Dogs Are Smarter Than People Podcast – First Drafts Suck, But It’s Okay

Hard writer truth time:

First drafts suck.

Almost everything stinks the first time you do it. That’s because it’s THE FIRST time you do it. But, we tend to expect to have our writing be perfect somehow.

Why?

Guitarists don’t expect to be Mark Knopffler the moment they pick up a guitar. Singers don’t expect to be Norah Jones the first time they sing. Sculptors don’t expect to be Michelangelo.

Here’s the Thing:

Being good takes practice.

And even if you’ve written 100 novels already? There is a high likelihood that your first draft of your next novel? It’s going to suck.

But it’s not the end of the world. The end of the world is when you give up.

So, how do you make your sucky first draft better?

Think about it.

 

How to Get Past Your crappy first draft. Three secret ways to write better
You can do it

WRITER TIP OF THE POD

You want to make that first draft a better second draft? Think of these three things to start off right.

  1. Think about what your character wants more than anything in the world. Make sure you have that in your story.
  2. Think about what your character would never do – not ever. Revise your story so that this becomes a high moment of tension, of possibility.
  3. Add tension to every page. EVERY PAGE!

DOG TIP FOR LIFE!

Sometimes, it’s hard to catch the ball in your mouth, especially the first time. Try again anyways. Once you do it right, you get the ball… in your mouth! Score!

Dog Tip for Life
Dog Tip for Life

 

Dogs Are Smarter Than People Podcast – First Drafts Suck, But It’s Okay

 
 
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Perfectionism – It’s good. It’s bad. It’s a pain for writers.

Perfectionists aren’t perfect people. They are almost always miserable people.

Seriously.

Think about it.

There’s no such thing as perfect and if you are constantly trying to achieve perfection? What happens? Misery happens. This is true for your life and for your writing. The sad news is that a lot of writers are perfectionists, which means they are miserable.

There’s this great article on the Verywell Mind that has the 10 signs that you might be a perfectionist. But here are some of the signs:

Signs of Perfectionism

All-Or-Nothing Thinking – You can only accept perfection, your goal, nothing else will do.

Critical Eye – Tiny mistakes are the kingdom of your land and you fixate on them.

“Push” vs “Pull” – According to the article, perfectionist are “pushed toward their goals by a fear of not reaching them.” But high achieving people? They are happy making steps towards the goals and not constantly worrying/stressing about not getting there yet.

Unrealistic Standards – Your goal to be God is ridiculous. That’s basically all this is. Your goal is to be the ultimate at something, something that is not possible. And you know it, but you still make that your goal.

Focusing on Only Results – You don’t care about the process of getting there.

Depressed by Unmet Goals – What is this thing called happiness? Perfectionists have a hard time knowing this thing.

Fear of Failure – It is overwhelming and it starts to taint everything perfectionists do.

Procrastination – Elizabeth Scott puts this in her article and phrases it so well, “This is because, fearing failure as they do, perfectionists will sometimes worry so much about doing something imperfectly that they become immobilized and fail to do anything at all! This leads to more feelings of failure, and a vicious cycle is thus perpetuated.”

Defensiveness – Constructive criticism is the enemy and not a tool for betterment. Constructive criticism hurts.

Low Self Esteem – Being super critical of yourself? It doesn’t help your self. Your esteem actually lessens.

Three Tips to Fight Perfectionism
So so so sad

Those are so sad, aren’t they? That’s not how you want to feel, is it? So, how do you overcome your own perfectionist mindset?

Three Steps to Overcoming Perfectionism

Recognize that you do it.

Talk realistically to yourself.

Practice looking at things from other’s points of view

Writing Tip of the Podcast
Writing Tip of the Podcast

Writing Tip of the Pod: Recognize your perfectionism and realize that it’s holding you back. Allow yourself to be happy.

Dog Tip for Life: There is no such thing as perfection, there is no one way to be. Some bacon may be crunchy. Some bacon may be soggy. All bacon is perfect. So are you.

