Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Killdeer are great at disguises. It starts when they are still in their eggs; they look like stones. The parent killdeer protect their eggs by pretending they have a broken wing and they slowly lead you away from the nest. Just when you think you might catch them they fly off, screeching at you. They will repeat the performance for as long as it takes until you leave completely. Killdeer are one of nature's great con-artists.
I took this picture last summer of a nest of killdeer eggs. The silly bird had laid her eggs on the shore of a busy lake. It was near the parking spaces so people kept disturbing her on their way to and from the cars. All along the lake perimeter I could have picked dozens of better places for a nest. Too bad her cleverness didn't help her pick one.
People often do the same thing, myself included. We protect ourselves from small dangers while missing the big picture. Writers use this big-picture blindness all the time. Often the reader can see what the character needs to do to solve all of their problems, but the hero is entirely blind to using the obvious solution. This holds true for villains as well. The YouTube channel How it should have ended is full of examples of how seeing the whole picture changes on ending. Here is a simple ending to Lord of the Rings. It's funny how if you make the characters a little smarter the whole story disappears.
Someone could write a desperate story about a killdeer nest in between a beach and a parking lot and all the near crisis moments. It would certainly be more interesting than the killdeer nest safe on the other side of the lake. Maybe we like to feel a little smarter than the people we read about. What do you think?