Lessons From the Netflix Sweet Tooth Series

Has anyone watched the Netflix series “Sweet Tooth”? It’s a show plotted like so many these days: some event happens, some people (in this case children) are endowed with special characteristics, people are out to get them but they are the future, the hope, the salvation for the earth. It’s crazy how this theme is repeated over and over only made entertaining by how creative the setting or inciting event is.
But that’s not what this blog post is about.

In the first episode of Sweet Tooth, and this is not a spoiler, so no worries, there’s a man with a baby strapped to his chest and a huge awkward pack on his back. He is walking through the woods and comes upon a log cabin partially hidden by trees and overgrown plants. The next scene, the man and baby are moved in and have all they need for a happy life.
My literal, realist self jumped on that with a complaint. Old, dirty, abandoned cabin turns into a homestead without showing any of the transition, really? How did he do that with a baby to take care of? What about windows? They couldn’t all be not broken. What about food until that garden started producing? Questions, questions, questions. Yes, there was a part of me that wanted all the logistics worked out, explained, made plausible (plausibility is greatly lacking in these copy cat plots). But then there was the part of me that really just wanted to get on with the show.
Did I really need any of those details? No. In fact sometimes I wish life could sail past the boring stuff of, “and then”, “and then”, “and then”.

Well, guess what? Good writing, especially fiction, not only can depict lives sailing past the mundane details of life, it should. Jumping to the next place or circumstance without explaining how everything got to that point is a tool to keep the reader focused on what’s important.

Look through your latest work. Do you get too deep in the details and call it world building? Do you feel the need for events to be clearly chronological? Have you used words to answer questions that really have nothing to do with the plot?

Seriously, I may have had my doubts about how that cabin became so perfect, but I can assure you the plot moved right on and I didn’t miss it because I was drawn into the story.

Write on, but don’t sweat the details or gaps.

Fiction Writer- Character Prompt 1

Driving home from work I noticed a grey jacket sprawled on the median. My first thought was, how did it get there and does the person who owns it know it’s missing? I imagined for a moment what the person was like and multiple people came to life. Imagine video footage like that of all the people who come up to an ATM machine. There’s the work guy who threw it on the back of the truck and didn’t notice it hung off the end of a ladder just waiting for a gust of wind to catch it like a kite. There’s the upset teenage girl who closed the car door not seeing that it fell from her back pack. The woman who packed a gym bag for after work, put it up on the top of the car and forgot about it. Along with the jacket I can expect to see, shorts, running shoes, a towel. But these are random people, maybe one of whom actually lost that jacket or maybe the story is still more mysterious.

That got me thinking. If it were my main character what article of clothing would she leave on the top of her car roof and how would she react to find it was gone? That’s easy. Maisey would have left her North Face packable white puffer coat that has pink piping along the zipper and collar. Would she be upset that it blew away? No. She wants to shed all things from her old life, the life she had before she met Tyler, before she was embroiled in working with both criminals and the FBI.

What about your main character? Give it some thought. What would the article of clothing look like? How would it have ended up on the roadside? How would your character react to realizing it was gone?

Please share the answer to those questions! I’d really like to hear. It’s good fun and great for fleshing out your character in your mind which will come out in your writing whether you tell the tale of the missing item or not.


Puppet Talk

I have a set of puppets. Looking at each character I could write a story, a horror story. They are creepy, at least to me. I’ve been carrying these puppets with me for over thirty years. They were my father’s. I’m not sure if they ended up in my possession because he gave them to me or if my mom slipped them to me when my parents announced their divorce.
The thing is, I’ve held onto them because I’ve always believed that were rare and therefore valuable. But now years later, the sentimentality has faded and I started to wonder how special they are. I checked online. Would you believe they’re only worth maybe a hundred dollars? It’s funny to find out something that seemed rare and growing in value is no big deal.

I have to laugh. How much other junk have I carried around attributing false value to it? Here’s the backbone of a good story. What starts out important to your character but becomes meaningless by the end? Start with something in your own life. Take us on that trek in your story. It will be familiar and inspiring.

I’d love to hear about your favorite character or person and what they learn to leave behind.

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