Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dropping Fire

**DISCLAIMER: This is totally and completely a "Don't try this at home" story.**

My parents built our house themselves. Literally. (They used ropes and pulleys when erecting the walls to make up for the lack of hands.) It took a full two years to get finished enough that we could move in. Okay, maybe it wasn't entirely by themselves. I remember seeing a lot of pictures of the four-year-old me, and my two-year-old and six-year-old brothers helping to nail down plywood on the floors, pick up scraps, sweep, and give other INVALUABLE help.

It took a few years to get the house finished once we moved in, and because it was such a huge lot, it took a few more years to get the yard finished. By the time we got to the back yard, the weeds had grown pretty high. One Saturday, we all worked to gather the dried weeds and dead branches to a huge fire in the middle of the yard. Of course, we were drawn to the fire like... well, like kids to a fire. (Which might have had something to do with genes-- my mom will never admit it, but we think she's a fire bug.)

We each stuck a big stick into the fire and lit them. Then my older brother discovered that if you put a plastic milk jug on the end of your stick, hold it over the fire and turn it at just the right moments, it catches on fire and melts to the stick. The best part? The plastic would fall in drips, like liquid fire falling to the ground. (And contaminating it for many years to come. Although I swear we didn't know about that part.)

Lots of dried weeds grew along the barbed wire fence at the back of the lot, so my brother and I took our Dripping Flame on a Stick along the back fence, and dropped liquid fire along the strip of weeds. (I think my parents let us because we were such responsible kids. Not ecologically responsible, mind you.) So we set little fires all along the way, close enough that one would eventually reach the next, leading up to the bonfire growing in the middle of the yard.

Plotting a book is a lot like dropping liquid fire into dry weeds. You need that fire-- or the conflict-- happening often enough that it will pull the reader to the next flame of conflict. If you place each of the flames carefully, then the fire will propel its way along and lead your reader all the way up to the bonfire-- the climax-- at the end.

Because the bonfire at the end is what it's really all about.

P.S. I've been interviewed by Chantele at My Writing Bug. You should go check it out, if for no other reason than to sit and stare at how darn pretty her blog is. Seriously. It takes me a good minute of staring before I even start reading her posts, which are every bit as great as her layout.


Ruth Josse said...

I LOVE that analogy! Okay, off to light some fires:)

Great interview, btw!

Cynthia said...

I have to admitt, you had me a little nervous there for a while. LOL

Abby said...

First... love your interview on Chan's blog. You rock!

2nd - I am totally a fire bug! Can I try this at home, even if I am an adult? But I love how you've applied it to writing. It's so crucial for a good book to keep you turning pages!

J. A. Bennett said...

I totally burned plastic as a kid too, no worries. But that's a great point I've always thought of it as bread crumbs but dripping fire is so much more exciting!

Kelley said...

Nice post :)

Carrie Butler said...

I thought this was going to turn into something like, "A scorched yard is better than no yard at all!" ;) You little pyros! Cute story. :)

Kristine said...

That really is a good analogy. Mom & Dad sure knew how to raise pyros.

Jessie Humphries said...

Wow...ur parents were trusting! Good interview btw. More stuff I didnt know. beware of bunnies!

elizabethreinhardt said...

Hahaha! The crazy things you do when you're a kid...and this was a very nice pyro post! (Just kidding; it's excellent advice for any writer!) Off to check out My Writing Bug!

Jeff King said...

Got to love it... I have a similar story.

I’ll swing over and check it out, thx.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Ruth-- You were talking metaphorical fires, right?

Cynthia-- Hahaha! It was a post about conflict... Maybe I should've made up something REALLY BAD that happened when we played with fire. :)

Abby-- First, Thank you! Second, yes, you can (either metaphorically or literally), as long as you sign this waiver saying I'm not responsible for any damage that may or may not incur because of the thought seed I planted.

J.A.-- Fire definitely trumps bread crumbs. Except in the case of burning bread crumbs...

Kelley-- Thanks!

Carrie-- Hahaha! So true. A scorched yard is always better than no yard at all. :)

Kristine-- They were expert pyro makers. :) Although I think that by letting us play with fire, it kind of got the bug out of me.

Jessie-- It's easy to be trusting when we were the world's most perfect kids. ;) And thanks for checking out the interview!

Elizabeth-- It's a kid's job to do crazy things, right? Try not to stare at Chantele's blog for too long when you get there. :) It'll be hard, I know.

Jeff-- I don't doubt it. You look like the kind of guy who has lit a few fires in his day. And thanks for checking out the interview!

Trisha said...

Great analogy - I love the bonfires at the ends!!

Jolene Perry said...

Chantele is completely suprawesome :D

Also - my husband built both houses we've lived in, and yes, ropes and pulleys . . .

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

Love it! Great stuff AND I loved your interview over at The Writing Bug. So fun!

Leigh Ann said...

I don't think I'm smart enough for this analogy today. I spent the entire day doing the mind-numbing Cleaning of the House for Shabbat. (kill me now.)

But burning milk jugs sound awesome.

*loiters around blog waiting for cookies*

Jeigh said...

Holy cow, that bonfire at the end is awesome! And so is the analogy. I'm so glad you came over to my blog so I could come over to yours!

Juliemybird said...

I was so afraid this was going to end with, "And that's how we burned our house down!" Hah. But, seriously, great analogy, especially as fall gets closer and closer. Mmm. Bonfires.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Trisha-- Thanks!

Jolene-- Yes, she is. And two houses that way? AMAZING. Definitely not the easiest thing in the world. TWO! That means the first one didn't kill you! Seriously impressive.

Shelly-- Thank you! It was lots of fun.

Leigh Ann-- Ugh. Mind numbing cleaning. But now you're hanging out in an [cue choir of heavenly angels] beautifully clean house, right? I'm a bit envious. And yes. Burning milk jugs is awesome. You should try it. Oh wait! I said DON'T try this at home! That advice is clearly better. Don't try it. And come loiter for cookies any time. :)

Jeigh-- I know! I think it's the bomb. :) I'm glad I came to your blog, too!

Juliemybird-- Haha! That's another story for another time. ;) Glad you liked it!