Thursday, April 19, 2012

Why a Goose Story?

Over the years, people have told me I needed to put some of my funny animal stories into print. Several ideas milled around in my head, but I really didn’t know that much about writing.

I had participated for year in AuburnUniversity’s Novel Writing Workshop taught by Mary Moran. In this class, we were required to write ten pages per week and share them with the group for critiquing. It was an invaluable class, but my suspense novel manuscript was spotty and had too many missing parts. However, I did learn a bit about character development.

So when I decided to enter a short story contest, I chose to write about a goose. There were two individual geese who kept coming to mind.

First was the most aggressive goose in the compound. Originally named Matilda, she quickly became Matilda the Hun. Why? Because Matilda was a malignant soul who had her own ideas about how to run a zoo.

At one point in time, I had begun decorating goose eggs in the Faberge style. Our geese were prolific layers, but we quickly realized we were about to be overrun with geese! So I started collecting their eggs to decorate. Most of the geese didn’t care one way or the other, and rarely squawked, even when I took eggs out from under them.

But Matilda sure did! She would honk and carry on, pecking and flapping at whoever dared approach her nest. I took to waiting until she was away from her nest before robbing it. But boy, I had better be quick, because if she spotted me, she would come running and honking, ready for battle.
Not only did she guard her nest, but eventually she guarded all other goose nests as well. She didn’t care about chicken eggs, but she meant I wasn’t going to touch any goose eggs! It got to the point that whenever I entered the compound, she would stretch out her neck and hiss.

And then there was Ping. Ping had imprinted on us at hatching. It was summertime and her mother had been sitting on the nest for I don’t know how long. I happened to be in the compound with a volunteer veterinary student when suddenly the poor creature went into convulsions. She had built her nest in an abandoned doghouse and it was just too hot for her in there.

We rescued the goose, she was given IV’s and recovered. But her nest was a mess! Most of the eggs were crushed and cracked and the unhatched goslings dead. However, we found one egg just slightly cracked. I lamented over the loss of the babies, but the vet student suggested that I put it under a heat lamp.

Sure enough, in three days it hatched! I dubbed the infant goose Ping. Ping was so funny! She followed us everywhere and if we got too far away, she would go into hysterics. Her short little feet just couldn’t keep up with our long human strides. Sometimes it was easier to pick her up and carry her. When she grew up, she was cuddly and friendly and had a sweet disposition.

I decided to write my 2,500 short story about these two geese. However, I had barely gottenPing’s personality (named Sweetie in the story) properly developed when I had over 3,000 words! So much for the short story!

I just couldn’t figure out how to tell an interesting story about this goose in the allotted word count. I set it aside for a year or so.

Then when I returned to Alabama for a few months, it coincided with a workshop conducted by Charlene Redick called “Completing Your Rough Draft in 30 Days.” I was hungry for instruction, as there isn’t all that much opportunity for workshops inWyoming.

So I took Sweetie’s story and developed it. By the end of the month I had transformed 3,000 words to some 40,000 words. That was the beginning of The Thwarting of Mr. Dingsnapple.

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