clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Sunday, October 1, 2017

I Know Them for Their Dogs

Peepe allows us to use the image of a Foxhound in the woods as hosted on wikicommons. Thanks, Peepe. Nice gesture to make this public domain.

I don't know my neighbors' names. I wave. Sometimes I smile (I forget this gesture frequently).  I say "hi" if they are in earshot.

I've met several multiple times but I don't know their names. I know their dogs.

This house is home to Ruger the Labrador. Jesse (Spaniel) and Roxy (portly lab)  live at the house that needs a large dumpster in the driveway for a week.

The French Bulldog (Babs) doesn't like anyone and so we don't stop to sniff if she is out.

Heisman is the shepherd that lives next door. I don't know his owners' name either.

I bring this up because I read a piece by an especially gregarious and extroverted writer this week. "Meet lots of people" and "avoid stereotypes" were tropes of the article.

I'd say: write.

Stereotypes are valid first-order approximations that are easy for a reader to grab until your more subtle details of construction are revealed. Southerners -- many -- do speak slowly. It frustrates some of us. Nothing wrong with using that fact in the introduction of detective Roy Summers from Waycross, GA. [ Waycross sits near the Okefenokee swamp: a great place to get rid of bodies in case you're hunting such a site.]

Dogs that growl sometimes bite. I'm not surprised if they do. If it enhances the story to have the dog not bite but have a chronic case of  crossed-signals, then use that fact. Else, have the animal bite someone. Your choice.

I've met lots of people. Enough people, I think. I can make my own and they won't resemble in detail anyone you've met because that's how I want my characters: uncommon.

I don't want the lady in line at the grocery store in my book because people still writing checks -- and still waiting until they get to the check-out to begin doing so -- are not especially interesting to me. Unless I have a stray bullet in a story.  I might have her be a victim then. Maybe.

For some, writing is a task of introspective world creation complete with action, reaction, sophist logic or even illogical reasoning on the part of characters.

In first grade, we'd already learned to lie. By high school, we did it well. So?  You don't need more models for your string of human templates. Cut them up and put them back together. You'll do fine.

Fiction is a lie.

Shhh. I won't tell if you don't.

The dogs know all and I know their names.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Oh, I think the lady at the checkout writing checks at the last moment would make an *excellent* victim! Also the ones who bring their own bags but don't help the cashiers pack them. And the folks who have complicated and/or expired coupons they produce at the very end of the transaction or after the total has been tallied. I go to the store nearly every day and am full of grocery store angst!

I speak very quickly as a Southerner. My elderly great-aunt diagnosed this problem a couple of years ago: "You've spent too much time up North! (i.e: Charlotte, NC) You sound like a Yankee!"

I think I write uncommon characters that hopefully seem eerily familiar to readers (their next-door, disliked neighbors).

Good to see you back!

jack welling said...


Still laughing.