word craft


Story Behind the Story #36: Ragweed

RagweedHard­ly a week goes that does­n’t have one of my read­ers writ­ing to me and ask­ing, “Why did you let Rag­weed die?”

The sto­ry of Rag­weed, char­ac­ter and book, is a case his­to­ry of how a char­ac­ter takes over a book, and indeed, a series (The Pop­py books) not because the author (me), wished it so, but because the sto­ry insisted.

Con­sid­er how the Pop­py series was writ­ten: Pop­py first, Pop­py and Rye sec­ond, and then Rag­weed. But the series, as read today, puts Rag­weed first.

That answers the ques­tion, why did Rag­weed (the char­ac­ter) die?

You see, when I wrote Pop­py I had no inten­tion of writ­ing a series. I want­ed to write a stand-alone about the char­ac­ter Pop­py. To cre­ate ten­sion, sus­pense, I want­ed to show that her neme­sis, Mr. Ocax, was a real threat; that it would take great brav­ery for her to strug­gle against the owl. Owls, of course, eat mice. There­fore, Rag­weed was the sac­ri­fi­cial char­ac­ter, so to speak, to make the point that Mr. Ocax was a tru­ly dan­ger­ous adversary.

But by the time I wrote Pop­py and Rye, it was clear to me I was going to write a series, and also read­ers would want to know more about Rag­weed. Hey, I want­ed to know, too. I mean, where did he get that earring?

Thus, Rag­weed came to be writ­ten. It is full of skate board­ing (one’s son’s pas­sion) and rock-music (anoth­er’s son’s pas­sion.) Indeed, the whole series is chock full of ref­er­ences to my own fam­i­ly expe­ri­ences; love, mar­riage, father­hood, child­hood, step-father­hood-and a lot more.

Curi­ous­ly, the char­ac­ter Rag­weed hov­ers over all the books. Even his ear­ring (which he gets in the first book) is vital to the last book.

All that said, there is a big gap in the series, one that brings anoth­er con­stant ques­tion: “How did Rag­weed meet Poppy?”

Be patient: I am try­ing to find out. And when I know, you’ll be able to read all about it.

2 thoughts on “Story Behind the Story #36: Ragweed”

  1. I too often find that my char­ac­ters have a life of their own. Indeed, at one point while I was lying awake I’d ask one of them, “What are you doing?” and they’d tell me at length. And hear­ing that about your fam­i­ly expe­ri­ences makes me that much more eager to read “Rag­weed”.


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