Thursday, May 20, 2010


What do you do when you expect something to happen and it doesn’t?

I sat outside yesterday for awhile expecting to see lots of hummingbirds, but I didn’t. I saw one lone hummer. It seemed quite content to have the feeder all to itself. Normally by this time of year, there are at least six to eight hummingbirds flying around with many more to join them in the coming weeks.

Each year on April 1 for the past 10 or so years, one hummingbird appears. Sometime during the day it manages to buzz my head as if to say, “We’re coming, put out more feeders.” The one stays for about a week, then there’s a week with no sightings, and then the next there are one or two birds.

By the first of June I usually have at least six feeders up and they stay pretty well covered up until the end of the season. Several of us have tried to count them but lost count around 35 one day. The little creatures fly too fast to keep up with. They can be mean (to each other) and they are loud considering their size. But they are so much fun to watch.

I don’t use the packaged mixture to feed them. I just use 1 cup of sugar to 4 cups of water, warm slightly in the microwave to dissolve and then put it in their feeders. I don’t add any red coloring either. They seem to like it pretty well.

Having wrote this musing I wondered how to tie it into writing. I guess there could be a couple of ways.

One, I can see where a writer would have to study and do a good bit of research if they wanted their character to have a hobby. If that hobby was bird watching, for example, studying the hummingbirds could help.

Second, thinking about how the hummers all gather at the feeder made me think of how we all gather at our computers each day. They go to the feeder for nourishment to live, we go to the computer to nourish our minds.

I’m thinking the hummingbirds are arriving a little late this year due to the unusual weather we’ve had. What about your characters, are they acting as you expected or have they gone a different direction on you? Do you change them to follow your lead or do you follow them for awhile to see what new path they might find?

And I have WINNERS to announce for Robin Wells’ STILL THE ONE. Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway. Congratulations goes to: Pearl E. of New Mexico, Dru L. of New York, Margie T. of Minnesota, Jayme G. of Virginia, and Marjorie R. of Ontario.


  1. I tend to let my characters wander off the track for a while and see if they go anywhere interesting. Sometimes I have to firmly put them back on the path I chose for them but usually where they end up is more interesting or feels more natural.
    Thanks for sharing an interesting post.

  2. You've reminded me to put out more hummingbird food! It got watered down with the recent rains and they won't drink it now.

    I like my characters to explore...a little. But then I have to rein them in so we can get the story moving!

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  3. I love hummingbirds...but rarely get to see them. Never thought about trying a feeder (duh on me)

  4. Cass, I like the idea of characters wandering to find a different direction. Sounds interesting.

    Elizabeth, you're right the hummers don't like their feed watered down.

    MissV, give it a try. The first year you may not have many, but each year more come back. Good luck.

  5. Exactly. You can't have each character have the exact same hobbies as you. My hobbies are extremely boring so... great post and that's a great picture of some hummingbirds. Those little creatures never cease to amaze me.


  6. I saw a hummer a few weeks back so I put out the feeder. Haven't seen him since. I need to take it down and put in fresh food. Thank you for reminding me!

    Straight From Hel

  7. I don't have a feeder, but we plant a garden of zinnias, and by mid summer, the hummingbirds visit, hovering over the blossoms. It's a pretty sight.

    And my characters pretty much behave the way I expect. It's the writing itself that takes twists and turns with each project.

  8. I let my characters wander - forcing them back on track would feel unnatural.
    And 35 hummingbirds is a lot!

  9. Mason - I love the analogies you draw in this post! You make two points that I really thought were well-taken. We do write better, I think, if we know something about what the characters do (for instance, learning about birds if you're writing about bird-watching). I always respect sound research. The other point I think you make quite well is that people (and birds) are affected by things like weather and other events. They don't always act the way they might otherwise. I think it makes a novel more realistic, for instance, if a character changes after a murder happens (OK, I write mysteries, so this occurs to me). That's a major event, so it would be strange if the characters didn't react.

  10. We haven't been able to attract many hummingbirds here, but when we lived in Alabama, we would have to refill the feeders sometimes more than once a day!

  11. I both like and dislike the idea of computers being our feeders... I hope that they are only one type of human feeder.

    Love the shot of the hummingbird coming in to feed.

  12. Clarissa, thanks. They are fun creatures to watch. I was amazed how loud they can be.

    Helen, it's funny how one shows up and then nothing for awhile.

    Joanne, I wish I could grow plants for them too. However, I have a black thumb when it comes to plants.

    Diane, you wouldn't believe some years the amount we have show up.

    Margot, you make a great point. Characters have to react to change the same as we do, otherwise we as readers would like it.

    Bermudaonion, I'm constantly amazed at how much the little creatures can drink. Last year I was going to keep up with how much sugar I went through, but after the fifth 10-pound bag I quit.

    LadyFi, thanks. It's been hard for me to get a real good photo of them. Maybe this year I'll do better.

  13. I love hummingbirds. You have reminded me that we neglected to put our feeder out this year. Oops. Your analogies work quite well for writing. I love when you write yourself on your blog, Mason.

  14. We've just put out one feeder and aren't familiar with the routines in this part of the country, but we've enjoyed watching them, especially in the evening when they're all jockeying for position and dominance. We're do-it-yourself nectar makers too.

    As for writing, it's always fun to follow my characters. They've hit me with unexpected surprises, but most of the time, they're right.

  15. My best writing is when in the zone and my characters are talking to me, telling me what they want to say and do and think. At that point I don't have any expectations, only serendipity happening. Although during rewrites when I'm back to normal, I will often modify a scene if it got tooooo far out of line, lol.

  16. Karen, I try to keep one feeder out year round just in case some of the hummers can't make the trip south they'll have something to eat. Thanks for the kind words. :)

    Terry, I never realized something as tiny as a hummer could be so mean. When it comes to their feeders they can get very mean.

    Marvin, the zone is the best place to be when writing even if the characters do go a little off.

  17. We bought a hummingbird feeder but never hung it. :-(

    I had a friend who had one and had LOTS of hummers.

    I had the fortunate experience once of rescuing some hummers from spider webs--I lived holding them and releasing them--hope they never get caught again!

  18. I'm one of those people who have silly exoectations regardless of how stupid they are. You'd think I'd learn by now. But no ......

    Stephen Tremp

  19. Love the shot of the hummingbird coming in to feed.
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I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.