Sometimes, the world just throws you for a loop. I heard an osprey calling the other day; which isn’t that unusual in this area. There are several bodies of fishable water, and there’s usually at least one osprey nest in walking distance. But the water isn’t that close, and the call was oddly low to the ground. So I went looking.
(Writers. Curiosity gets us every time.)
So. Outside. Looking up. No osprey wheeling in the sky. None perched in any of the tall pines they might have, maybe, chosen to take a break in. And unlike a lot of birds, I’ve never seen ospreys on telephone poles.
Yet there again came the characteristic rising osprey-on-nest cry. So I followed the sound….
To a blue jay, sitting in a crepe myrtle.
Now, I’ve heard mockingbirds mimic ospreys before. They’re usually easy to pick out, because after about four to eight “osprey” notes, they switch to something else. But this was a blue jay. Beak open. Throat visibly working. Perfect osprey call.
At which point I had to blink, shake my head, and turn around to head back into the house. “Okay, that’s enough weird for one day….”
Inserting some random weirdness like this into a book often doesn’t work very well. The reader assumes, rightly, that every detail in the book should be important to the story. So just throwing in a bit of randomness, no matter how true to life it might be, can do serious damage to story flow.
Which means the thing to do might be to make it not random. Or at least, not look random. Meaning it really is important and will turn up later… or it’s a Red Herring!
After all, bird augury is a classic ancient means of divination. Your osprey-imitating blue jay could send fantasy characters off on the wildest of goose chases away from the real villain, because it’s so weird it had to be important, right?
I’m not following that blue jay anytime soon. Curious, sure; I’m not crazy.
(Besides, I’m pretty sure it’s nesting in a big oak tree nearby, so there.)