Guest Blog by Susan Lubner
One morning I accidentally locked myself inside a large dog crate with my Standard Poodle. He was pleasantly surprised. Me? Not-so-much surprised, and there was nothing pleasant about it.
There was the time back in the 1990’s when I thought I had phoned a women’s clothing boutique by the name of Definitely Wendy. A who’s on first type of conversation ensued. “Is this Definitely Wendy?” I asked. “Yes. It’s definitely Wendy’s,” the woman replied. I asked if they had any wraps in stock. (I was hoping for cashmere or at least a blend.) “We have pita wraps,” she told me. I thought she said Peter wraps. I’d never heard of that designer. “What are those like?” I asked. She said, “You can get them however you want…lettuce, tomatoes, pickles…” (As a sidebar…I never knew that that Wendy’s served anything but burgers!)
Then there was the day last spring when I showed up at a meeting wearing my fuzzy slippers (did I tell you that the meeting was at a construction site?) Embarrassed, I apologized for leaving my house so absent-mindedly only to have someone point out that I was also wearing my sweater inside out.
I have a knack for finding myself in situations like these. And it runs in my family. My mother had oodles of her own humorous and seemingly preposterous stories and situations to tell and retell.
In the first book of my new early reader chapter book series, Drag and Rex Forever Friends (November 2023) there are three stories, each with three chapters. My characters, Drag and Rex were created with real qualities of real somebodies…great friends with very different personalities…a truth seed! But then of course, there’s the fictionalized fact that one is a dragon and the other a T-rex. And that’s just the beginning. Their qualities are exaggerated greatly, and I made up other characteristics. Still, they started with that truth seed.
In the first story, an impulsive Drag cannot help himself and gobbles up something meant as a surprise for someone else. (There may have been that time I was bringing a fresh baked loaf of bread to a friend’s house for dinner and by the time I arrived there was only half a loaf left.) I use that same truth seed in the next story, and again in book 2 (Sweet and Silly, Fall 2024) each time in entirely different ways, with completely different storylines. That seed of truth…that I ate half a loaf of bread on the way to my friend’s house… is unrecognizable in each book. Yet it was used to successfully “sprout” a variety of fictionalized scenes.
Even if you have never locked yourself in a cage with your dog, we all have truth seeds. What are yours? And which ones should you catalogue?
It’s possible you already keep a diary or maybe you have one and don’t realize it! It may be that your truth seeds can be found in your many photos… fabulous trips, numerous family celebrations, your happiest moments with friends. Maybe you have compiled a list of your favorite quotes? Or poems? Or restaurants? Or maybe you keep track of the titles of all the shows you plan to watch (or have watched) or the books you want to read (or have read). Is there a common theme to all of these titles?
Some people keep track of goals or dreams (as in the kind you have when you are sleeping). Do you have a collection of coins or stamps or seashells and a special memory attached to some of them? Perhaps you have several of these things?
There’s no right or wrong way to use your truth seeds. Maybe a setting is fleshed out from that special beach you captured in your photo? Maybe your opening scene starts with the crazy dream you had last night or the coincidence you experienced two weeks ago? How many different ways can that setting, or scene or character be written? Try it. See where it takes you…it just may kickstart your next story.
In the end, it’s very possible that your manuscript will turn into something that doesn’t even resemble that first planted seed. That’s the fun and beauty of fiction. But the seed will sprout and grow and maybe even blossom. It will serve you well! And that’s the truth.
Susan Lubner is the author of three picture books (Abrams Books for Young Readers) and two middle grade novels, LIZZY AND THE GOOD LUCK GIRL (Running Press Kids/Hachette Books) and THE UPSIDE OF ORDINARY (Holiday House). To learn more about Susan visit her at https://www.susanlubner.com/. To order a copy of DRAG & REX click here.
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