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 sisters, Marsie, Cloud and Koko.

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, Gabby was beyond 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 knee. 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.

Actually, Gabby’s dream day would just to be constantly hugged. 

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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’s in A 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 MONday – 

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

 

NEW BOOK ALERT!

I just want to let everyone know that INCHWORMS (The Dude Series Book 2) is out and having a good time as Dude competes for a full scholarship at a prestigious Southern college and getting into a bit of trouble.

Here’s what it’s about:

A fascinating must-read suspense from New York Times bestseller Carrie Jones.

A new chance visiting a small Southern college.
A potential love interest for a broken girl obsessed with psychology.
A damaged group of co-eds.
A drowning that’s no accident.
A threat that seems to have no end.

And just like that Jessica Goodfeather aka Dude’s trip away from her claustrophobic life in Maine to try to get an amazing scholarship to her dream school has suddenly turned deadly. Again.


What would you do to make a difference?

After his best friend Norah was almost abducted, Cole Nicholaus has spent most of his childhood homeschooled, lonely and pining for Norah to move from best friend to girl friend status. When birds follow him around or he levitates the dishes, he thinks nothing of it—until a reporter appears and pushes him into making a choice: stay safe at home or help save a kidnapped kid.

Cole and Norah quickly end up trying to not just save a kid, but an entire town from a curse that has devastating roots and implications for how exactly Cole came to be the saint that he is.

Can Cole stop evil from hurting him and Norah again? And maybe even get together? Only the saints know.

From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the NEED seriesSaint is a book about dealing with the consequences that make us who we are and being brave enough to admit who we love and what we need.

BUY NOW! 🙂 I made a smiley face there so you don’t feel like I’m too desperate.

The cover. Creepy, right?

You can read an excerpt right here.

Stopping Doomsday Thinking

A lot of great clients and students that I’ve worked with have what I like to call Doomsday Thinking. I’m pretty sure I didn’t coin that phrase.

What is doomsday thinking?

It’s basically catastrophic thinking.

In Psychology Today, Toni Bernhard J.D. writes, “The term refers to our irrational and exaggerated thoughts: thoughts that have no basis in fact, but which we believe anyway.”

Those thoughts become so big and so distorted that we get anxious.

I am a pro at doomsday thinking

I basically had these kinds of thoughts until last year.

Those negative, spiraling thoughts can become so big, so huge, that it’s almost impossible to be happy about who we are, what we’ve done, what we will do, or our life.

We forget there can be good outcomes too.

Instead, we think about all the bad potentials and build them up like super stores, giving them so much space in our thoughts that they take over.

The why is it always me syndrome.

One of my most brilliant and adorable relatives does this all the time. She gets stuck on a highway coming home from work because of a traffic jam and thinks, “Why does this always happen to me? The universe hates me.”

When in reality, she’s not alone in that traffic jam, right? It’s almost self-absorbed to think that the frustrating things are out to get you and only you.

Or, we get rejected when we send our book to an agent and think, “This is impossible. I will never get published. I am doomed to suck forever. I give up.”

When in reality, you don’t suck at all. Writing is subjective and that particular agent just wasn’t for you.

Change happens.

In doomsday thinking whenever something bad happens, we assume that this is the way it will always be. It isn’t.

The world is chaos and full of change.

I just was texting with one of my friends the other night and I wrote, “I bet Five-years-ago Steve would never have imagined this.”

The this was good stuff happening in his life. And he hadn’t. He hadn’t predicted any of it.

We’re all like that. I didn’t imagine I’d be where I am five years ago. That’s because change happens. Even the bad doesn’t stay always bad. We can’t predict the outcomes and all the variables even when we think we can.

Here’s the good thing about change

Since things change, it means that you don’t need to stay stuck forever. And you don’t need to stay in those negative thought patterns forever either.

Why not? It’s pretty easy to lean into your internal critic, right? But you don’t have to. You can stay calm. You can take chances and make choices and shut them up.

