Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dogs and Mysteries go together like Bees and Honey


I couldn't help noticing, as an afterthought, that all seven of my published mysteries and the three coming up have dogs in them. I take that back, Murder Passes the Buck didn't, but by book two a German Shepherd appeared on the scene and settled in for Gertie's wild ride. Just like that. In the doll collecting mysteries, Gretchen has a teacup poodle named Nimrod and other miniature critters make cameo appearances.

I don't seem to have any control over that aspect of my writing. So I wasn't surprised when a K-9 police dog showed up in the beekeeping mysteries (first coming in September) as Story Fischer's boyfriend's partner. Ben isn't a Bloodhound. He's a Belgian Malinois and he's utterly awesome as a search and rescue dog, searching for bad guys and rescuing good ones. I was going to write the search scene in book two using a pair of panties but changed that to pj bottoms instead. Don't ask me why. (The decision was made before I stumbled across the above photo!)

Writing dogs into our tales can be tricky. We can't just go off and forget about them. When Fred (in Murder Grins and Bears It) rode around with Gertie all day, my editor complained.
"Gertie never even gave him a drink of water," she said.
"Hunh?" I said.
"Your readers are paying attention. You HAVE to take good care of Fred."
So I went back and worked in drinks for Fred. Now Gertie drives around with a canning jar filled with water and I show her giving him water and feeding him.


Yesterday, while working on my next book, a scruffy, ugly Chihuahua mix arrived on the page without any warning. Dinky (that's her name) belongs to one of the suspects and Story gets roped into taking care of her for a few days. I didn't see that coming. And have to wonder what the heck I'm going to do with this new addition. And don't tell me to go back and edit her out. She showed up. She stays.

Do you like animals in mysteries? Or doesn't it matter? And if I forget to feed Dinky, will you notice?

25 comments:

panda girl said...

I do enjoy animals in stories. If you do forget to feed Dinky it's ok as long as you remember at some point. LOL

Mason Canyon said...

Having pets in stories tend to make the characters more realistic, especially if there's a bond between the two. Readers can relate to that. And yes, most pet-loving readers would notice if the animal isn't feed. By the character putting emphasis on that point - stopping to water or feed (or even letting the dog have a run for nature sake) gives more depth to the character.

Heather Webber said...

I have pets in my books, too, Deb. They become secondary characters in their own right (some of my favorite actually), and you definitely have to keep Dinky!

Katie said...

I probably wouldn't notice if you didn't feed/water a dog because I'm not a big animal person.

Shannon said...

Great photo! I wouldn't want to smell those either, even if it was my job!
I love cats and dogs (yeah, even snakes)in mysteries...I agree, it does seem to make the characters in the book more real and can often show a side of their personality that other "people characters" just can't bring out.

Dru said...

I enjoy seeing animals in the stories I read because it shows the characters' gentle side and it does make them seem more real.

Sheila Connolly said...

Sarah Atwell's protagonist Em Dowell has two short-legged dogs from a shelter, and lives on the second floor with only an exterior staircase. So not only does she have to remember to feed and water them, she has to haul them up and down stairs so they can do their business. What was I thinking?

I gave my orchard-owner Meg Corey a pair of goats, mostly because it was a little funny (she's a city girl), but also because I like goats. I've noticed that she doesn't spend a lot of time with them, so I keep leaving myself little notes: remember the goats!

I'd say that most pet-owners who read our books will be aware of the pets and worry about them. They're characters too.

Serena said...

I think adding dogs to your stories helps personalize the characters...Showing an additional side of their personality. I personally love dogs in novels.

Melissa said...

Animals are always some of my favorite characters in books...I always love to see the pets that characters in cozies have =)

Harvee (Book Dilettante) said...

I may notice! I also like books that give animals a large part in a mystery series - the pet and petsitting mystery series by several writers, the dog mysteries by Susan Conant, the excellent bloodhound mystery series by the late Virginia Lanier.

So many people own dogs. i love to see them included in books!

Jessica said...

Oh yes, Dinky must stay! Animals help make it real!

Jessica said...

Oh, and if The Mystery Gang in Scooby Doo can find time for Scooby to eat (lol)surely feeding Dinky can be managed right? Dogs just don't do their best on empty tummies! :-)

Doranna said...

You know that's a Chinese Crested there in that piccie, right? Hee! See, we DO notice!

Gotta feed the dog. Totally gotta feed the dog. 8)

Doranna said...

You know that's a Chinese Crested there in that piccie, right? Hee! See, we DO notice!

Gotta feed the dog. Totally gotta feed the dog. 8)

Linda said...

I love animals in stories, especially dogs.

Deb Baker said...

I love all your comments and since I'm a mystery writer I noticed a distinct theme here - we all love animals in books!

Doranna, a Chinese Crested. I thought it was just a scruffy mutt. Shame on me.

jbstanley said...

I love animals in most books (as long as they don't get hurt!) and make an effort to put them in my own.

t's funny, but your blog post got me thinking about my closest friends and that none of them have pets. Yet, so many of the readers and writers I know have several pets. I think animals enrich both our lives and out stories!

Maggie Sefton said...

You can tell I love animals in mysteries because Carl plays a role in several of Kelly Flynn's mysteries. Plus, he's always up to something. He's based on my real, sweet, Carl who, thanks to fiction, will live forever. I also briefly introduced my Border Collie mix Katy in the third book and bring her in again. And, yes, readers do notice if you don't feed and water. So, keep that jar of water handy.

Mary Jane Maffini said...

Even if you don't plan to put animals in a mystery, they sneak in anyway. Of course, they need food, water and walks and take over the sofa, but it's all worth it. So far, I've had 'walk-ons' from a calico cat, a temporary dog and a pair of lovebirds. None of them show any signs of leaving! Loved your blog, Deb! MJ

signlady217 said...

Who doesn't love Lillian Jackson Braun's Koko and Yum-Yum? Talk about showing up and staying! Monica Ferris' Sophie; Laura Childs' Earl Grey, Poobah, and Boo; Earlene Fowler's Scout and assorted horses; Donna Andrew's Spike and various birds; and of course the classic Lassie, Rin-Tin-Tin and Cheshire Cat; Doctor Dolittle, Mowgli, and Tarzan would't be themselves without their animal companions; admit it, folks: most of our favorite authors have animals in their books and we love them for it.

Andrea C. said...

Pets are always a great way to help readers identify with characters - especially pets who do not always do as we wish! Haha (speaking as a woman trying to housebreak 2 eight week old Siberian Husky pups!)

Deb Baker said...

JB - my closest friends have multiple animals ruling their homes.

signlady - Wow! You remember all their names!

Andrea - I love puppies. Wish you lived next door.

misterreereeder said...

Animals can have their place in a story - it all depends on what the situation dictates. Do I like them? Usually - it gives the story more depth and makes it "less" fiction and more believable. Of course sometimes an animal might be put in that does the exact opposite - but that was probably the intent.

RosieJo said...

Yes, yes and yes. My favorite series is the late Virginia Lanier's Bloodhound books. Not because she was from Georgia, like me, but because she was such a terrific writer. Did you know that when she became famous her town named a road after her husband? Really, it's true.

Deb Baker said...

I picked up one of Virginia Lanier's books, since several of you talked about this series. Can't wait to start it.