over the moon to have been "picked" by this blue-eyed beauty she's calling Rosie. I was sure we'd have to take several trips to local shelters to find a good fit, but Rosie is every bit the affectionate cuddler my daughter hoped for.

"Gifts from God are like this, aren't they?" my daughter said. "Never just the way you pictured it--usually better!"

So far, so good with our new feline friend. She gladly let us carry her into the house, ate the kitty kibble we gave her and used the litter box I showed her. Our elderly dog and cat are being aloof, but not hostile, so time will tell how those relationships grow. She's very thin and will need some veterinary care, so it seems unlikely anyone will start posting "lost cat" signs in the neighborhood.

When a wished-for thing happens, it's always a better story if it doesn't come about quite the way the you expected.

I think there's a lesson here about how to avoid the Mary Sue trap--characters to whom everything comes too easily, too neatly. When (and if) the happily-ever-after does come, give us a twist on the character's expectations, or even defy them. How the character reacts to that "gift"--with gratitude, fear, anger, sorrow, mute shock, hope--can make for a much more complex and satisfying ending. One we want to read.

What are some of your favorite fictional "got my wish, but not the way I expected" endings? How might a twist on character expectation improve your story?

25 comments:

  1. I want your cat:) It is beautiful! I love to read twists in a story and try really hard to do that with my characters.

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  2. I can't think of one off the top of my head - I'm horrible at that. But I think those can be the best endings b/c it involves character growth! Love the kitten! :)

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  3. What an adoralbe kitten! I have a siamese and he's a talkative little thing. Mix him with my timid calico and you have yourself an adorable match. I wish you luck on your new feline friends.

    I loved how the Firelight series by Sophie Jordan is going. The way the second novel (Vanish) started off was completely unexpected - the good kind.

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  4. What a precious kitten ... Welcome to Rosie! I think she'll add much love and happiness to your lives :)

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  5. Aww, what a pretty kitlet! Congrats on your new friend :D

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  6. Awww, your new kitty is so adorable. And I love your daughter's quote about things being better than she expected :-) I think most satisfying coming of age stories have a twist where the character ends up in a different place than he/she originally thought. One of my favorites is actually in a film: Breaking Away.

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  7. Such a beautiful kitty! And I think your daughter's words should be framed.
    In terms of unexpected blessings in fiction, I think L. M. Montgomery was a genius at that...I love the ending of Pat of Silver Bush especially--which I can't give away in case you haven't read it--but is a perfect example of the LAST thing a character wanted being exactly what she needed.

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  8. She's beautiful! I think of Elizabeth Berg's Open House where the main character had very quiet life she enjoyed until she had to open her house to strangers and then received many blessings, including getting to know herself better. Twists in character expectations do reflect real life, for sure!

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  9. I am not even a kitty fan and I think Rosie is adorable. Your daughter is so very wise, gifts are so often so much more than what we dare hope for. I can think of some wonderful gifts in real life but I can't think of one in fiction right now. But it's a good thought to keep in mind for my characters.

    Thanks for sharing an uplifting thought!

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  10. Love this for so many reasons. I rescue strays, get their shots, and get them fixed; all out of pocket, before rehoming them. The saddest cases are the ones you know have been domesticated and thrown to the curb.

    She's a beautiful kitten, with love to get.

    As for our writing, I love it when the ending is unpredictable, never as I imagined. (Hugs)Indigo

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  11. Terri: I hope we can keep her! A friend pointed out she's a rare "Snowshoe" breed of cat.

    Laura: I think of Eowyn in Lord of the Rings, who wanted love and found it where she least expected--in the Houses of Healing after being badly injured in battle and expecting to die.

    Joanne: I'm getting nervous that someone will post lost cat signs! :-/ We are quite smitten with her.

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  12. Jen: It turns out Rosie may be an actual rare breed--the Showshoe. The breed originates here in Philly, and I wonder if she was dumped as not being show quality (something I hear happens a lot with unscrupulous pet breeders). She is talkative, but not too loud.

    Trisha: Thanks! We are quite smitten.

    Melissa: Thanks. And yeah, it can be magical when feeble expectations are blow away by unexpected goodness.

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  13. Faith: At least I've saved Hobbit Girl's words here for posterity. The L.M. Montgomery book sounds interesting. I loved the Anne and Emily sets of books.

    Lynn: Great example! I really enjoy Berg's books, and that one definitely plays on the idea of thwarted expectations.

    Y2: Taking her in so suddenly was a big departure from my usual "plan for every contingency" way of living. I see how I'm changing and how that might prove insightful to character development.

    Indigo: a friend pointed out that she is a Snowshoe--a rare breed, but as you say, might have been considered not show quality and set loose. Bless you for caring for your neighborhood kitties!

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  14. What a gorgeous kitty! We just added a little gray kitten to our family last week, and my cat (who is a 3-year-old rescue cat) is not liking the new addition. I am hoping this improves!

    The novel I'm working on now will have a nice little twist for both of my main characters - they'll get what they want but in a VERY different manner than they expected!

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  15. That's how my parents found their cat over 15 years ago (she has since died). I think she adopted them!

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  16. Oh my, I LOVED your daughter's wisdom: "Gifts from God are like this, aren't they? Never just the way you pictured it--usually better!"

    And good point about how that applies to writing. I love stories where the character starts out wanting one thing, but what she ends up getting is nothing she expected- and so much better.

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  17. She's beautiful!! Don't you love those little life gifts that are just too good to be coincidence?! Congratulations on your darling little girl!

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  18. Sorry Laurel; I'm a little brain dead for writing issues tonight. But I loved the cat story. Sometimes pets pick their families. And the fit is awesome.

    I'm really missing my cat right now. He wondered off shortly after we moved to this apartment. And we're all thinking its time for a new kitty. We miss having a kitty.

    Thanks for sharing your new kitty experience. It was uplifting.

    ...........dhole

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  19. Hmmmm, something to think about.

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  20. Melissa M.: We are still working on getting our 9-yo cat to not be freaked out by the new addition. He is used to our dog and seems terrified by this creature that meows like he does! LOL. Good luck with your happy twists in the MS.

    Lydia: Glad to hear a long, happy fit came about from a rescued stray! That's encouraging to hear.

    Margo: she can be quite the little theologian at times. :-) I too, love stories in which the character's felt need is not met in the way s/he has been hoping and striving to meet it. That's the grace of fiction.

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  21. Colene: Thanks! She is the sweetest kitten ever, I have to say. It does feel like a divine gift for sure.

    Donna: Glad to have uplifted you. Get ye to the SPCA and rescue a kitty! :-)

    Angela: I think of this idea as where grace enters a narrative--when good comes, it is not as we demand, but as it is given as a gift.

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  22. Oh I just love this! And what a beautiful cat. I don't have any great stories like this that come to mind, but I love what your daughter said. So true!

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  23. oh! Your beautiful godsend kitty!!! And here I'm posting tomorrow about our "found" kitty who's the devil... LOL!

    No, she just thinks she's an African Cat. Now I know. Love this post, btw~ <3 beautiful surprises~

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  24. PK: Rosie is a super-sweetie too. I was encouraged that my daughter made the divine gift connection, too.

    M Pax: Hi and thanks for stopping by! A friend told me she is a breed called a "Snowshoe."

    Leigh: Rosie is so malnourished, it may be a while till her energy is close to normal for a kitten her age. She sure is a snuggle bug right now, though.

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