Dog Days, part 4

I’m older now.  I’ve been with Leigh a long time, and since my life’s been happy, much of it blurs in my memory.

I remember friends.  At our first house, I was friends with Radar and Zoey.  Radar’s mom was Leigh’s best friend; she called me Mr. Wrinkles.  Zoey called me skinny dog.  She was a bulldog, and my best friend.  Now I have lots of friends.  Sometimes I go and stay with Illie and Georgia.  We used to live by them, but since we’ve moved I don’t see them as much.  I also like to stay with Duchess, although her mom has cats and I don’t know how I feel about cats.

For a while there was a man in our life.  I wasn’t sure about him at first, but he was friendly and nice to me.  I think after he’d been around us for a few years he got tired of me.  I’m glad I stayed with Leigh, but I was sad to leave him behind.  He didn’t even say goodbye.

Leigh also has a bird, now, although I’ve been with her longer.  The bird throws interesting food on the floor, but he also bites really hard and makes loud noises that hurt my ears.  I don’t really like the bird, but Leigh does, so I leave him alone.

I like living with Leigh.  I have soft things to sleep on (she even lets me sleep with her sometimes) and plenty of food.   I’m still nervous about drinking, and thunder makes me scared when she’s not around, but I have a lot less to be afraid of now.  If I could have one wish it would be that Leigh wouldn’t leave so much, but I know she’ll come back.  She wants me, and she loves me.

Unlike other dogs with a beginning like mine, my story has a happy ending.

Dog Days, part 3

I don’t really like to talk about what happened next.

I managed to scrape by, finding food where I could.  I learned to eat fast, so the scraps that I found wouldn’t get stolen.  Water was the hardest.  There were two places where water was always available.  One was the river, a scary place to try to get a drink.  The other was a pool guarded by a nasty mean dog.  Every once in a while, when he was in a good mood, he’d let someone get a drink, but I was always too scared to try.  I made do with puddles, drinking as much as I could.

I’m ashamed to admit that I followed people, hoping for a handout or even a home.  I’m not proud of it, but it was necessary.  It turned out to be for the best, though, because a sweet girl with a little dog finally felt sorry for me and let me come to live with her.  She was the first person to give me a name; she called me Eli.

It was nice, where she lived, and I would have liked to stay, but her dog was mean and didn’t like me.  Because I was scared of him, I never got enough to eat.  The girl wanted to me to stay, but her father convinced her that perhaps I needed a different home.  I don’t know how they knew her, but they introduced me to Leigh.  She had a kind voice and was careful with me, because she knew a little bit about my history.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the best day of my life was when I went to live with Leigh.

Dog Days, part 2

Read part 1 here.

It’s amazing how one traumatic event can etch an entire day into your mind.

The day started out exciting.  It was the first time I had ever been to a park.  I had been outside before, but this was a big outside, with lots of activity.  I remember wanting to run, but I was scared, too, so I would run away just a little and then run right back to my mother.  This was a lot of fun for a while, until I saw the squirrel.

I know what it’s called now, but at that point all I knew was that this fluffy thing was really interesting.  When I tried to get close, it ran away from me.  I had to chase it!  We ran across a big, green lawn and then into some trees.  When the squirrel ran up into one, I stood at the bottom.  I was so excited!  I yelled and yelled, “Look!  Look!!”

It was a few minutes before I realized that no one was around.  I ran back to where everyone had been, as quickly as I could, trying to find my mother.

No one was there.  I looked and looked.  I even cried.  But I couldn’t find them.

They might have left me on purpose, or maybe it was an accident.  Either way, they didn’t come back to look for me.  I know, because I stayed in the park for three days, looking for them.  If they had wanted to find me, it would have been easy.

After three days I realized that they didn’t want me.  I was alone.

Dog Days, part 1

It’s time for some more writing practice.  We’ll do this little story in a few installments.  Enjoy part 1!

I don’t remember much about my mother’s house.  Most of it comes to me in random flashes at odd moments.

I remember having a soft place to sleep, and always being warm.  I had brothers and sisters, although I can’t seem to recall how many.  It felt like there were a lot of us, but I was little, so I could be wrong.

Sometimes I get a scent of something that reminds me of my mother.  I do remember how she smelled, although the words to describe it evade me.  Comfort, warmth, softness, and sweetness; those are the words that come to mind when I think of her scent.

I don’t remember being hungry, so there must have been enough food.  I don’t remember the people, either.  They were there, to be sure, but my world was limited to my mother, my siblings, and the warm place where we slept.  Beyond that, I have no memories.

