By Elizabeth Ludwig
Okay, so I admit it…I’m a freak about my dachshunds. I absolutely love to watch them play. So imagine my enjoyment when the two I had, multiplied to six adorable puppies!
I learned quite quickly that each one is vastly different from the others, and not just in temperament. They have distinct personalities, which of course, tied in nicely with my other passion-writing.
And so, here it goes…six things I learned about writing just by watching my dogs!
1. Max (aka – the hero). Max is the first of our many dachshunds. When my husband brought him home, he was small enough to fit in the palm of my hand. Now, he’s the alpha of our little pack. The one who sets the tone for the entire rest of the house. He’s incredibly smart, inquisitive by nature, and positively loyal. Recently, when our little female got bitten by a water moccasin (a very large, very poisonous snake), Max attached himself to her side and refused to be coaxed away until she felt better. It was the sweetest thing-and the exact quality that I try to incorporate in my heroes. A mix of strength and tenderness, leadership and compassion.
2. Lainey (aka – the heroine). Despite her size, Lainey is every bit as tenacious as Max. In fact, this little spitfire has a tendency to intimidate the much larger hero. Where Max relies on muscle, Lainey tends to rely on brains…and a little bit of coquettish persuasion. It’s so funny to watch the two of them work together, especially when it comes to rounding up our neighbor’s cows. All I have to do is give one quiet order-get ’em. The two of them shoot off across the yard, but the moment one of those animals turns to lower their horns, Lainey goes into evasive maneuvers. She darts in and out through the cows’ legs and somehow manages to return to the house unscathed. Isn’t that how we want our heroines? Daring and quick, and with a nice mix of beauty and brains.
3. Reggie (aka – the villain). I know what you’re thinking…poor Reggie, labeled a villain at eight months of age! Still, I have to tell you, this little stinker gets into more messes than the other five dogs combined. Just last week, we were getting ready to sell our house, and I came home to find the wallpaper shredded from the walls. It was pretty easy to locate the culprit…he had wallpaper hanging from his mouth. And yesterday, I came home to find one of my favorite shoes chewed in two. Just one, mind you. The other one was fine. Despite all of that, there is something irresistible about the little scamp. Every time he looks at me with those large soulful eyes, I can’t help picking him up and cuddling him. And that, folks, is exactly the quality I try to give each of my villains. They may thwart the efforts of my hero and heroine at every turn, but they have an irresistible quality-something that stirs compassion and makes the reader believe they have a reason for their actions.
4. Nellie (aka – the accomplice). While Reggie is without a doubt the ringleader, following close behind is Nellie. Who do you think tossed the shoes down from the chair where I had put them so Reggie could chew one to bits? Intelligent, athletic Nellie, of course! When I’m lying in my bed, Nellie is the one who jumps up into the armchair next to it and leaps across the gap to land on the pillow next to me. When the others are huddled on the porch staring out at the rain, Nellie is the one who ventures out and then stares back at the others as if to say, “What’s wrong with you?” Now, to look at her, you wouldn’t think she’d be the daredevil. She has a sweet little face and long, floppy ears that give her the appearance of total innocence, which of course makes her the perfect accomplice. That is exactly the type of character I try to create when giving my villain a partner. I try to make them daring and smart, but with an air of innocence that catches the reader completely by surprise when their true intentions are revealed.
5. Lexi (aka – the compassionate supporting character). Out of all of the dogs, Lexi is largest, but she is also the most loving. The moment I sit down, she climbs onto the back of the couch and lays her head on my shoulder. When I get up to leave the room, she follows close at my heels and waits patiently by the door until I return. This is the kind of supporting character that I always try to give my hero and heroine-someone who offers solid reinforcement in the midst of chaos, and who stands at the ready with just the right amount of comfort and compassion.
6. Bentley (aka – the emotional draw) Bentley is the runt of the litter. He was born last, and was delivered the hardest. He’s just a little smaller than all of the others, but day to day, despite his size, he somehow manages to keep up. Remember Little Women? Bentley is like Beth-the character everyone loves and ultimately, the one who breaks your heart with her passing. Bentley reminds me that supporting characters are important. They need depth in order to make the reader to care about them, but when they do, they can make my stories so much richer.
Well, that’s it for now…everything I’ve learned about writing from watching my dachshunds. I guess if I wanted to do another installment, I’d have to have more dogs. Right. Just let my husband hear me say that…
Elizabeth Ludwig is an accomplished speaker and teacher. Her lectures include editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. She is the owner and editor of the popular literary blog, The Borrowed Book. To learn more about Elizabeth and her work, visit her at www.elizabethludwig.com.