The setting sun makes gold light dapple the leaves over my head, red berries glisten to my right, and the inlet stretches to my left. The path slicing through the forest is downtrodden but nearly silent. I sidestep the patches of mud from last night’s rain and the roots that push their way above ground.
I think I’m observing the scene fairly well. Leave it to my dog to prove me wrong.
My dog Tye stops suddenly to examine something on the ground. I try to urge him forward because the smallest scents attract a dog’s attention and, really, what do I care? Why should it matter to me what my dog finds interesting? I’m being thoughtful and fulfilling my duties of ownership by taking him on a walk.
He refuses to come so I’m forced to see what he’s so interested in (though I have yet to care he’s interested in anything at all).
Then I see the dead bird, its beak agape in some sort of horrified rictus.
I push my dog away only to prod the creature lightly with a stick myself. I know it is dead, heck, it looks like it has no insides at all and the black feathers are slick and clumpy, I just can’t help it.
I’m morbidly fascinated.
I call my friend (who also missed the carcass) over to look. She bemoans my cruelty, wishing I never called her over and tries to make me leave. I’m harder to get moving than my dog was.
The sequence of events makes me think of my manuscript for the remainder of our walk. I just can’t get the bird out of my head, or the fact that my writerly powers of observation failed me.
It makes me realize something. I’m probably not finding the, perhaps slightly hidden, dead things in my story. Not the dead characters. Not the dead plots. Not the dead words.
I think I’m catching everything; I’m looking everywhere but I’m much too close to the work to catch the lifeless pieces bringing my story down. My friend probably won’t notice either – she looks at the writing like it’s my book, she has background info on my characters (stuff a random reader wouldn’t be privileged too), and she’s as lost in the atmosphere as I am.
I need a dog; someone with a nose to sniff out all the problems, who is objective and unbiased enough to not overlook the small things for my sake. Because let’s face it simply praising our work does us no favors. It won’t get us to publication.
The only thing that will is brutal honesty. I need someone who isn’t afraid to get a little dirty, to be morbid and blatantly point out the dead stuff in my writing.
Again, I say it, I need a dog.
I should care because it’s my soul in a book and every soul has flaws. I should care because I want my book to reach its potential. I should care because I can only improve. I should care because it isn't enough to just do our writerly duties.
I should care because it matters.
Is there a ‘dog’ in your life who helps you find the dead stuff?
Word Of The Day: Wikiphobia - fear of wikipedia, fear of the ability to allow anyone to edit things.