My husband and I were watching the sheepdog trials at the Scottish Games, and we started riffing on imagined conversations between the dogs and the sheep. It suddenly occurred to me that I could use this technique if I find myself stuck writing dialogue for my characters. While I love writing dialogue, I can become so focused on what I want to say that I forget I’m not the one speaking. It’s my character speaking, and she has her own voice. Getting out of my own head can be a challenge, but if I were to take a few minutes to focus on the animals around me, I might be able to hear my character’s voice again.
Dogs are great animals to watch because their faces are so expressive, but other animals will work. We’ve got crows and squirrels in the neighborhood that put on quite the show when they feel like it. The hummingbirds aren’t so interesting – pretty, yes, but too results-driven. The mourning doves, on the other hand, are a real hoot. They raise their young in our back yard so you would think they’d stop wasting their energy trying to divert my attention from them. If I haven’t eaten a single one of their young for the last twenty years, why would I start now? Nevertheless, every time they see me they start their script: “Oh, woe is me, I’m a poor wounded bird. Don’t look in the corner, look at me. Oops, guess I wasn’t wounded after all.”
The next time you find your voice seeping into your character’s dialogue, try to break that cycle by finding the voice of the animals you see around you. You can start by captioning the photo above of my brother Glenn and me and Daisy the dog.
Abby is romping in doggie heaven now. She was my daughter’s dog, but I was happy she let me be part of her pack. Even with a gimpy leg and the ability to pass gas that could be classified as a bioweapon, I thought she was the perfect dog.
This is the face Abby would probably pull if she could hear me. She would tell me to enjoy my memories, that now is all we have, and by the way am I going to share that sandwich? Like I said, the perfect dog.
Although I haven’t been in school in decades, and even my kids are finished (for the time being), Labor Day is still the beginning of the year for me. This is the time when I have to make sure last year’s produce (whether made into juice, jam or dried) has been eaten, because more is coming:
Seriously, a lot more:
Life is complicated this year by having both kids move back, with their stuff:
My goal was to clear away clutter – not going to happen. What will happen is that I will be more focused on efficient use of time and space so when the kids move out again my stuff won’t automatically expand to fill the gap.
The good news is, I am learning to accept that I am not in control. Helping me along the route to letting things go is having Abby’s quilt on the floor:
It is one thing to make a quilt knowing that a dog is going to sit on it. It is another to actually see the dog sit on it. After the first week, I realized I was okay with the situation. I even tried taking a picture of Abby on the quilt, but she’s not fond of cameras:
So, here’s to deep inhales, full exhales, meditations on peace, and the beginning of something new.