(OR) How real life breeds chapter book ideas!
Once my cat Moko came home after a week, with dark ring marks around his neck, as if he had been roped. My mom and I immediately knew that he had been caught by a minority group of people who hunt and eat small animals (yes, they really exist in this century, in my metropolitan city – they are called Sparrow Hunters in my language).
TMI in this paragraph – It is VERY difficult for a cat to escape from the sparrow hunters because they usually extremely tricky and cruel means to trap a cat, like an iron lasso. Once they trap the cat, they immediately skin it and cook it (sorry for the gruesome details) and yes I learned this all by talking to an ex-sparrow hunter L. But somehow, my Moko the super cat had escaped!
Sadly Moko died of kidney failure in 2010, when I was studying in London and I didn’t even get to say goodbye :(. After that I was not very motivated to have a pet (and no pets were allowed in my apartment – which sparked a chapter book idea, that I have assigned for July 2014!). I did become a monthly “cat socialiser” at Blue Cross, the animal shelter that is near my parents’ place in Velachery (the Ark in HBD was inspired by Blue Cross).
I was also “friends” with an orange cat that was always hanging around in my apartment complex. Yes, it was a street cat but a nice one and I liked giving it food now and then, and laughing at its antics – rolling in the grass, playing mouse with bark. Imagine my horror one day when I heard the watchman bragging about how he ambushed that “stupid cat” and dumped it somewhere, far away that it can never come back – now it won’t be bothering everyone with its mews and howls.
I was aching to punch his face but what could I have done? The cat was not even a pet and the watchman would have just lied through his teeth and said he didn’t do it (or worse, that a tenant had asked him to). Not many care about truant cats in my part of the world. Somehow this incident – along with all the fun I had raising Moko for ten years – had triggered a reaction and I arrived at a plot – what if a cat, a sheltered temple cat, is forced to travel alone in the city to find his family?
Here is Plot 101 – If you “suppose” something happening to Person X to make him realise he needs to achieve/avoid something/someone to be happy, and designate some people/thing to help him and some other people/thing to hinder him, it usually results in a WHAT IF situation and you can, if you love writing fiction, always wring a plot from it.
But a plot alone does not constitute a story. There has to be characters, sequence, action and resolution. All these can be glimpsed through the (pantsters, look away!) outlining process, covered in the next post.