Sunday, September 7, 2014

Does your story have a dog?

By Kristi Belcamino

Our family got our first dog this month.

She's perfect.

Her name is Bella! (She was already named.)

She was a rescue dog. She's a little over a year old. She's part Schnauzer and something else. Poodle? (Schnoodle) Yorkie? (Schnorkie) Maltese (Mauzer)?

Bella spent the past two months with my parents in Northern California living a quiet, rural life.

She's spent the last three weeks as a City Dog in our house in Minneapolis. She still hasn't adjusted to city life and barks and growls at all the people who walk by and the frequent stream of sirens.

I keep telling her that now she's a City Dog and she better get used to people and noises, but she is still adjusting.

Getting Bella and talking about her online and seeing how people react to my posts reminds me of a piece of advice I once received from a writing instructor.

The fall I wrote BLESSED ARE THE DEAD, I took a master writing class at the Loft Literary Center here in Minneapolis. The instructor, a published author, told us to add an animal into our story.

In fact, she said that several writers who have taken her class have told her that adding a pet was the best advice she gave them.

Based on this advice, I added a cat—Dusty—to my novel.

What I found was that the cat was an awesome, versatile plot device. I could use the cat to reveal a plethora of traits about my main character, Gabriella Giovanni. I could even use the cat to help show her character arc. Bingo. Great advice.

So, I will share that advice to you—try adding a pet to your manuscript and see where it takes you.



Al Tucher said...

I write hardboiled stories about a prostitute named Diana Andrews. As part of my research, I acquired a technical consultant, a young woman in Diana's line of work, who gave me such great material that I'm still living off it more than five years after I last saw her.

She read my stories, and she told me once that Diana is entirely plausible except for one thing: "She really should have cats, because we all do."

I confess that I have not taken her advice yet, but your post gives me more incentive to work on it.

Anonymous said...

There you go!
And you'll be able to show so much with that pet -- her mood, etc. Have fun!

Kristi B.

David Pennington said...

Dusty was a great add and a great way to display Gabriella's growth. My current WIP does have a dog and he's quickly becoming a major character. I didn't plan it that way but the cute little thing just takes over in certain scenes.

Kristi said...

Hi David,
Thanks! I love that - just takes over certain scenes! Awesome. And I should also have mentioned the "Pet the cat" moment where writers can show a character putting something else's well being in front of his own.