Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dog Days of Summer (or Using Dogs to Enhance your Writing) by Jannine Gallant

Ginger - she looks sweet...
July… A sun baked beach with the smell of tropical tanning lotion wafting on the breeze… The whir of crickets on a sultry summer night… A sweat dampened shirt and aching muscles, the stillness of the forest in mid-afternoon, anticipating a hint of breeze at the summit of the climb… All images I associate with The Dog Days of Summer. Of course the Dog Days wouldn’t be complete without the all important dog.

Ginger the stick loving menace to squirrels!

A dog at the beach means throwing a ball, over and over and over… In the evening calm, man’s (or woman’s) faithful companion lies in the grass and rolls to her back, all four paws waving ludicrously, and moans. The stillness of the forest erupts in a frenzy of barking as a squirrel scampers across the trail. See how a dog changes up the scene, either enhancing (or destroying) a mood, or adding comedy and excitement. Maybe that’s why I put them in all my books.

The following is a scene from After All These Years where my heroine, Chantal, discovers a skeleton. A scene like that isn’t easy to write. It’s hard to get the drama without making it totally cliché or worthy of an eye roll. Ace the basset hound adds that extra something that makes this scene work. (At least I hope it works! LOL)

Covered by a mass of honeysuckle, she saw the shape of a wing attached to a fuselage. The sun glimmered off the tip of a rudder protruding from a clump of ferns. It appeared to be a small, single engine plane. Ace sniffed around what was undoubtedly the cockpit, half buried in the earth. He gave a long, low woof and dug furiously.
“Ace, the plane has been there for years, probably decades. I don’t know what you hope to find.”
Undeterred, he continued his excavation, and then disappeared completely into the rusted body of the plane. Chantal climbed across the broken wing after him. “If you get stuck in there, so help me—”
Empty eye sockets stared up at her as the skull rocked precariously and toppled from the skeleton. Ace gave a final tug on the humerus clamped in his jaws and came away with the grisly prize.
“Drop it, Ace! Drop it this minute!”

I’ve also used dogs to tell my readers something about a character. How a person reacts to a dog is generally indicative of the type of person they are. Are they timid, concerned about their appearance, overbearing, reluctant? The list goes on. In Nothing But Trouble, my hero, Chase, learns something about Honor’s temperament when she’s introduced to his hound dog, Bo.

            At the truck door, she came nose to nose with a long eared, soulful eyed hound dog. He put his oversized paws on the window frame and gave her a sniff. Reaching out a tentative hand, she scratched his head. Tongue lolling, he moaned in response.
            “Move it, Bo.” The dog retreated at Chase’s command, and she opened the door. “I can make him get in the back seat.” His words held more confidence than his tone.
            She squeezed inside. “It’s okay. I like dogs.”
            Starting the engine, he smiled at her over the recumbent dog who’d draped head and shoulders across her lap. “That’s good, because he seems to like you.”

Have you used dogs in your writing? If not, give it a try. Or choose a different animal. Cats are full of personality. I can only imagine what they’d add to a scene. Hmm, I may have to change it up one of these days…

My books are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailer. Buy links are on my website.


Nancy Jardine Author said...

Hi Jannine,
I'm not really a doggie person. I don't hate dogs, but have just never had one as a pet. I did write one onto my debut novel as a 'vehicle' to have my heroine regularly visit a particular place, though. I found it fun writing about my huge Irish wolf hound, Thor, and will probably write in another animal at some future time.

Mary Campisi said...

Hi Jannine:

Loved the post and loved the pic of Ginger. I can tell she's alert by her eyes and stance. I use animals in many of my books but why wouldn't I when i treat my dog like he's human?! They really are characters and have their own interesting personalities.

Great job showing how animals can enhance a story. Thanks for sharing and I hope Ginger enjoys the rest of her busy sniffing/fetching summer.


Jannine Gallant said...

Nancy, you make a perfect point. You don't have to love dogs to still use them in your stories. I actually have an Irish wolfhound mix in my A Deadly Love, coming out in August. He was very fun to write - and is a bit of a hero. Thanks for stopping by.

Jannine Gallant said...

Mary, Ginger is definitely having a great summer. You're right about dogs having unique personalities. I've picked different breeds in every book I've written, and each dog is very different. I try to make their personality add something to the story. Thanks for visiting today.

Colleen Connally said...


You know I love the doggies! Great blog.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Love dogs, loved your excerpts. I haven't used a dog yet. Hmmm... I think I'll write one into the book I'm just starting.

Regina Duke said...

Hi, Jannine! I totally agree, of course. LOL!

Dogs are a huge part of my books and often provide the character motivations for action scenes. They also work well for revealing character traits as minor characters react to their presence or their behavior.

Lovely blog!

Regina Duke

Jannine Gallant said...

Jerri, Thank you!

Brenda, Go for it. I guarantee you'll have fun writing the dog scenes.

Jannine Gallant said...


I knew you'd be by when I mentioned dogs. Your book cover for Woof is the cutest thing ever. We definitely think alike when it comes to dogs in books!

Susan Macatee said...

Loved the excerpts for both books, Jannine! I've used both dogs and cats in a couple of my short magazine stories. The animals worked as main ingredients to bring the characters together.

Jannine Gallant said...

Glad you enjoyed them, Susan. The key in a longer work is to not forget the poor dog. Sometimes I write a few chapters before realizing it hasn't appeared in way too long. LOL

Margo Hoornstra said...

Great use of blog, Jannine. Having read both those books of yours, I enjoyed re-reading the excerpts. Loved Bo almost as much as Chase.

Jannine Gallant said...

Thanks, Margo. Bo is a very cool dog with a laid back attitude. Kind of like his owner, Chase.