We all have inner critics, but we also need inner cheerleaders

I used to imagine my inner critic as John Wayne (the dead movie star/cowboy). He was so harsh on me. Always telling me to work. So, I created an inner cheerleader who turned out to be the Muppet, Grover. Yes, from Sesame Street. My brain is a weird place.

John Wayne and Grover would duel it out for supremacy in my head.

Weird! Weird! I know. But by giving an identity to that negative voice/inner critic, it helped me to recognize that doomsday thinking and shut it down so that I could take chances and risks and do things.

Allow yourself to treat challenges and projects like you’re playing

Another thing that helps is giving myself a chance to play and fail. You can do this, too.

Find something you’ve wanted to do. Start a blog? Make a video? Learn to paint? Ride your bike every morning? Make it something that excites you.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Give yourself a time frame. I have 30 days to do this! That sort of short timeframe.
  2. Schedule time into your day/week to do it.
  3. It helps if you have an end project. So, tell yourself what your end product will be.
  4. Do it.

By giving ourselves a product and a timeframe, we give ourselves a chance to try things. It doesn’t seem like a forever-worry that way and it usually shuts up our doomsday thinking and John Waynes a tiny bit.

You’ve got this. I believe in you. You need to believe in you, too.

xo

Carrie

BE A PART OF OUR MISSION!

Hey! We’re all about inspiring each other to be weird, to be ourselves and to be brave and we’re starting to collect stories about each other’s bravery. Those brave moments can be HUGE or small, but we want you to share them with us so we can share them with the world. You can be anonymous if you aren’t brave enough to use your name. It’s totally chill.

Want to be part of the team? Send us a quick (or long) email and we’ll read it here and on our YouTube channel.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has new books out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

Self-Doubt is an Evil Demon, Banish It, Now, Writer Babies!

Failing one time? It doesn’t make you a failure.
Failing 1,000 times? Still doesn’t make you a failure. You’re only a failure if you decide to be.

That evil inner voice? The butt-face that says you aren’t good enough, that you don’t deserve good things, that you can’t do it?

That little monster is Self-doubt. It hangs out a lot with its big sister, Anxiety. And you don’t have to have them over to play in your head anymore.

Just this week, we posted our podcast and a guy (editor/writer) on Twitter didn’t like it but posted a link to his own blog and said, “COUNTER POINT.”

His blog was all about not wanting to give out writing advice or talking about his own life/anxiety/whatever issues.

All of that is so fine and good for him for telling the world why he is the way his beautiful self is, but this little bit of me was like:

What? Counterpoint? Counterpoint to saying life is deeper than write what you know?

Counterpoint to what?

And why the hell did you post under my tweet your own link without even having the grace to like mine?

If my blog post (if you even read it) inspired you enough to ‘counterpoint’ why not like it?

And then I had a lot of work to do helping writers and writing my own stories and I let it go.

It was a bit of a win for me, honestly. Because all I want to do is be a better human and one step towards that? For me? It’s banishing Self-doubt.

It’s almost like the universe gave me a present right there.

But this isn’t just about me. It’s also about you and how you can do that too, right?

Here’s how to kick Self-Doubt and Anxiety out of your house.