CARRIE’S APPEARANCES

Carrie will be at Book Expo America in NYC on June 1 at 11:30 – 12 at the Lerner booth signing copies of the Spy Who Played Baseball. A week before that, she’ll also be in NYC presenting to the Jewish Book Council.

CARRIE’S BOOKS

For a complete round-up of Carrie’s 16-or-so books, check out her website. And if you like us, or our podcast, or just want to support a writer, please buy one of those books, or leave a review on a site like Amazon. Those reviews help. It’s all some weird marketing algorhthym from hell, basically.

 

OUR PODCAST

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can.

But here is the link to our podcast today about perfectionism!

Dogs are Smarter Than People, the podcast
Look, Mom! It’s a podcast.

Perfectionism – It’s good. It’s bad. It’s a pain for writers.

 
 
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The Space Where Our Power is At

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.

In that space is our power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Victor Frankl

Heidegger said that “being” is always in relation to something else. Human life is “da sein,” which is often translated into “being in the world.”

That’s a pretty cool phrase – being in the world.

How we experience our nows is part of what is necessary to live fully and presently as possible. Experience is part of being. (Gendlin, 1996).

But the thing is that so many of us forget to experience our existence, our being, our space in this world. Why should we do this?

It helps center us.

Focusing on our experience helps make us remember who we are in the moment and it makes us feel better.

Where is the space that our power is at? It’s in that focus, that attention to experience.

A pretty mellow exercise to do this is as follows:

  1. Pay attention to your body.
  2. How does it feel?
  3. Are your feet on the floor? Does it feel right to be touching the ground?
  4. Move on to your legs. How are you standing, walking, sitting in this world?
  5. You have a back. It’s supporting you. How is it doing that?
  6. Your arms, your hands, your fingers. Your fingers are pretty magical. They are sense magicians, bringing information from the outside into your brain. How cool is that?
  7. How does the light or darkness feel against your skin? Do you smell things? Is there wind?
  8. Now think about you in this space and say, “I am.”
  9. You are.
  10. I am.
  11. Did you see anything? Feel anything? Release anything?
  12. Now say, “I am here.”

You are. You are in this world.

Creating resonance and cohesion in your life and your story. Tips on how to make life better.
Resonate

Dog Tip for Life: Dogs are always in this world, vitally connected to it. They know that their existence is part of everything. I am here pretty much oozes off a dog’s every moment.

Writing Tip of the Pod: Just like we have to fully feel our own existence, we have to feel our characters’ existence, what is like to be them, interacting with the world we’ve created for them. Imagine yourself as your character. Imagine yourself as your character doing that exercise. Now write down a paragraph as them, first person.

Carrie Jones Books NYT bestselling author's writing tips and life tips. Plus, dogs.
This is a happy dog

WRITING NEWS

Yep, it’s the part of the blog where I talk about my books and projects because I am a writer for a living, which means I need people to review and buy my books or at least spread the word about them.

I’m super good at public image and marketing for nonprofits but I have a much harder time with marketing myself.

So, please buy one of my books. 🙂 The links about them are all up there in the header on top of the page.  There are young adult series, middle grade fantasy series, stand-alones for young adults and even picture book biographies.

CARRIE’S APPEARANCES

I’ll be at Book Expo America in NYC on June 1 at 11:30 – 12 at the Lerner booth signing copies of the Spy Who Played Baseball. A week before that,I’ll also be in NYC presenting to the Jewish Book Council . Come hang out with me!

The Podcast

Dogs are Smarter Than People, the podcast
Look, Mom! It’s a podcast.

And please subscribe to and like our podcast if you listen and spread the word. It’s kind of you and it makes us feel happy. The RSS feed is here.

The Space Where Our Power is At

 
 
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How to Be Memorable

Sometimes in life we want to be memorable, right?

And other times? Not so much.

Shaun is so tall and formidable that he doesn’t have much choice in being memorable or not. Carrie? She can fade into walls if she wants to.

In writing, there are some pretty simple things you should do to make sure people remember your character.

