Dogs and strangers

A friend of my husband’s came over to introduce us to his girlfriend. It seemed a nice enough idea and we were excited to meet her. We greeted her at the door where our akita tried to turn herself into a pretzel in order to get closer to the exciting new comers.

This new lady seemed nice enough at first. I didn’t really clue in when she insulted and questioned our choice of gender in dog and dog breed. Instead, I gave her a tour of the house during which she told me to relax, to change my attitude and to take better control of my excited dog. According to her, I should have gone to puppy school with my dog (we have but I didn’t see a point in mentioning it) and learn how to be an Alpha person. She claimed we had our dog on the wrong kind of food. Obviously, she was missing a vitamin and that was why she was so excited.

I was desperately trying to keep the conversation smooth and happy and changed the subject but she wouldn’t have it. She shook her head at my soft-spoken husband and declared we’d never have control over our dog. When she tried to ‘teach’ us how to ‘discipline’ Ocean, I lost it and took my puppy away.

The night was over after the hockey game and, to me, that was one very long game. In other circumstances, I might have liked this lady, but this night didn’t give me a chance to see the good qualities she must have. I disliked her for putting my doggie down and even worse when she tried to shout at her and shove her around in her version of ‘discipline’.

Ocean on the other hand, doesn’t suffer from my prejudices. She was delighted with the newcomers and saw them as wonderful companions. When they were leaving and I was standing tensely by the door, Ocean was still trying to kiss them goodbye and show them just how much she loved them already.

Afterwards, when I was smudging the house (a native process that changes the energy of a space), Ocean stretched out in the living room and slept. Obviously unconcerned about the energy or vibes they had left. She didn’t need any smudging to feel completely fine, safe and relaxed.
Watching her sleep, I finally realized who she reminds me of. Someone else who had the same faith in humanity.


Heroes that are too nice.

I like realistic characters. I don’t like it when they’re perfect. When I read, I’m pretty oblivious to the perfection of other characters unless its so over the top that my teeth start rotting because of the sugar content of the book. But, when I write, I’m Critical. My heroines can’t be too nice and I can’t stand it if my heroes are perfect. Who is? What man have I ever dated that had perfect teeth, gorgeous hair, blemish-free skin, worked out, had a great job, body and personality to match? Ah, none. Men aren’t perfect the same way women aren’t perfect.

I read somewhere that to write good romance, the heroine had to be less than perfect but the hero couldn’t have a single defect. The writer claimed a heroine who had faults was a someone women could relate to and I agree. But they added that women liked romance because they liked to imagine the perfect man sweeping them off their feet. They even went on to add that no amount of perfection no the side of the hero was too much.

I disagree. I think that less than perfect heroes are not just more realistic, they’re more attractive. The same way less than perfect heroines are more attractive.

I like to read about a woman who’s struggling in some aspect of her life because that makes her likeable and someone I’d laugh with and share my own struggles with. The same way, the guy in the story needs to have some sort of issue.

Now, I don’t mean that psychopaths would make a good character. Hannibal the Cannibal scared the bananas out of me when I read his biography (though he is a great hero in  Thomas Harris’ novel Hannibal). I just mean that perfection is…well, too perfect.

I read a book where the hero was Perfection Incarnate. This guy walked around all day with a halo on his head. He couldn’t let a little old woman stand for more than two seconds without offering her a seat and he did everything perfectly from cook to sing. Even his body was perfect, from teeth to toes, to nails and hairs in between. It was almost ridiculous. He could heal better than the town doctor, could resolve a disagreement better than the cops, and out shone the local haircutter. When he rescued the heroine’s lost dog, I almost gagged.

I like the hero to have a journey in the book. To me, it’s interesting when he has a hurdle to overcome. If he hates outspoken women because his mother never let him say a word as a child and our heroine doesn’t shut up? Could he love her anyway? How would that work? To me, he’s more interesting if he has quirks than if he doesn’t. Those issues don’t turn me away, on the contrary, I want to know how he works them out. It makes me curious. Perfection is boring and really, no man is ever perfect (certainly my lovely hubby isn’t as I can attest when I hear him sing).

Men aren’t perfect and we love them anyway. Maybe more so because they’re flawed.



I need to be meaner

I read somewhere that a good writer develops awesome characters, with everything from histories to unconscious needs, then searches for the absolutely worst thing that can happen to them…and makes that exact problem happen in the story.

Yeah, well that creates an issue for me. See, the thing is, though my characters are for all intents and purposes not real, I still have developed a ridiculous amount of love for the silly buggers and, well, I don’t like them to suffer. In fact, writing about them being in pain is…actually painful.

It makes sense that a story needs something to happen or there is nothing to tell. It would just be one boring happy day after another. Endlessly. But to find out the thing characters fear most, the thing they dread with all their souls, and to put that in their path. Isn’t that a little mean? Am I traumatizing my characters? Hi there, my imaginary character who’s terrified of dogs, here’s a pack of starving, feral wolves. Let’s see what you make of it.

I did exactly that in my book Olivia’s Choice. I found the hardest, most painful thing she could face and threw her into it. It was hard as all bananas to write. I remember crying as I wrote. The tough question to answer is if the book was better for it.

I think it was.




On a completely unrelated topic, does anyone know any good therapists who deal with imaginary people?

Inspiration of an unusual kind

I was at a work meeting and a coworker stood up and said one of the nastiest comments I have ever heard. It wasn’t nasty because it was rude or because it was filled with swear words. No. This one was nasty because it hit below the belt and it left no prisoners.

While everyone around me huffed and puffed in anger, I wrote it down. Later, I changed it until it was even nastier and suited to the situation then gave it to the villain in my story.

Oh, it was so good! My villain went from wanna-be nasty to awful in three short words. Gold! It was gold.

I find character-helpers like that pop up in life everywhere. Real people are full of quirky bits and interesting facts. Some are odd and greet me with “Hi, Superchick! How is it going on the planet?” Others are still so full of rage, they can harness anger with only a few words.

I find kindness is easy to write but true nastiness, someone you love to hate…well that takes talent. I don’t like a simple villain. I like ones that are complicated and have redeemable qualities. Sometimes the inspiration is all around me.

Still, I got a few puzzled looks at the staff meeting. I guess, they didn’t get why I was smiling after the vile comment.

What about you? Do others in life inspire you? Do you find villains easy to write?



My characters are out of control

I don’t have obedient, quiet, demure characters. Mine, heroes and heroines alike, tend to be opinionated, sneaky and most definitely trouble. Even the smaller characters are difficult to keep in line.

I have a plot. It’s a nice, logical, well-ordered set of events that culminates in a well-organized, tidy happy ending. The trouble is none of my characters seem willing to follow said plot. They have their own ideas of what should be happening in the story and refuse to comply with commands.

It may sound silly but I think they’re up to something and I’m fairly certain it’s nothing good. I’m wondering if I should sit with them and explain that, as the writer, I’m the boss. Still, there are problems with that idea. For one, the characters are imaginary and if I start talking to them–well, it’s not a good sign. For another, they can’t help their rebellious nature, after all, I created them that way.

Perhaps acceptance is key.

Who knows, they might have a better idea for that tidy, well-organized plot.