I do remember being left, though.  You don’t forget something like that.

Mixing Stories

I’ve been watching Into the Woods this afternoon, and it’s made me think about mixing stories.

For those of you who are unfamiliar,Into the Woodsis a musical that takes several fairy tales and blends them in interesting ways to make one united story.  Rapunzel, Cinderella, Jack and the beanstalk, even Little Red Riding Hood are all mixed, with their characters intertwined by the princes (who are brothers), the witch, and two introduced characters, a baker and his wife.  The baker is really the key piece – Rapunzel is his sister, the witch who stole her is his neighbor, Red buys bread from him, and he and his wife have to collect four items from the other characters to break a curse.  (The items are Cinderella’s shoe, Jack’s cow, Red’s cape, and Rapunzel’s hair.)  The baker even ends up playing the role of the woodcutter for Little Red, saving her from the wolf, and he’s the one who gives Jack the magic beans.

And that’s just the first act!

It’s fun to take traditional stories and intertwine them.  When you start to think about fairy tales, it becomes even easier.  Many feature a prince – perhaps they are the same prince?  Maybe they are rivals, or brothers.  There are also lots of stepmothers, evil queens, and witches.  Can a witch from one tale marry a king and become another story’s evil queen?  There are so many possibilities!  I think I might want to play with this a bit more…

Nicknames

I like nicknames.  I use them in my stories for different reasons.  Everyone in real life uses nicknames for their friends and family, so incorporating them for your characters gives them that instant “real-life” feel.

Sometimes, too, it helps develop a culture.  In Dragon, my elves think it is disrespectful to use someone’s full name without their permission, so everyone in that book has a nickname.  (And by everyone, I mean everyone.) This even becomes a point of mild conflict, mirroring a larger culture difference, because the dragons believe it is disrespectful to use anything other than an individual’s full name.

I use a lot of nicknames for my pets, too.  Eli (my dog) has recently been called Beast, Beastie, Mutt, Mutthead, and Dog.  He’s got old nicknames, too, that don’t get used as much now.  These include Trouble, Trouble-Dog, Skinny Dog, Wrinkle-Dog, Mr. Wrinkles, and Muttface.  The bird has fewer, but he’s been in my life a shorter time.  I do call him Monster, Little Bird, Bird, and BatMax (when he’s hanging upside-down).  I am less specific with nicknames for friends and family, although I would like to take credit for my sister’s most oft used nickname.  I pointed out as a child that her initials spelled a name, and that name stuck!  (In an effort to preserve my secret identity, I will not reveal that name, as it will give you the first initial of my real last name.)

It’s fun to think of nicknames for characters, since the hard part (giving them a real name) is done.  The easiest way to do it is to imagine that you are friends with them and have to use their name over and over.  What would you end up calling them?  That’s the best nickname for them, the one that would come naturally out of the use of their name.

Colorful Thoughts: Red!

Just joining us?  We’ve already hit purple, blue, and yellow.

Red is the color of fire, blood, and passion!    There are so many connotations with red, they sometimes even contradict.  Love is red, but so is hate.  Anger is red, but so is lust.  Before we delve into the writing implications of red, let’s look at red in nature.

Red shows up from time to time in nature.  You can probably think of a naturally-occurring red rock, or red bird, or red flower.  There is even a red planet, although it could be argued to be more orange than red.  Like yellow, red stands out from its background, and even in nature this is used to an advantage.  Flowers that are pollinated by hummingbirds tend to be red, to catch the attention of the birds.  Red-winged blackbirds only flash their red feathers during territorial or mating displays.   Red can even be a warning coloration – snakes, frogs, and insects display bright red as a way to let their potential predators know that they have venom, poison, or something equally as nasty.  Whereas yellow was simply a lovely bright spot in an environment, red is a neon sign trying to get your attention.  (There’s a reason stop signs and stop lights are red.)

Now that we know red is a way to get your attention, let’s move to the writing part.  Clearly, red can be used the same way in your writing, to catch the reader’s notice.  Pairing red clothing with a cool demeanor is an interesting juxtaposition that can make a character more intriguing.  As far as magic goes, you’ll see red used a lot.  Blood is often used symbolically, in many different contexts, and blood is red.  When it comes to the four elements, fire and red are the most easily linked.  Red robes on a magic user or red traits (like eyes) on a magic being will give the reader a feeling of blood, fire, and passion.  Just be careful to clarify your usage with the rest of your character development.  With the contradictions that red brings, you can create different impressions in different readers, depending on how they interpret the color.

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