Skip to content

The original, 1963 version of Clifford the Big Red Dog is written like the first draft to one of my novels.

The plot does not begin until two–thirds of the way through the book.

On page 23 of 27, author Norman Bridwell writes:

One day I gave Clifford a bath.

Thus begins the four brief pages of plot that ultimately end the story.

Clifford is brought to a dog show and wins second prize, and Emily Elizabeth declares her love for her second-place mutt, regardless of his eccentricities.

That’s it. The whole plot. In four pages.

Everything prior to page 23 serves merely as character development.

Clifford plays hide-and-seek.
Clifford is difficult to feed.
Clifford chases off burglars.

Random anecdote after random anecdote about Clifford’s unique characteristics.

No plot whatsoever.

While my daughter has yet to complain about this obvious flaw in the story, I expect to hear about it any day now. She has nearly memorized the book, and thus her ability to analyze its narrative structure is probably only days away.

Sadly, while the ratio of character development to plot in my first drafts might be slightly better than Bridwell’s, it’s not far off.

Of course, that’s what I get for writing books without any plot in mind.

Hooray for my agent, Taryn, and her ability to fix my mess.