How to Be Memorable When Making Your Self or Your Characters. Tips from NYT Bestselling children's book author Carrie Jones and her husband on their podcast DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE
Quirky is key

MENTION THE ACTUAL CHARACTER A LOT

Talk about that character every 30-40 pages. People forget the characters they don’t see. This is true in real life too. Remind people you are out there.

Give them a cool name. Carrie Jones? Not a cool name.

GIVE.

Just give. In real life and in writing, giving matters. People remember kindness.

GIVE THEM SOMETHING THAT MAKES THEM STAND OUTPHYSICALLY AND INTRINSICALLY.

What do I mean by that? Give them something like a tattoo, a way of bending their foot to the side when they talk. Give them a strong personality trait. Do the work to make them memorable.

FOCUS.

In real life, it’s the people who focus on one goal, strategy, process who tend to make a big bang.

EMBRACE YOUR QUIRKINESS.

This is linked to that memorable trait. Being quirky might make you a bullied kid, which is basically hell, but when you’ve embraced that difference, your originality, your authenticity? That’s when people remember you.

If you’re in a room full of a dozen white guys in suits, none of them are going to pop out. It’s the woman in the flowing skirt that you’re going to end up remembering.

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DOG TIP OF THE POD:

Barking is a good way to remind people that you exist even if you’re stuck in the house during a blizzard. They will still hear you if you bark!

Remind people that you’re out there. Silence isn’t memorable. It’s oppressive. Your voice deserves to be heard.

WRITING TIP OF THE CAST:

What makes your book characters memorable also makes you memorable. Don’t be afraid to be your authentic, original quirky self.

PLEA FOR HELP

Hey, um… if you enjoyed this podcast and post, we’d be so super grateful if you’d help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook or Pinterest or subscribing to it on iTunes or Stitcher or rating it there or somewhere. Thank you! We know it’s a super small thing, but it means so much to us.

WRITING NEWS AND STUFF

I (Carrie) will be in Ontario Canada presenting this weekend and at Book Expo America, June 1, at 11:30 in the Lerner booth. Come visit!

Bar Harbor Fourth of july lobster parade
In case you’re looking for me. I am the lobster.

THE CLASS AT THE WRITING BARN

The awesome 6-month-long Writing Barn class that they’ve let me be in charge of!? It’s happening again in July. Write! Submit! Support! is a pretty awesome class. It’s a bit like a mini MFA but way more supportive and way less money. There are more details at the link.

AND HERE IS THE LINK TO THE ACTUAL PODCAST.

Make Your Life and Your Writing Resonate

The best kind of work is the kind that makes you messy (even if you’re a Virgo) inside and out.

And for a lot of writers, especially writers for kids, our job isn’t just about making story; it’s about making a difference somehow in at least one kid’s life. That is a messy business because in order to make a difference, you have to dig deep, to go through a lot of dirt and mud and rock to get to what it is that matters to you and to your story and to your reader and/or life partners.

When I go to schools, I always tell the kids that one of the important steps to becoming the best writers you can be is to live the biggest life you can live. To not risk life or jail time, but to have adventures, to do things that you would never expect yourself doing.

YOUR LIFE IS YOUR STORY. MAKE IT A BIG ONE.

Big stories have conflict, and none of us are really into conflict in our lives, but it’s the conflict that allows our stories to have meaning and resonance.

Big stories have awkward moments and worries. Our characters and our selves feel overwhelmed. We feel like we can’t make it sometimes. That’s part of what makes surviving such a sweet triumph.

Being a writer is about more than craft. It’s about the story of how to be a writer, your story. It’s part of the bigger story of your life.

Being a writer is about more than craft. It's about life and resonance and cohesion.
Writing is life.

 

EVERY LESSON ABOUT WRITING CRAFT IS ACTUALLY A LESSON ABOUT LIFE.

Talking about paying attention to detail in your scene? It’s the same as paying attention to the details in your real life.

Talking about traits of your character and how to make them heroes (or not)? It’s the same as talking about the traits that make you the you that you so beautifully are.

Talking about resolution to your story is the same as talking about resolution to your relationships, to your current conflict, to your own life and death.

