writing for children

Why a really good book is like a Platypus


A platypus is intriguing. If you watch Phineas and Ferb, you know I speak the truth. A platypus is a mammal… who spends its life in water and on land, lays eggs (that are leathery, much like a reptile’s eggs) and has a bill, much like a duck. Oh yeah… and it has a tail similar to a beaver.


Yes. It is a mammal – but it doesn’t follow some of the mammal rules. Ya know, mammals are supposed to have live young. But the platypus? Not so much. And guess what? Even though it secretes milk, it doesn’t have teets. Nope, it secretes it through it’s skin and the babies lap it up. It gets the job done, but in a way that is NOT usual for a mammal.

I think the platypus is one of those surprises God threw into the animal kingdom to keep us on our toes. Ya know, so we don’t think we know all the answers.

Now how in the world does this relate to writing a really good book?

As writers, we have to write books that make the reader feel like they’ve walked away with an unexpected “bonus”. The writer needs to read it… get to the end… and feel like, “WHoa, I didn’t see that coming.” (But in a good way!)

A mammal is supposed to follow certain “rules”. But the platypus breaks several of them. As writers, we need to know the rules, but also be willing to break them if that is what it takes for our story.  Our stories need to make the reader react like this:











Like this:









Or like this:











But you do NOT want them to react like this:

Sooooo…. What are some “rules” in writing that we can break to make our stories stand out? What rules have you broken? How has breaking the rules helped make your book stronger? More appealing? What can you do to make your book into the “platypus” of the literary world?

(And on the other hand, what rules do you think you should NOT break?)


17 thoughts on “Why a really good book is like a Platypus

  1. Donna,

    A fun read! Now, I’ll think of writing when I see a platypus or even hear the word! You’ve got creativity flowing through your veins and out, like a mama platypus supplies milk. 🙂

    Linda A.


  2. DOn’t tell me that you have pet platpusses (or is platapusi?) at your house. I like your premise: we have to know the rules in order to be able to break them. Let’s see…what rules have I broken…let me count the ways. Many moons ago (and I’d never do this again-well, maybe not) I phoned an editor asking why I hadn’t heard from her about my query. I think I actually reached her at home. Gasp. She told me to get busy writing something else and I’d hear back from her. WHich I did and she was gracious enough to work with me on getting that article published. And when I first queried Maupin House it was without even looking at the types of books they published. I wouldn’t do that again for sure!! BTW, I liked the last picture (besides the one of Phineas and Ferb) the best. Nice to have you back in the blogosphere!


  3. Carol – I don’t have a platypus b/c poisonous thingees in the back of their feet scare me! 🙂

    Jean – good to be back!

    Vijaya – no, not boring at all! I love kittens, too! And BTW – WELCOME TO THE SOUTH! 🙂


  4. ANGELA… ROFL!!! LOVE YOUR COMMENT! My husband says he is is married to a pineapple – so don’t feel bad! (See, I’ve got brown hair, but he says I’m a blonde on the inside. Thus, the pineapple comment)

    I am looking for End of the Line at our little Books A Million at our small mall. If they don’t have it, I’m going to order it for my girl. I so want her to read it! This is a brilliant book and I can’t wait to see it in print!


  5. Donna,
    I wish you were on FB. I want to publicly thank you for your comment on my last blog. It totally enriched one of my character’s backstory–who’s on father will have fought for the Union but ended up in the South.. THank you, thank you!


  6. Donna, I agree — sometimes breaking a writing rule is the thing that makes a piece shine. Nice to know we can be rule-breakers sometimes, huh? 🙂

    Also an fyi for you — I have a couple of pics and post up now about some Blue Mountain Arts news of mine. Thought you’d enjoy checking it out when you get a chance. Have a great week!


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