The Puppy World View

By Boyd Morrison

For the past week I’ve been on full-time puppy duty (and dooty). She’s an eight-week-old golden doodle we just got named Casey. Prepare to activate your “awwww” buttons.

Yes, we now have a living teddy bear in our house. She’s adorable, whiny, playful, clumsy, meek, and friendly. But she also looks at the world in a way that reinvigorates my approach to writing.

She’s curious, to the same degree that the Milky Way is roomy.

Everything is new to her. Every sight, sound, taste, smell, and feel is a wondrous, vibrant, scary, exhilarating experience for Casey. Sometimes she’s tentative in partaking of a new situation and sometimes she dives right in without thinking about it. A fire hose of sensory information is pointed right at her and she’s absorbing it all like a desiccated sponge. It really is a joy to watch.

I think that’s why I enjoy movies like Elf and Twins so much. Through the main characters’ eyes, it’s fun experiencing everything to which we’ve become jaded with a whole new appreciation and sense of wonder.

It’s hard for me to remember a time like that from my childhood with any fidelity. The closest recent experience I can recall was when I went to ThrillerFest for the first time. I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t know how a conference worked. I was new to the writing craft and business. I hadn’t even been to the conference location of Phoenix before then. The fire hose was turned on me and I could barely keep from drowning in the information bombarding me.

Now when I go to ThrillerFest, I know many of the attendees, I’ve been on numerous panels myself, and I’m a New York aficionado since the conference has been held there seven years in a row. Information new to me dribbles in.

The key is capturing that sense of newness and wonder in my storytelling. When I’m reading I want that fresh experience I’ve never before encountered, yet I’ve read so many stories it’s hard not to feel that I’ve seen it all before. If you’re well-read in a genre, you likely have had the same experience.

So my goal is to mirror Casey’s approach to the world when I’m staring at the blank screen. If what I’m conjuring doesn’t provoke in me that delight of discovery, then it’s probably crap that doesn’t belong on the page. And nobody wants to look at a pile of dooty.

16 thoughts on “The Puppy World View

  1. AWWWWW….I have a labradoodle (numerous pics on my website) named Maple. She’s almost five now but we’ve had her since she was 6 weeks old. She is still puppyish, always a joy, and very, very, smart.

    New experiences, even meeting new people, is the best fodder for the imagination. I often start a story with that delight of discovery only to have it fade when I try to expand on it. And that’s fine. Eventually the idea hits that keeps me writing from start to end. It’s keeping those ideas coming that is important.

  2. Awwww. Puppies are so adorable.

    My two rescue dogs never have a bad day. They’re my reminder to do the same. Life is too short not to live it like a puppy, in puppi-tude.

  3. She’s pretty much a dead ringer for my daughter’s dog when he was a puppy. (We sat for him last week.) Those are great dogs, great disposition and lots of fun.

  4. My pup is lying right next to me now. (She likes to snuggle up to the laptop vent for the heat). She is sprawled on her back, eyes shut, legs splayed. Oblivious. Content. Dreaming of squirrels, I would guess.

    I try to take a lesson from her every day — enjoy the moment but even when you are napping keep one eye open for scraps that fall to the floor.

  5. That sense of discovery is why I like learning something new with each story and sharing it with readers. It’s also why I buy the Sunday newspaper and scour through it with a pair of scissors. You never know where inspiration will strike.

  6. Great post. I do notice a lot of repetition in horror writing. There is something to be said for the familiarity of a genre, and there are, after all, only so many plots. But I often feel writers are falling back on stereotypes. Using a familiar trope may get you safely to the end, but will bore the reader (or at least me anyway). I like to find something fresh. And good writers can take a familiar plot and make something new from it.

  7. After a lifetime with one around I don’t have dogs any more, my youngest son is allergic to the beasties. But I do work with children of all ages as a Sunday School and Education Director in my church for more than 24 years and a Cub Scout / Boy Scout leader for 15 years. That awe, the sparkle as they discover anything new, is always a fresh source of joy for me.

    While my stories are not kid material by any stretch I love the image of approaching them with that same wide eyed wonder at new things. And in interacting with other writers and writerly professionals the curiosity that comes with exploring new territory or finding old treasures long hidden keeps me coming back for more.

  8. Sometimes, ya just gotta put a dog or two in your book. My (ex) friend put my dog Max in his book and then shot him. He lived, of course. But, hey!

    The Doodles are great dogs. I understand they don’t shed. That’s not right. You should be suffering and dealing with dog hair everywhere, like the rest of us.

    If you’ve never had a dog before, you will now find yourself meeting…The Dog People! “Oh, and how much does he weigh?” That’s usually the first question upon meeting Max. And it’s always preceded by “Boy! He sure doesn’t miss any meals.” Imagine if regular people were to greet each this way. Max is an chocolate English Lab and weighs about 110 lbs. He attracts attention everywhere.

    I’m crazy about dogs and know the names of all the dogs we meet on the trail every day. Don’t know the names of the dog people. I always bend down to talk to them. Nobody else I know does that. Little white snaggle-tooth terrier bit me last month in Wyoming. I won’t tell you what I said to him. Now I’ll carry a dime-sized scar on my palm to remind me of this bozo.

    And then there’s dog stories. Why, I could just go on and on and…

  9. I put one of my Chihuahuas in my WIP. Actually, Simon is kind of a combination of the two and he steals more than one scene.

    And, yes, we should all:

    1. Be the person our dog thinks we are. We’d have shopping malls on the moon if we had half of their curiosity and determination.

    2. Look at how our dog solves problems. If you can’t eat it or play with it, you give it a sniff, pee on it, and move on.

    Now Boyd, you know we all want more puppy pics . . .


  10. I’m just going to say AAWWWWW… I want a dog. I want two. A big dopey one called Bob and a small, smart one called Max!

    Yes, we need MORE pics!!!

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