I know, right? Mind blown.

In every story we write there needs to be some logic and there needs to be some spirit or resonance.

What makes the logic of the story?

That comes from plot, pacing, character, and theme. You start your story with a vision and then the other elements are honed and refined to express that vision.

The logic is the structure of the story, how it all works together. It’s how your plot isn’t just action, but a movement forward towards an end point – and how that movement forward makes sense and works together with the character, the theme, the pacing.

Events that happen must make the character react and act.

Creating resonance and cohesion in your life and your story. Tips on how to make life better.
Resonate

AND RESONANCE?  WHAT’S RESONANCE?

It’s the story’s value. It’s the universal nature of the story. It’s what makes the reader’s heart and mind go, “A-ha!”

It’s what makes you remember the story. We’ve all met people, read books, watched movies or shows or heard songs and forgotten them, but the ones that resonate? Those are the ones we remember.

Think Hamilton.  Hamilton resonates across so many demographics partially because it’s the story about immigration and triumph and death, about idealism and it’s then set to something that feels more new in musical theater – the style of music, which is juxtaposed to the historical setting. It resonates.

Think about the Nas song War (Birth of a Nation). This song connects Nat Turner to the protests of today and about fighting to make a better U.S. It resonates.

It’s about theme and heart. It’s about authenticity and humanity. That’s what resonates.

SO HOW DO YOU MAKE YOUR STORY RESONATE?

Think about what your story is really about on the deepest level.

HOW DO YOU MAKE YOUR LIFE RESONATE?

Same thing. Think about what your life is really about on the deepest level.

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Dog Tip for Life

Get dirty as much as you can. Dirt means you’re living. Dirt is real. Dirt is life.

Getting Messy makes you a better writer. carriejonesbooks.blog
dog tip for life

Writing Tip of the Pod – When you’re writing, don’t be afraid to have messy, uncomfortable things happen to your characters. A story with no conflict is not a story.

Advice about adding resonance and cohesion to your story
Bob? Yuri? Scary?

Random Bonus Picture from Random Thought Time

This is Bob. Or maybe Yuri? He is in our house. Shaun mentions him in the podcast. Bob/Yuri frightens me even though he has no arms.

Here’s a direct link to the podcast feed.

Dogs are smarter than people - the podcast, writing tips, life tips, quirky humans, awesome dogs
The podcast of awesome

Writing News – Carrie’s

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Book Expo America

Carrie will be signing copies of The Spy Who Played Baseball at Book Expo America on June 1 at 11:30 a.m.

WSSTypeWriter-300x300

THE CLASS AT THE WRITING BARN

The awesome 6-month-long Writing Barn class that they’ve let me be in charge of!? It’s happening again in July. Write! Submit! Support!is a pretty awesome class. It’s a bit like a mini MFA but way more supportive and way less money.

PRAISE FOR CARRIE JONES AND WRITE. SUBMIT. SUPPORT:

“Carrie has the fantastic gift as a mentor to give you honest feedback on what needs work in your manuscript without making you question your ability as a writer. She goes through the strengths and weaknesses of your submissions with thought, care and encouragement.”

“Carrie’s feedback is specific, insightful and extremely helpful. She is truly invested in helping each of us move forward to make our manuscripts the best they can be.”

“Carrie just happens to be one of those rare cases of extreme talent and excellent coaching.”

People are saying super nice things about me, which is so kind of them because helping people on their writing journeys and their craft and supporting them? That’s pretty boss, honestly.

FLYING AND ENHANCED – THE YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION SERIES

Cross Buffy with Men in Black and you get… you get a friends-powered action adventure based in the real world, but with a science fiction twist. More about it is here. But these are fun, fast books that are about identity, being a hero, and saying to heck with being defined by other people’s expectations.

This quick, lighthearted romp is a perfect choice for readers who like their romance served with a side of alien butt-kicking actionSchool Library Journal

Sparty knows all about that. More info about that series and all of Carrie’s books is here.

 

There are Storms in My Brain

BRAINSTORMING?

