Schooled By My Dogs

I’ve spent hours agonizing over whether to use slacks or dress pants in a sentence, and my two dogs have served as a welcome distraction. I live with two 200-pound mastiffs. Charley Gansky, the seven-year-old, is a big wimp, but he’s smart. Babe, our six-year-old, is territorial and thick as a brick.

If you throw a bone to Charley, he’ll catch it. Babe? She goes cross-eyed as it hits her on the nose.

Babe likes to throw herself at our windows and front door whenever a stranger approaches. She’s broken so many I’ve taken to setting one of the dining room chairs in front of the door. She could move it with one swipe of her massive paw, but doesn’t.

Charley, on the other hand, lets nothing stand in his way. When he wants something, he moves chairs, pushes fences, and opens doors. Fortunately, he has sense enough not to throw himself at glass partitions.

How did I determine their IQs? Simple. When I point to something in the other room, Charley looks in the other room. Babe looks at my hand.

So, while playing with them, I had a writing epiphany.

To train a dog to look where you’re pointing, you have to make the object being pointed out more interesting than your hand.

In my fiction, if I focus on pretty words, flowing language, or musical metaphors, the reader will look at my hand. It’s not that my reader is as dense as Babe; it’s that I am intruding. Maybe even showing off.

The trick is to make the object in the distance—the message of the story—more arresting than my language. If I pull it off, I have a happier reader.

Now, slacks or dress pants. Which draws attention to my hand?

Photo: Angela HuntAngela Hunt lives in Florida. Learn about her books at her website.

Mastiff image: Karen Shaw / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Comments

  1. says

    I once heard a Bible translator share about his initial attempts to learn a primitive language from the tribes people.

    Everything he pointed to garnered the same one-word response.

    Eventually he discovered they were telling him the word for finger — because their culture pointed with their nose!

  2. Rachel Laird says

    That’s a very good analogy, Angela. And I loved the picture of your dog on the sofa. It reminds me of the boxer my dad had. Have a good evening.

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