  1. Tell them to get out. Seriously, once they start whispering their disparaging believes about your worth, tell them, “Get out. I hear you. I don’t need you. Bugger off. You’re ruining the party.”
  2. Remember good things. If Self-doubt is a bully who won’t leave, you sometimes have to call in the reinforcements. Those reinforcements are the good time, the good memories. The times you were proactive and kicked butt.
  3. Phone a friend or text or Facetime. Sometimes your own memories aren’t strong enough and you have to talk to someone about your self-doubt. Telling another person about your doubts sometimes helps you realize how dorky they are and how they are like the OOPS page on a Rotten Tomatoes movie listing. The congnative dissonance because obvious when you say things aloud.
  4. Make a Journal of Awesome. At one point in my life, I had to print out people’s positive emails and reviews so that I could remember that I had helped people, that my stories connected to people before. I even put in fan mail and fan art and blog posts about positive interactions. Yes, I really was that depressed. Self-doubt had set up home.
  5. Failing one time? It doesn’t make you a failure.
  6. Failing 1,000 times? Still doesn’t make you a failure. You’re only a failure if you decide to be.
  7. Remember you aren’t the center of the universe. I know! I know! You ARE the center of your own universe probably, but we all have to push away our inner narcissist and remember that most people aren’t noticing what you’re doing. Yes, there are trolls out there, but they most likely won’t find you. And if they do? They’re trolls and you’re awesome and you will deal with it. Don’t let your fear of ridicule keep you from living your dreams.

That one is a big one for me, really, which was why ‘counterpoint’ was a bit of a setback.

I’m still working on it and it’s the main reason I still blog, do podcasts, and YouTube. All those things force me out of my comfort zone and into past trauma places about my voice and weirdness. The more I do it? The stronger I get about it.

Oh! And the last one is so important that it’s getting pulled from the list.

What other people think about you doesn’t get to determine who you are.

That’s right. I have a sibling who thinks I’m lying about my DNA. His belief that I’m a liar? It doesn’t make me a liar. I have DNA tests to back me up. Yes, I’ve got the receipts.

But even if you don’t have the receipts, don’t let anyone else make you the villain or the victim of your own story. Only YOU get to decide that. No matter what other people do to you, think of you, say about you, only YOU get to determine if you love yourself and if you have worth.

Here’s the final secret: You do.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has new books out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

“When the ceiling caves in on you, you no longer assume structural stability. You have to learn to live along fault lines.”

— Suleika Jaouad (@suleikajaouad) author of memoir Between Two Kingdoms.

I Don’t Understand Lipstick Tubes

Back before COVID-19, I went to a board meeting on a Monday night for a local non-profit.

The people sitting around the table are passing around a tube of lipstick. Full disclosure: I don’t wear lipstick. Ever. The last time I wore lipstick it was for a play. And someone else put it on me.

Anyways, there’s this piece of paper inside where the lipstick would go and it has the nonprofit’s helpline number and info on it.

The point is that a guy wouldn’t see it hidden in the lipstick, wouldn’t think to look for this kind of info in a woman’s lipstick if he were ransacking her things.

He might not be able to even get the lipstick open, they explained.

I’m not sure that’s terribly accurate in these times, but that was the point. The point was that a woman in danger would know what to do with that lipstick tube and a man wouldn’t.

So the faux lipstick gets to me and I can’t get the paper out. I turn it upside down. I stick in my finger and try to pull it out. Nothing works. Then I realize everyone is staring at me.

The woman next to me takes it:
 Here, Carrie let me try.

She then twists the bottom, which is what you are supposed to do with lip stick!!!!!

I make this total OMG face and then cover my eyes.

People laugh.

She gets all apologetic and hands me the lipstick: Here.

Me:

Me (Hiding):

Me:
 Thank you.

People continue to laugh.

Then finally the one man in the room goes: I wouldn’t have known to do that either.

Me: Yes, but I’m a woman.

Sigh.

You can tell I’m more of a lip gloss girl.

But also, the point is that gender roles don’t always apply. And that’s okay. It’s okay if you’re a man who can figure out how to work a lipstick tube and that I’m a woman who can’t.

We make assumptions about people according to our demographics (race, religion, age, gender, sexuality, height, bodies, you name it) all the time.

But those assumptions aren’t always going to be right and they shouldn’t be. Our ability to comply (or not) to assumptions and culturally imposed norms doesn’t make us any more or less of who we are–cool human beings. That’s part of the beauty of difference and diversity and individualism.

I hope you find a lot of beauty today in these horrific times.

I hope you get to be the person you are.


LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has new books out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has new books out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!


Check out our latest episode about writing platforms here.