Even the word sounds a little creepy. Like there is a storm inside your brain. It sounds… It sounds sort of violent and hazardous and windy. In this podcast, we talk about the storms inside our brain and how those storms can become story ideas.

Writing tips and help from NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones
Five Ways to Brainstorm Story Ideas

Five Ways To Get Story Ideas

Some authors have a really hard time just getting an idea for a new story. They burn out. They can’t find anything that they think is ‘good enough.’ They just don’t know where to start and that lack of a start makes them blocked.

This is so sad! There are ways to fight it.

ONE WAY TO STORM IS BY ADMIRING OTHER’S WORK

Think about ways that other people’s stories influence you. If you’re an Outlander fan, think about why. If you were to write your own kind of time travel story would it be like that? With a lot of spanking and stuff? Or something totally different. How would it be different?

ANOTHER WAY TO INCITE A HAILSTORM OF QUESTIONS

Ask your self questions. It’s all about ‘What if?’ What if Trump wasn’t president in 2018? What if everyone had blue hair? What if the earth had two moons? What if dogs were really space aliens?

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Sparty the Dog: Wait. You mean they aren’t?

Carrie the Human: No, buddy… I mean… I don’t think so?

 

THIRD WAY WHERE THE WIND IS SO STRONG IT PUSHES IMAGES INTO YOU

Some of my best ideas have come on a treadmill watching the country music network or MTV or some random YouTube channel with the sound off and just seeing images. Eventually, an image will hit me so hard that I have to write a story about it. The happened with my story, Love (and Other Uses for Duct Tape).

FOURTH WAY OF ICY UNDERSTANDING

Figuring things out. This is sort of like Another Way, but instead of deliberately asking yourself off-the-wall questions, ask questions about things that matter to you. A lot of my stories are because I don’t understand something. Tips on Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend was because i couldn’t understand a hate crime that had happened. I mean, you can never understand that kind of hate, but this one incident was so bizarre that they only way I could deal with it was to write my way through it.

FIFTH WAY – AN EMOTIONAL BLIZZARD

Get emotional. What is it that always makes you laugh, cry with joy, weep with anger? What are the situations that pull at your heartstrings. Think about that as story. Write.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Inspiration is just attention. Notice what’s around you. Then ideas will come.

Dog Tip for Life
Dog Tip for Life

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Once you have your seed of information and your brain has successfully stormed, don’t second guess your idea. Write it down. If you are a plot-first writer, think up the questions to flesh out your idea – who is the protagonist. What is she up against? What’s her goal? How is she going to get it? Write it down. Do it. Don’t block yourself.

Writing Tip of the Podcast
Writing Tip of the Podcast

All the podcasts are linked to this page right here. You can find out more about us and the podcast there.

My Love Affair With Big Foot and Why I Write Books About Girls Saving People (and hairy creatures)

When I was a kid, I played alone most of the time.

Yes, this is VERY- VERY sad.

My siblings are way older than I am. We lived out in the country. There was a lot of woods and a lot of swamp. My parents worked. So after school I would be all alone.

This meant that most of the time:

1. I read library books
2. I wrote stories when I ran out of library books.
3. I looked for Bigfoot when I got writer’s cramp.

I looked for Bigfoot a lot actually.

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This book cover is pretty much what I wanted to happen. I wanted Bigfoot to come and steal me away and I would save him from evil scientists who wanted to kill him. We’d take care of each other and potentially fall in love.

It was a lot like the Disney plot of Harry and the Hendersons...

Only in my version there was no John Lithgow and the Bigfoot was a lot – um – sexier? Yes, it is possible for Bigfoot to be sexy. DO NOT DOUBT!

So, thinking about this today made me feel kind of lonely. I just read about some other authors who had these great memories of playing with people and siblings. My memories of play are these solo made-up stories of me searching for Bigfoot or sitting alone on a rock by the highway writing Star Trek fan fiction for my brother in a little college-lined notebook.

And occasionally I would hang out at Debbie Muir or Kathy Albertson’s house where their moms would feed me things.

