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Dressing the Dog

by Ane Mulligan

Who started this fashion trend? I can remember dressing the cat when I was a little girl. I still have the scars to show for it. But a dog dressed not for play but for real?

I was watching House Hunters on HGTV the other night and this woman had her dog dressed in a different outfit every day. She needed a walk-in closet big enough for both their clothes. It’s a DOG – it came with a fur coat. Why does it need a sundress?

The hubs must have seen the episode-or else smelled too many roses, because he decided to dress Shadrach. How he managed to make him sit still for it I don’t know-he weighs 200 pounds. Shadrach not the hubs.

I heard them coming down the hall, Hubby encouraging the poor dog to go show “Mum.”

Now you have to understand, this monolith of dog is afraid of his own shadow. The other night he was outside doing his nightly business when a frog croaked in the bushes. Instead of investigating like any other normal dog, Shadrach made a beeline for the house, nearly knocking me over in his terrorized dash. It was the first time he moved faster than a sloth all day.

When I brought home an exercise ball a friend gave me, I though it would make a great game for him. I had to give it away. Silly dog was terrified and wouldn’t come in the same room with it.

So, when Shadrach slunk to my desk, I couldn’t help but laugh at the poor thing. Dressed in the hub’s vest, he was mortified. I think he may need therapy.

However, there is a point to this story. Sometimes, we metaphorically dress our characters in the wrong outfit. While it’s good to force them to do something they’d never normally do, you have to be careful it works with their goals and motivation.

Case in point: I have a character who because of her past, any change in her life meant abandonment. Originally, I was going to have her sister’s brand new husband in competition with her for the same job, creating conflict galore.

Then I took a course on plotting via motivation and realized the problem. She would never have entertained the thought of a job promotion because it would mean change. I had to spend some time studying her motivation. Finally, when brainstorming with Patty Smith Hall, she made a comment that sparked brilliance. Okay, maybe not brilliance but definitely a better story.

Motivation is what makes our characters real and relatable to the reader. Whenever I’m stuck, I immediately return to my character’s GMC chart to check the goal and motivation. It puts me back on track every time.

Sr. Editor of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket, Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. She’s a sought after book reviewer, multi-published author of scripts and articles, as well as being a three-time Genesis finalist. A humor columnist for the ACFW Journal, a syndicated blogger, and a Carol Award judge, she’s also a grandmom, and resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband and one VERY large dog.

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One Response to Dressing the Dog

  1. Mary F. Allen says:

    Great reminder about keeping characters true. I can’t get your vested dog out of my mind.

    Gotta share this… my dog, GSP, loves kids and will stay as close to them as possible whenever they visit. My grandchildren and great nieces were playing dress up queen, fairy, raccoon (youngest),and rescuing knight. Talking out the action as they pretended to fight a dragon. One of them said, “Miles can be the dragon”. The knight said and “I stick my sword in and slay him.” At that point the dog keeled over as if dead. Honest! He didn’t stay there long, we were all laughing hysterically and he seemed to know he’d stolen the show.