Guest Post from Carol Kilgore

September 15, 2010 at 5:40 am (September Blog Tour) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Note from Cassandra: Thanks Carol for hosting me on your blog today and for your excellent post here. I hope everyone enjoys reading your words of wisdom.


First of all, I want to thank Cassandra for offering me this opportunity to be a guest on her fantastic blog. I always learn from her posts. Today I’m a virgin – this is my first ever time to write a post for someone else’s blog. It’s a little frightening. So here we go, sink or swim.

“Pop Goes the Weasel” is a song most of us learned before we could string more than two words together – as soon as we could master the crank on the side of the Jack-in-the-Box. We watched Mommy turn it, Daddy, big sister. We knew what was coming.

The clown popped out, and we jumped and squealed. We couldn’t wait for them to push the clown back in and make it jump out. “Again! Again!”

Then it was our turn. We turned it fast, we turned it slow, we mixed it up. Again and again.

When we were two, this was thinking outside the box.

We passed the Terrific Terrible Twos a long time ago. Now most of you reading this are writers.

Today, thinking outside the box means something a little different from Mr. Jack. We still have the familiar set-up, but the outcome is . . . outside the box. Now when we turn the crank, maybe the box explodes. Or the clown is a girly fish dressed in sequins with a pink feather boa around her neck and wearing bright red lipstick. Or we have to put the box together like a puzzle to hear the song. Or we start with the clown outside, turn the crank, and he returns to the box.

The same with our writing. Thinking outside the box applies to every aspect of a novel – character, conflict, dialogue, setting, tone, point of view, plot, theme, and so on.

Instead of your protagonist being a firefighter, maybe he’s a special hot-spot firefighter who gets called out on wildfires. Or maybe he’s a dragon and a rookie in the Dragonopolis Fire Department who always needs to be careful not to start fires of his own when he sneezes or laughs or becomes angry.

Thinking outside the box takes many forms. That’s the beauty. The possibilities are endless.

What’s your favorite way to think outside the box?


Carol Kilgore is a Texas writer living in San Antonio. She writes mystery and suspense with a little romance to tingle your tootsies. Her blog, Under the Tiki Hut, is a positive spot for readers and writers to meet, relax, and exchange ideas and dreams.



  1. Arlee Bird said,

    Carol! It seems strange to see you away from the Tiki Hut.

    At some point when I was a kid I’m sure after I got tired of the Jack-in-the-Box I dismantled it. That’s what I usually did with all of my toys. I’ve always liked to figure out how things work and then take the pieces and make something new.

    I guess that’s one way I like to think outside the box. Changing things around so that the familiar looks a bit different and maybe has a totally new use.

    Tossing It Out

    • Carol Kilgore said,

      Such a guy thing – LOL!!!

      I loved mine AND my sister’s. For me, Jack came alive when he was inside the box and had an entire family inside. I always had to hurry and peek inside to try to see his family. Never did.

  2. writerleerobertson said,

    Great post Carol. Surprises and unexpected twists keep fiction alive.

  3. Jane Kennedy Sutton said,

    I like the analogy using a jack-in-the-box. My outside the box thinking comes along when my characters take control of a situation. I sit there thinking that’s not what I had planned, but I like it so much better.

    • Carol Kilgore said,

      I LOVE when my characters take control. Every once in a while I have to wrest it back, but usually they’re spot on.

  4. Carol Ann Hoel said,

    When I was five, I escaped from the box. I’ve been trying to get back inside ever since! It’s wild out here! I love your post. I think my actual outside-box revelations come by accident. They are precious and make a story shine. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Carol Kilgore said,

    Love it! Mine usually arrive in a burst of energy.

  6. Mason Canyon said,

    Maybe as children we somehow realized that if Jack’s head came out of the box, then surely the rest would too. Enjoyed your post.


    Thoughts in Progress

  7. Crystal said,

    What a unique post, Carol! You touched on a couple of points I’d never really given much thought to. Thanks for this different way of looking at things!

  8. Linda Kage said,

    Wonderful post! I’ve created some great stories from watching movies or reading other books and thinking, “now what if this happened instead of that?” and twisting and turning their plot to make my own.

    • Carol Kilgore said,

      Maybe I should start thinking down those lines. Usually I key in on a line of dialogue or one part of a scene and take off from there. Your way sounds MUCH easier – LOL.

  9. Hart said,

    Carol-this was great fun! I especially liked the girlie fish with sequins and the feather boa, but I’d make him a he-man fish dressed that way… it’s what I like to do to he men… it’s sort of the way I roll.

    It’s great food for thought though, to look at what we have and figure out how to add an element of surprise. (I’d also make the darned thing pop at an unexpected time, but genre formulas get mad at me for that….)

    • Carol Kilgore said,

      LOL – love the thought of the feminine manly fish. When I was little I used to think Jack might pop out at any time. But he never did. Only on the musical cue. Sigh. Genre Jack.

  10. VR Barkowski said,

    I adored my Jack-in-the-box. Each time I twisted the crank, I waited, expectant, never sure it was going to be Jack who popped up.

    As for out of the box, this is probably creepy, but being a researcher before I was a writer, one of the ways I think outside of the box is to do literature searches. I look for key words and read similar scenes by other writers. It forces me to take scenes in new directions rather than get caught in cliches.

    • Carol Kilgore said,

      I think I always knew it would be Jack. Just never knew when.

      What a great idea to do literature searches. I just may try that. Thanks.

  11. AlexJCavanaugh said,

    Those are some clever twists, Carol!

  12. Carol Kilgore said,

    Great pun!

  13. lauraeno said,

    Great post, Carol! I like the jack-in-the-box analogy. I think my characters do a lot of the exploring outside the box for me.

    • Carol Kilgore said,

      Thanks, Laura. My characters often ask me what I think. Hate that. I tell them it’s their story, what do I know?

  14. lbdiamond said,

    Looking at the world through another person’s eyes helps me to think outside the box because I have to approach problems from their perspective, even if I don’t agree.

  15. Carol Kilgore said,

    Very true. It’s scary when that character is a killer.

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