Is it no wonder I lost when I ran for office?

So, it’s funny too, when I was thinking about this. It made me realize that my stories all have this large theme running through them about saving people and being heroic and standing it up for what you believe in. I think this whole theme started up with the whole me saving Bigfoot theme in my early play. Weird. I think I’ve grown up so much and then I’m all like  DUDE. I AM STILL WRITING ABOUT HAIRY, HOT GUYS WHO AREN’T QUITE HUMAN AND THE GIRLS WHO SAVE THEM.

Yes, that is a spoiler about pretty much every single fiction book I ever write, ever. Sh. Don’t tell.

When you write books, the things you care about, the things that make you the person you are? They come through. Sometimes it’s a conscious choice. Sometimes it isn’t. A woman once asked me in an angry way, “Why are all your books about strong girls having horrible things happen to them?”

She was trying to get me to not visit her school.

And I was like, “Because horrible things do happen to strong girls.”

But the real truth is that I write books about friendship, about girls saving themselves and the ones they love, and often the world because I needed stories like that when I was a kid. I write those stories because I don’t know how to not let my own inner self leak onto the page. I write those stories because kids need to be lifted up not pushed down, to be told to shut up, to be silenced, because they some adults don’t like what they are saying.

I write those books because teens matter. I write those books because girls and women matter. I write those books because people have to have the courage to save themselves over and over again in one lifetime.

Do Good Wednesday

According to a story on NBC news, suicide rates are spiking in Puerto Rico right now. The relief effort is still happening. A simple thing you can do to help (and get something in return) is buy the salsa remix of Almost Like Praying. This effort is organized by Lin-Manuel Miranda and a bunch of amazing musicians. Your proceeds go directly to help Puerto Rico.

Note: I made that link super large to try to convince you to do it.

Random Marketing and Book Things

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy,  is still coming out March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can preorder it. 

Kirkus Review says:  Jones gives readers the sketchy details of Berg’s life and exploits in carefully selected anecdotes, employing accessible, straightforward syntax.

And also says: A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.

Booklist says it’s: An appealing picture-book biography. . . Written in concise sentences, the narrative moves along at a steady pace.  

This is lovely of them to say.

The Spy Who Played Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll be in Exeter, New Hampshire, on a panel for the release of THINGS WE HAVEN’T SAID.

Thursday, March 15, 2018 – 7:00pm
Water Street Bookstore
125 Water Street
Exeter, NH 03833
Things We Haven't Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out Cover Image

And the podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, is still real. I’m still terrified.

My Post-2 copy

There are new podcasts every Tuesday and our handle on the tech gets better as you go along. I promise.

We talk about love, marriage, living in Maine with dogs and also give writing and life tips with linked content back on the blog.

Yesterday’s podcast was about how I can’t have a donkey farm or be Bono, but it’s also about character and blocking and how dogs are smarter than people.

Writing With Dogs Who Slobber: The Three Secrets to Awesome Characters

So, you’re probably looking at the blog post title up there and thinking, “What?”

Stay with me a second; I’ll explain, I swear. I’m going to boil down the basic elements of crafting a good story by using my rescue dog, Gabby.

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Gabby is the sort of dog who people love or hate.

Gabby is the sort of dog that lets children climb all over her and hug her and kiss her nose.

Gabby is also the sort of dog who judges people by smell.  If you have alcohol on your breath, she will sneeze and then bark at you. If you are male and have ever had a serious time taking cocaine and you are in my house? She’ll bark incessantly at you and never stop even if your cocaine use was over a decade ago.

So, why am I mentioning this? Gabby is a conflicted character. You want a character like Gabby in your story.

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A conflicted character is a dog or person with a goal. There is a motivation for that goal and a conflict.

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Gabby’s goal is to keep me safe. She is super focused on making sure nothing happens to me or her dog brother Sparty or her cat sister Marsie. Her motivation? Probably because I feed her or because she’s a Great Pyrenees, and that breed’s instinct and training is to keep her charges happy and safe. We are basically her sheep.

