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
14 thoughts on “Delusional…”
Thought-provoking post, Madeline. I love your quote “Write what you know—even if you don’t know you’re doing it.” Isn’t it interesting how our subconscious claims the driver’s seat? You have an impressive display of fine-looking dogs and cats there!
I wish I could have found more pictures, Bonnie, several are missing from the collage. Now only two left, Mugs and Tempe. Until hubby and I moved to desert, had two dogs max, but since out here, have had up to six. People drop them in the desert, and somehow they find their way to our gate, even stop us on the road! Found homes for several, but most have ended up lying around you know whose house (usually on the couch!) (smile) Hello to Thunder!
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Excellent post, Madeline! Sometimes things come so naturally that we don’t realize we’re including them in our stories. I didn’t start out with the intention of including dogs in my books — they kind of inserted themselves. : )
Thanks for stopping by, Marja! Funny (as in interesting) about the animals, whenever Sherlock and Watson appear in a scene, I can feel a smile appearing on my face. I haven’t read Black Butterfly yet–still waiting for the perfect day. I’m hoping this weekend. (need to visit with your Lab Retrievers! (smile))
What a wonderful revelation you had there, Mad. Those furry beasts are part of our lives and we can’t escape it. Even if they only have a walk-on part or are part of the scenery, they are there making our lives just a little better. I will watch for those furry faces in your future books.
Like Marja says in her comment–they kind of inserted themselves! And oh yes, they certainly are making our lives just a little better. I’m going to watch out for those furry faces in my own books, too–now that I know how sneaky they are! (smile)
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Sounds as if dogs are important in your writing–and that doesn’t surprise me! Love your post.
Yeah, Linda, they are, and I hadn’t realized how much they were involved in my writing. As you’ve probably guessed, they aren’t just pets.
I loved our collage! Your post made me think of all of the doggies in my life.
This post was nice for me in that way, Jackie, in that it reaffirmed something I already knew, but was taking for granted–my fondness for critters! Probably why I enjoy your pet psychic mysteries.
We often infuse our characters with traits and features of those we know. Why not our beloved companions?
Right you are, Miko!
What a sweet post on how your favorite animals snuck into your writing… or should that be sneaked? Anyway, I like how you did it. They were part of the story and setting, if not the cast of characters. They didn’t speak English, discover clues… but they were companions to those who did. Thanks for writing what you didn’t know you were writing. Do it some more.
The little sneaks snuck in! (smile) Good to know you noticed them, but that they weren’t “the” story. Though in my latest, Tempe does sneak into the story a bit more…especially since I went back and revised a bit when I started thinking about animals in my writing. This series of posts has definitely made me think.