I remember thinking the song was clever, and Murphlet 2 enjoyed it too. Little did I know that those men, who were The Wiggles, would go on to become a huge international phenomenon – or that for years to come, long after my youngest grew out of their music, I would find myself randomly signing D-O-R-O-T-H-Y, or “Toot, toot, chugga chugga”, or other similarly catchy lyrics.
We had a bit of a strange dinner at our house tonight. My youngest had rugby training, so I didn’t get dinner started until 6.30, planning a simple meal of satay chicken and rice. I boiled the kettle, and got the rice on the stove, then went to dice the chicken. Blehhhhhhh. The chicken had a funny smell. It should have been fresh but it didn’t smell that way, and I don’t take chances with chicken. Straight into the bin went the chicken, and I was left with a pot of rice and no other meat in the fridge (it’s shopping day tomorrow).
I won’t bore with you the details of the umming and ahhing that ensued, but Murphlet 4 found two pizza bases in the freezer and offered to whip up pizzas. Meanwhile, I had enough ingredients to turn the rice into fried rice. Twenty minutes later and dinner was on the table – a choice of pizza, fried rice, or some of each. The Murphlets ate with gusto, and I must admit I quite enjoyed the rice, though I drew the line at combining it with pizza. But no one went hungry and I must admit that the kids didn’t seem to find the dinner as strange as I did. The team from MasterChef would have been horrified, but the Murphlets – teenage boys – were happy.
So, why am I sharing my story of culinary failure with you? Because, as I sipped a glass of red afterwards and wondered at the way a planned meal of satay chicken and rice, became the odd combination of fried rice and pizza – yet satisfied my audience of teenage boys. And I realised that this is just like writing. Sometimes you sit down to write a story, and you know what you want to write – the style, the twists and turns, the character development. It’s all there in your head, maybe even in your written plan, but as you write, something strange happens. The characters won’t behave, or the plot develops a mind of its own and heads off in direction you hadn’t foreseen. But, as you write, you see some hope, some new sense of direction. And, when you finish you realise you don’t have the story you set out to write, but in its place you have something equally satisfying – or even better. In effect you have turned satay chicken and rice into pizza and fried rice – and your young readers may well gobble it up.
So yes, satay chicken is delicious. But if your chicken smells funny, don’t risk salmonella poisoning. Throw the chicken out and try making fried rice. If your love story develops a vampire, go with it. If your feisty heroine develops a foible, explore it. You just might end up with something better – and if not, well, you can always go get some takeaways – or some fresh chicken.