IMG_9899Marsie insists she is nobody’s sheep, but I have seen Gabby carry her around the house. She is totally a sheep. 

And it might be because Gabby was abused as a puppy and spent her first year chained to a tree, always chained to a tree, never off a tree. She came to us small, terrified, malformed and malnourished. This is her backstory. All characters have backstories, the what happened before we meet them, the what happened that made them who they are when the story begins.

When Em and I picked up Gabby in Cambridge, she was terrified. Every car was about to run her down. Every person was about to hit her. I sunk to her level and she pushed herself against me. Her ears were infected and full of pain. Everything about her was pain. But there was something else there. It was fear and want and need. She wanted to be loved so badly. She wanted to love back.1930658_10154095751489073_788625899982421964_n

The entire time we were in Cambridge she didn’t bark once.

The entire car ride back and the whole first week? She never barked.

“I have a miracle dog. It is a silent Great Pyrenees,” I told everyone.

The vet laughed.

The rescue organization people laughed.

I was so wrong.

Gabby started being able to sleep with both eyes closed. Gabby’s ears got better. We got her surgery on her hip. She took walks without being afraid that trees were going to fall on her, without thinking that every car held a monster inside of it that would hurt her.

She ate, but she would never fill out.

And she barked.

She barked at everyone who reminded her of where she used to be. She barked at dogs she didn’t know. She barked and jumped and tried to be as threatening looking as possible when she is easily the dog least likely to ever bite a human and most likely to snuggle. You know when experts say dogs hate hugs? Gabby would let you hug her all day.

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So, she’s got a lot of back story there?

What’s the conflict for Gabby or for your characters?

The conflict is the struggle. The conflict is how the reader engages with the character. It’s why the reader keeps reading. It’s how empathy is built. It’s how story is built.

So every character has this trifecta of things: 

Goal

Motivation

Conflict

As a writer, if you muck this up? You’re story will be flat.

As a dog friend/owner, if you don’t realize that your dog’s goal might conflict with a happy silence that comes with a life without barking? You’re going to have an unhappy dog.

So, Gabby’s trifecta of character is: Wants to stop threats by barking (goal) because she wants to keep her happy home and the creatures within it safe (motivation we all understand), but everyone gets a headache when she thinks squirrels are threats and barks too much at them (conflict).

Meg in Wrinkle in Time is: Wants to get her dad back (goal) because who doesn’t want to get someone awesome back (motivation that is pretty understandable if your dad rocks), but dude, she has to travel through time and deal with this great darkness, basically like all the evil in the universe because why not (conflict).

But what makes a character conflicted? Basically anything that stands in the way of her goal.

This can be herself (Gabby wonders if barking is her true calling and doubts herself – an internal conflict).

This can be others (The neighbors call the police because of Gabby’s barking – an external conflict).

This can be the environment (Gabby is in space and cannot bark because there is no sound. Horror! – a conflict caused by setting).

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Writing Tip – Make sure your  main character has that trifecta of conflict, motivation, goal.

Writing Prompts- 

Write about wanting to sing when you have to be quiet.

Write about wanting to tell a secret.

Write about being a zombie who is allergic to meat.

Do Good Wednesday – 

So, I wrote a lot about Gabby being a rescue dog. All my dogs have been. If you have the money, consider donating to a dog rescue. If you have the time and space and need and love, consider adopting. If you have the time, find a rescue near you and be a volunteer. I’ve done home visits and photos for rescues. If you don’t have any of these things, but have social media, share a rescue’s site or a post about a dog (or cat or gecko). You could be the step that helps bring a dog like Gabby to her forever home. Even the smallest things help.

Here are the rescues where I got Sparty the Dog and Gabby the Dog.

New England Lab Rescue

National Great Pyrenees Rescue

And this rescue is possibly my favorite one.

Big Fluffy Dog

 

Random Marketing Things – My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy,  is still coming out March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can preorder it. 

The Spy Who Played Baseball

And the podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, is getting closer and closer to real. I’m terrified. Here is a video about it. Sort of.