Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Animal Pragmatism with Guest Blogger Lynda K. Scott

Win a Heartstone necklace and see what guest blogger Lynda K. Scott has to say about using animal characters in your books!

Here's what she had to say...

As soon as I began writing this post, my alien kitten, Wookie, made her appearance. Nothing unusual about that. She likes to supervise my activities, make sure I’m doing it right whatever it is, and issues orders in loud, plaintive meows. Today, she told me to write about Eric as a shapeshifter from Heartstone or USING ANIMALS IN YOUR BOOKS.

Eric uses both an avian form as well as a canid form in Heartstone. We see him first as a canid, his wolf form, as he scopes out the territory and Keriam, in front of her small town shop. What she sees is a big, friendly dog. One who is probably lost or abandoned. Like any dog, he sits, he grins, he wags his tail. Those are details that make him real to us as readers and to Keriam, the lead female character. We’ve all seen doggy behavior so we know what to expect and we’d be surprised or frustrated if we didn’t see it. Once I identified Eric’s canine behavior, I thought it was important to show Keriam’s reactions to him in his canid form to strengthen her belief that he was nothing more than a big, lovable dog.

While they hadn’t had hordes of customers exactly, the turnout

had been respectable. Keriam grinned at the big dog sitting in the
passenger seat of her six-year-old Ford pickup. “Whaddaya think,
Wolfgang? Is The Treasure Chest the neatest antique shop you’ve
ever seen?”

The plumed tail thumped against the door.

“That’s right. It’s been a great day.” She flicked a glance at him.

“Well, for me it has. You’re still a lost puppy, aren’t you? But don’t
worry. We’ll find your family and, if not, I’ll find you a good home.”
He licked her hand.

“No, you can’t stay with me. You need a family. With a big yard

and kids to play with.” She turned onto the long stretch of highway
leading out of town. “Janna would take you in a heartbeat but she
lives in an apartment. Besides she’d probably deck you out in a froufrou
collar and you don’t look to be the frou-frou type...I know what
you’re thinking. I’ve got a big yard, true. But I’m not home a lot and
I don’t have kids. You’d get lonely.”

He lay on the seat and rested his head on her thigh. Keriam

laughed and dropped her hand onto his silky head. “You’re a
charmer, all right. Don’t even think this is permanent, Wolfgang,”
she warned. “I don’t have time to take care of a dog, let alone one
as big as a house.”

The dog’s tail beat against the seat.

“I’m serious.”

The dog grinned.

Turning her attention back to the road, Keriam made a mental

list of what she wanted to accomplish the next day. The first thing,
of course, would be to contact the newspaper and place a Found Dog
ad. Wolfgang sat up, pressed his nose to the window which Keriam
had left open a crack. A low rumble vibrated in his chest.

“Oh, don’t be silly. There’s nothing out there to worry about.”

She darted a glance at him. “You’re probably the most dangerous
thing for miles around...unless you count Mrs. Kitchen’s Pomeranian...
or one of Mr. Mountley’s emus.”

So what I’ve done here is to describe Wolfgang/Eric’s reactions to Keriam as she speaks. Most of us have had dogs as companions. We know how they react to conversation. And we know how we react to their canine body language. We can use these details in our books easily.

Not only that, we can use the canine body language to show our shapeshifting heroes’ thoughts or feelings without being hampered by civilized manners. It helps us as writers by giving us another avenue to show textures and physical reactions that might be difficult to explain otherwise.

The man stepped closer. He paused then said, “I’ve been thinking

about you. About us.”

Without thought, Eric growled. The low rumble shocked him

into silence. The Stonebearer’s gaze flicked toward him, a warning
in the blue depths of her eyes. He bristled but subsided. After all, the
woman meant nothing more to him than a means to the Heartstone.
Face impassive, the Stonebearer said, “There isn’t any us.”

“What we was good.” He held out his hand. When she

didn’t take it, the hand dropped to his side. “I’d like to give us another
chance. Look. We both did and said things we regret. I made
a mistake, I admit it. Keri, I’d like us to start over. I need you and, I
think, you need me.”

The man moved again. His touch was light but the Stonebearer

gasped, anxiety cascading over her features. Eric could see the sudden,
rapid pulse in her throat, the rigid tension in her body and all
his protective instincts surged forward. He lunged, knocking the man
back, away from the woman.

The Stonebearer dropped to her knees, grabbing Eric’s collar. A

fine sheen of sweat glistened on her face but the color had returned,
a little, to her cheeks. “Settle down, Wolfgang.”

“What the hell kind of dog is that?” The man glared at Eric

“You let him wander around in your store, attacking customers, you’ll
get a lawsuit against you.”

“If he’d meant to hurt you, you’d be bleeding.” The Stonebearer

stood, her hand still holding the collar.

“And calling the cops,” the man added. He shook his head,

suddenly, his features settled into a sad mask. “I thought, by now,
you’d have gotten help.”

“Maybe it’s just you, Marc, ever think of that?”

“Is it just me? Is there anyone who can touch you without...” His

hand cut through the air, a helpless gesture, then he turned facing the
door. Halting, he spoke again. “You really should see a psychiatrist.
Get help before it’s too late.”

Eric growled, a sound that rolled up from his belly and thundered

past his sharp, bared teeth. The man jumped and sidled toward
the door. Stiff-legged, Eric followed, head lowered and pulling the
Stonebearer with him.

Then, suddenly, her hand touched his shoulder, her smooth

voice invaded his senses. “Don’t bite him, fella, unless you’ve had
your rabies shots.”

