Wednesday, January 02, 2008

When you write yourself into a corner...

Check out this anecdote about Virginia Lee Burton's Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel. Wizards Wireless has the story.

This post reminds me of another quandry, as posed by Ramona Quimby in Beverly Cleary's Ramona the Pest. Ramona asks Miss Binney, her kindergarten teacher, how Mike Mulligan was able to go to the bathroom when he was working all day to dig the required hole. Miss Binney is flummoxed as the kids discuss the matter. One kid wonders if Mike Mulligan climbed out and went to a service station, while another kid points out that Mike Mulligan had to work all day and couldn't stop. Finally, the inexperienced Miss Binney says that the reason why the story doesn't explain how/when Mike Mulligan went to the bathroom was because it wasn't an important part of the story. However, the kindergarten is not convinced:

Ramona and the rest of the class knew that going to the bathroom was important. They were surprised that Miss Binney did not understand, because she had showed them the bathroom first thing. Ramona could see there were some things she was not going to learn at school, and along with the rest of the class she stared reproachfully at Miss Binney.
--Beverly Cleary, Ramona the Pest, Chapter 1

Have you ever said or written anything where you backed yourself into a corner? How did you get out? Please discuss in the comments section.

8 comments:

Wizards Wireless @ said...

I read all the Ramona books when I was younger, but I don't remember that passage. Thanks so much for sharing it!

HipWriterMama said...

This is great! I don't remember this section either, and it is priceless.

Should I worry that lately I find myself backed into the corner because of something I say to the kids that comes back to haunt me? It always makes for an amusing story afterwards on how things get fixed. One day, I may share my embarrassing parenting moments.

Lone Star Ma said...

I once wrote a whole children's novel and then realized that the plot only works because the kids lie to their parents. That seemed a pretty fatal flaw. I still haven't re-written it.

SamRiddleburger said...

Yet more proof that Ramona was the all-time greatest! HArd to believe that one of the most popular kids books of all-time is UNDER-rated, but, yes, we often forget just how great Cleary is at thinking like a kid.

As for writing myself into corners... All the time.
Another thing that happens is you write up to a certain scene or gag orpayoff and when you get there you realize it would take a genius to pull it off and your brain cells aren't firing.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

I think it's relatively easy to come up with conflict in plot, but so hard to resolve it in a believable and interesting way. I think of Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy a lot when it comes to writing oneself into corners. I think he did just that, and that's why The Amber Spyglass was so unsatisfying to me in comparison to the first two books.

Minh said...

When I was a kid I told my dad that I would never kiss a girl. Icky! Gross! No way!

He hasn't let me forget that one... but I've managed to weasel my way out of that corner.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Minh: I was just thinking about you as I was working on my Song of the Week post. Your statement to your dad is indeed funny. My brother Ulric made a bet with my father that he would never like girls. The statute of limitations would expire on his 21st birthday. If my brother won, my father would have to buy him an "Earthquake" sundae from Swenson's, and if my father won, my brother would have to buy. My brother successfully kept his interest in girls secret all the way up to his 21st birthday-- but by the time he came to collect, Swenson's was out of business.

Timothy Carter said...

That was a great bit of writing. Good for Beverley! It's funny, the things you don't think of when you're writing a story.

Have I ever written myself into a corner? Absolutely! Good thing we have rewrites.