Notice little things.
Extrapolate to larger world.
Watch for opportunity.
Did you ever laugh at a small bird chasing a huge bird? Did it remind you of maybe a little Volkswagen Bug chasing a Mac truck? Pretty comical–like, what would it do if it ever caught it?
My boxer dog, for months, chased pheasants out in the alfalfa field behind our home in Wyoming. My horse and I came upon this silly dog early one morning. He stood in our lane, his front legs splayed and in his mouth he held a huge cock pheasant. Both animals’ eyes were wide and blinking. The dog met his goal, but had no clue what to do next.
Keep a notebook: You noticed a little bird chase a larger bird, and you recorded it in your notebook. This incident made you laugh when you drove down the highway and first saw it. But what use is this information to you?
Notice little things: When you see tiny birds chasing birds ten times their size, they have no intention, nor desire, to catch the beast they pursue. They just want it away from their nests. The larger bird will probably give up because staying around isn’t worth the bother.
Extrapolate to larger world: Think about the universal picture of this small entity in triumph over the larger. Where does this come into play in your writing?
Frank Herbert in his Dune series created a terrific saying, “Fear is the mind killer”. The smaller bird put fear aside and did what needed to be done to protect its offspring. Isn’t this what happened to a rag-tag army of fathers and sons who put down their plows and went to war against the British war-machine during our colonial America times?
Watch for opportunity: Your manuscript screams out for your protagonist to be in a tight spot. How tight can you make that situation? How horrid can the odds be stacked against your character? What powerful motivators do you need that will drive your little bird to win? What about Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, or any other of your favorite protagonists who face-larger-than-life opponents? Think about KNEW the next time you read one of your favorite mystery writers.
The hummer and the butterfly: Drought caused a shortage of wildflowers this year. Is the usually aggressive Rufus Hummingbird sharing limited resources, or is the butterfly being an opportunist? What do we do when there’s a shortage of essentials?