books · characters · writing

She’s Back — and She’s Brought Her Very Own Story and Her Very Own Dog

Photo by Santiago Esquivel on Unsplash

She grabbed me and she’s not letting go this time.

In a series of posts about love, I wrote about dogs. These are my very favorite posts, ones that include dogs and love. I love writing them and I love looking back on them — for my own dog joy and heartfelt responses from other lucky humans.

My character spotted it, whistled for her dog. They raced elegantly, efficiently, with calculated ease right back into my world. Gina’s cunning tactic walloped me before I’d had any coffee and could protest.

She dictated the first lines of my morning pages. This is not done. It is not allowed. Morning pages are solely for me, as writer and as person living in the world. I might wonder on the page, but I don’t lay down story then and I never give it prime space. Characters are not invited — and know not to insert themselves into my private time. That’s the way it works — until today.

Stunned by her irresistible audacity, I scribbled down what she said. Her clear authority bowled me over. I’d last known her as a charming two-year old who loves dogs and cheese.

“A dog doesn’t break up with you.”

What? Where did this come from? She grinned. She had me where she wanted me, writer heart pounding and fingers twitching. Smart Gina used her time in story exile to grow into her own novel, to vault from cute supporting character to powerful star.

I stammered, Why is there a dog and why is there a break-up and what happens next and what is with this plaintive voice?

She continued as if she weren’t reveling in our moment:

“And, if he did, he wouldn’t do it on a bright day in June, as he’s heading to the office, commenting casually that things aren’t working out, giving you a quick kiss while you gape, the wind knocked clean out of your life.”

Her smile was radiant. It’s good, isn’t it, she cooed. I’ve got lots more where that came from. I told you I was important; now do you believe me?

Tracing her finger across the top of the desk, she pronounced that she’d grown up since I sent her away. She’s developed her own story, no longer needs to interrupt and steal scenes. She boasts that her story is terrific, important and fun and meaningful — and it builds on the piddling I’ve accomplished with Emily’s story, even though Gina’s is so much better. As if she’d just come up with the lines, she offered:

“A dog would never request mildly, as if he wasn’t sure how you’ll take it, but he’d love it — love it and not you — if you could be out of the apartment by Friday night because he’s having some people over.”

Oh, no! Her fiance-to-be is kicking Gina to the curb? With their new puppy?

Wait a minute. I’m the author. I’m in charge here. I declare that Gina is the protagonist and this guy with the rushed, casual break-up ultimatum is called Brett or Caleb or some name that he likes because it makes him stand out from the rest of his herd. I’ve only just met him, caught the barest glimpse, and I despise him.

The innocent puppy ultimately catapults Gina from a plodding, decent-enough life to living fully radiant with a huge dog. There are twists and turns and funny episodes — and several characters from Emily’s story are provided very nice cameo appearances.

Heart pounding, I remind myself to breathe. My fingers ache to get it down on the page. This is a terrific story. It’s now at the head of my story queue — against all my logic and rational arguments. There is no resisting it, telling Gina’s story that it has to wait its turn. This clever story advises that writing it will improve my writing process, deepen my creativity, advance my craft. Come on, it suggests, work with what Gina says.

See, Gina, the formerly-exiled character gloats. See what I mean about bringing something important to the story? I am the story!

She drops her voice, encourages me to get a cup of coffee. I’ve got more, she grins, lots more. I’m not the toddler with Woofie any more. I’m 20-something and have I got a story for you!

Go on, get your coffee like a good writer, she says. I’ll be waiting. The dog leans against her leg and grins at me.

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