I haven’t met a dog I didn’t like, even the guard dog[i] varieties in Jackie Houchin’s wonderful post last week about dogs in Malawi. But when it comes to writing, from the very first, I wanted to make a point of not writing about animals (many of my fellow authors already do that soooooo well!) So I haven’t—at least that’s what I’ve told myself for many a year before gathering my thoughts to write my Writer in Residence animal-series-post here.
Blogs are better with pictures, I’m told and think is true, so going back since starting to use a digital camera, I looked on my computer for pictures of pets we’ve known and loved—thinking an animal collage would be good to include in my post. So, I copied and pasted into PowerPoint all the pictures I could find, (some I didn’t have digital pictures of) all the while saying things to myself like, “Oh yeah, I did use Dobie in Mojave-Stone,” and “Jasmine was Della’s buddy in the Ravens books…” as I made my collage. Well, I finally realized how delusional/clueless I was about animals in my writing. A few examples are:
Mugs Nightshade–a character’s name inspired by Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion’s sidekick Lugg, and my dog Mugs—in my latest Rhodes book
Dobie – playing herself in two Rhodes books
Tempe—faithful friend to Elizabeth-May in latest Rhodes book
Silky and Samara (a friends cats)—playing themselves in two Rhodes books
Joeys—Joey was honored by having Hugh Champion’s mini-mart “Joey’s” named after him
Jasmine—Della’s faithful companion in two Hugh Champion books
Dogue—Camille’s faithful companion in Lies of Convenience
Tasha—Jada’s companion in Death of a Perfect Man
Naja and Buster—as themselves in my first novel Uncle Si’s Secret (with POV scenes of their own no less!)
I also forgot about the Ravens, itinerant residents here with us in the Mojave. Inspiration for Reticence of Reticence and Counsel of Ravens.
And then, I took a step even farther back—the first story I ever had published was in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine many-many-moons ago—title, Duck Soup. with characters, Dogue (my German Shepherd at the time) and some ducks. And the second story they published, The Case of the Lost Collie (their title, not mine. But there indeed was a Collie involved.)
So how could I not think I write about animals? The honest-to-goodness truth is I didn’t think I did.
My writing point here—clearly my subconscious author-mind has been writing about my lifelong “friends” all along. Even if they aren’t the main characters, or crucial to the plot line. They are there. And the further I thought, the less surprised I was. Clueless as I was about my animal friends, I’ve written about what’s inside me—what I’ve experienced, liked, and disliked. From animals, through locations, character traits, situations, and more. In the past I’ve gone on-and-on about locations, settings, sensory experiences, even lyricism—and how these items can make our writing better. Clearly, my dear animal friends have been “singing” to my writing-mind all along, and are embedded in who I am, and what I write.
From now on, I’m going to embrace on a conscious level any richness their presence in my life can provide to my writing. And my other take-away from putting together this post—is the question of what else is out there that needs conscious thought on my part?
My final thought, maybe advice? from this whole exercise is “Write what you know—even if you don’t know you’re doing it.” (Smile)
One little closing note: My characters are often talking to their animals. Why? Because I do. All the time. Hmmm…
[i] As a child we had a big black Belgium Sheppard named Champ