She’d touched him before, but this time his fur lifted, rippled.

His senses filled with her, with Keriam. His tongue all but lolled from
his mouth as her fingers plunged into the thick ruff at his nape.
Her scent, her touch, the sound of her voice cried—mate. His body
added—mine. He fought the urge to lean into her touch, to twine
himself around her long, straight legs as warnings rang in his mind.

Here we have Eric’s physical and emotional reactions while in his canid form. He can’t speak or tell Marc to keep his hands off Keriam but what he does, the growling, the physical intervention, reinforces the thought that – hey, this is a real dog. It also reinforces the idea that the relationship between Eric and Keriam is more than just one between a dog and its master.

Showing the main character in his or her alternate form gives us the chance to provide deeper characterization and more complex details dressed in commonplace instances we’ve likely all had with our canine companions.

As writers, we’re always told to get the details right. If our shapeshifting characters don’t act or react the way we expect them to, they might as well be walking on two legs. In my opinion, we need to make the shapeshifter so real when they’re in their alternate form that when they finally come on stage as a human, we miss the dog.

But then we get to start on a whole new subset of reactions and details and that’s part of the fun of writing a shapeshifter story.

A Note from the Book Boost: I love using animals in my books. And thanks for sharing your tips of the trade with us today. Please tell us more about your book and how our readers can enter to win your prize!


Eric d'Ebrur is out of time. He must find the legendary Heartstone and fulfill the ancient Gar'Ja bond he shares with the Stonebearer. But when he finds her, he discovers that love can be more dangerous than the Gawan threat. Eric can defeat the mind-controlling Gawan but will it cost him the woman he loves?

After terrifying episodes of hypersensitivity, Keriam Norton thinks she's losing her mind. When handsome shapeshifter Eric d'Ebrur saves her from the monstrous Gawan, she's sure of it. But insane or not, she'll find the Heartstone and, if she's lucky, a love to last a lifetime.

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Contest Time:
To enter to win a 'Heartstone' necklace, please join or become a member of Lynda's newsletter group. Just send Lynda an email with Book Boost the subject line and your snail mail address in the body. Email her at Deadline to enter: Friday, Oct 22! A note from Lynda: My alien kitten, Wookie, will assist me in picking a winner (she likes bribes but I insist the drawing must stay honest, so no bribes please, lol). I’ll announce the winner on my newsletter group!


Bobbye Terry said...

Hi Lynda,
Great minds think alike. I posted a blog on magical critters, using animals in books two days ago on my blog. Great blog and your book sounds wonderful.
Daryn Cross

Lynda K. Scott said...

Hi Bobbye,

There's often a kind of synergy that affects writers all over the place :-) and you'll see stories that have the same sort of characters or the same sort of plot. I like the Great Minds analogy best however.

Lynda K. Scott said...

My apologies to Book Boost - while I was reading email this morning and surfing the web (simultaneously) I picked up some sort of malware and I've spent the rest of the day trying to fix it. I think I've got it now (after running two malware programs and my virus scanner). I truly hate people who like to inflict damage to other people and the computers

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Lynda,

I enjoyed both your blog and Bobbye's. People form great attachments for pets. Animals fit very well into romance fiction.
I enjoy animal characters. Sometimes, they even steal the show from the hero and heroine!

Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

Loved your post, Lynda! Having raised a number of different breeds of dogs and cats too, I so agree with you that using them in your stories adds to the plot and characterization! I wrote once about a dog and her owner who were obedience school drop outs, based on my true experiences for True Romance Magazine. :) Pets can make our lives so much richer, and our stories too!

DR. NORM said...

Good job, Lynda. The selection from your book sure caught my attention. You have a wonderful way of setting a scene and making one want to read more. Congratulations.

Lynda K. Scott said...


You're so right about people forming great attachments to their animal friends. My girls (I have my alien kitten, Wookie, and her big sister a rottweiler mix, Zuzu) are the best companions a person could have...even if they interrupt my work from time to time :-)

Lynda K. Scott said...

Hi Terry,

I totally agree - pets can and do make our lives and our books richer. That's what Wookie tells me and she's always right :-) (She tells me that too!)

Lynda K. Scott said...

Hi Dr. Norm,

Thanks for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed the snippet from Heartstone :-)

Linda Wisdom said...

Great post, Lynda! Although I guess I should praise Wookie for the idea. :}

*yadkny* said...

Hi Lynda!
Wookie sounds absolutely adorable... love the name:) The cover on Heartsong is amazing! I love reading about shifters of any animal so this one is definitely going on my wishlist.

Lynda K. Scott said...

Hi Linda,

Yep, Wookie gets the credit for any good ideas. She's not the least arrogant, you know...just supremely confident in her feline abilities to out think her human minions, lol

Lynda K. Scott said...

Hi Yadkny,

Thanks from me and Wookie. I think she's adorable but that may be because of her superior mind control, lol.

Mundania did a terrific job on the cover of Heartstone. I couldn't have asked for better :-)

SiNn said...

sorry i missed this post befor enow

I love shifters expeciallyw hen they use real animals in the story line sounds awesome ty for posting ur books all soun great too

Lynda K. Scott said...

Hi SiNn!

Thanks for stopping by! I think a lot of us love shifters...maybe because they're all cuddly with their pack behavior :-)

Lorrie said...

I think animals or pets in stories add a more humaness to the Main Character--in their natural form. And if a shifter, more fun and adventure.
The book sounds like an exciting read. It's on my wish list.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Linda, it's obvioua you're a talented writer. Can't wait to read HEARTSTONE.