The one thing every author needs – a platypus


I believe a platypus is living in my attic. At first I thought it was a giant rat or maybe a squirrel, but last night I swear I heard it quacking.

I don’t know much about platypuses (platypi?), but I do know they have beaks which means they quack. This, of course, makes them part duck – the other part being beaver – but that’s the extent of my knowledge. I’m no expert, so please don’t send me your platypus questions.

Anyway, I’ve not slept much this week due to this thing making ruckus. Plus I have kids who wake up every 3 minutes to pee, usually in my bed, or stand in front of my face for hours on end. As a result, I’ve been cranky and mopey and I’m suffering from mashed-potato brain.

On the upside, mashed-potato brain seems to be good for writing. It’s like my brain-mush is oozing through the cracks in that box it finds so cozy and I get to glimpse all the weird and wonderful things happening outside.

It also lowers my inhibitions – as you can tell – and I find myself caring less about piddly things like grammar and sentence structure and more about entertaining myself with a good story. It’s not exactly legible, but it’s still a better story.

And I feel like that’s an important distinction to make, because storytelling and writing are not the same thing. A story can be told in many forms: Books, movies, comics, song lyrics, paintings, and so on… Writing is just another method. I think many of us want to lump it all together, which may work for you, but I don’t think it’s best for me.

You want to build a good story first. For the longest time I thought revision was the process of tightening prose, trimming fat, killing darlings. I’d spend days revising the same scene over and over, changing words and cropping sentences. Then I’d read it and think “this reads so well, so why is it so bad?” and I’d just stare at it in befuddlement before sighing and starting again.

The problem was that the problem wasn’t the words, but the story. It’s boring because there’s no conflict, no arc, no character development. In other words, I wasn’t telling a good story.

And I realize this now, thanks to a platypus living in my attic.

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