ANIMALS AS CHARACTERS


ANIMALS AS CHARACTERS

Nataliebright.com

If your story is plodding along and you’re struggling in that saggy middle quagmire, think about adding interesting elements through animals.

Animals add a richness to our lives and provide some great material for stories. With some creative thinking, they can add unlimited conflict for your characters to deal with. The death of a beloved pet. The bequeath of granny’s pet anaconda. The personality of a cranky, old cat.

As I sat in the vet’s office one morning, an elderly couple came in with an obnoxious solid black mutt. He barked at my dogs, with a face that was full of disgust. The elderly gentleman took him outside. The lady explained that their dear neighbor had died and had left this dog to them in her will. Sometimes great stories just land in your lap from out of nowhere.

We have a ranch with dogs, barn cats, Registered Angus cows, wild turkey, antelope, deer—you name it. There are issues that happen every week just involving the livestock and wildlife. If you’ve ever owned a pet, you know that they exhibit quirky personalities and habits that keep life interesting.

Last Saturday, I toured Dove Creek Ranch and Equine Rescue. They do amazing work. I was reminded that animals have fascinating life journeys and stories much like people. Some of these horses have experienced mental issues, grief, abuse and pain. Horses go through traumatic events and have to experience a healing process much like humans. Sometimes it’s not a happy ending. Other times horses and humans can heal together, and there is new found joy and a fresh beginning. Talk about a place full of story ideas!

Dig deeper and rethink the dynamics of your story. Would an animal add a unique dimension to your character arc or story line?

Always onward WS6 writers!

Check It Out


Outtakes 230

Check It Out

by Cait Collins

I was rather upset by a comment made the other day regarding writers who do not check their facts. I was purchasing a number of books and magazines on gems, minerals, and jewelry making for more information on the career of one of my characters. The clerk commented I must be really into rocks and jewelry. I explained I was doing some research for my new book. Her response was “Thank you. I do some editing and I can’t believe how many writers expect the editor to do the fact-checking.”

Really? I can’t believe writers would put something on paper and not check the facts. I prefer to think that we take the time to learn what we don’t know. For example, would anyone start a story about a doctor and not know the basics of education, office set up and regulations regarding the practice of medicine? Would we be willing to tarnish our reputation just to get the book finished?

We are responsible for what we put on paper. I have a situation in a novel regarding the purchase of several tracts of land with the stipulation the former owners could buy the land back in five years. Only the buy-back did not include the water and mineral rights. Was this possible? Absolutely. How did I learn about this? Book and on-line research combined with discussions with experts in the field. And with on-line resources, it’s easy to do the research.

While we have more up-to-date information at hand, I still prefer books. I purchased a detailed book on gems, cuts, faceting, settings, and designs. While I have done some rock collecting and panning, I need details so that my character is real.

I also believe in experience. Writing a western? Go west. Sign on as a ranch hand, and if you don’t ride a horse, learn. Pick up the cowboy lingo.

Find a fee site and learn to pan for gold. (You get to keep what you find.)

Is your hero a rock climber? Find a beginner’s location and scale the cliff. Become familiar with the rigging and terminology.

Proper research builds better settings, richer dialog, and more exciting characters. By paying attention to details, we portray ourselves as true professionals who take responsibility for the words we put on the page. We make the editor’s job easier and we reduce the amount of editing needed to make a project press-ready. Good research permits the author to put one project to be and start a new work.

 

For the Love of Horses


Middle Grade Mondays

For the Love of Horses

by Natalie Bright

I love horses, and they rarely even tolerate me.

Horses are hyper-sensitive to everything and everyone around them. They are super-smart, skittish, mystical, magical, and they like things calm. If they have a job to do, they want to do it. They are not fond of dallying around on something that doesn’t make sense to them.

Eating Dirt

Every summer as a kid, I’d visit my cousins and the first thing my dad would say before he left, “do not get on a horse.” Of course we did on occasion. Just so you know, if you’re riding along and you laugh really loud at something your cousin said, you’re eating dirt quicker than you can spit. It happens that fast.

So I learned early on that I’m loud and hyper and spastic and horses do not roll with that kind of person. I also discovered that horses have personalities.

Personality Plus

Many years ago, a friend gave me a tour of his stable and introduced me to all of his horses. He explained how their names are unique to their personalities and physical traits. I feel in love with those beautiful animals, never imagining that I’d write middle grade books where these animals would need to play an important role in the plot.

As a ranch owner, I’ve discovered that ranch horses are highly trained, cowboys are very passionate about what they do, and they have the ability to talk horse all day long. And although I wished to have a horse more than anything when I was younger, I’ve never really had a special connection with these majestic creatures.

Writing the West

As a western writer, there’s no doubt that horses have to be a part of my stories. The challenge is in giving them a personality. I want them to be more than just livestock or  a part of the setting. I want them to be larger than life characters with humorous traits and behavior habits.  I rely on all of you horse people to tell me why you love these amazing animals so much.

Cheers to horses, and thanks to those of you have shared your experiences.

Keep them coming!

www.nataliebright.com

“RACE BRED”


“RACE BRED”

Rare But Special is a horse you would call, “Race bred.” His sire comes from linage of the great Easy Jet, owned and raised by Oklahoma breeder Walter Merrick. The dam (mother) goes back to another super horse named Dash For Cash. The point being, these are winning racehorses, not only successful on the track themselves, but also at producing winners in their offspring. The same selection process to breed cutting horses, reining, jumping, endurance, whatever equine discipline there is, these horse are specifically bred to be the best at what they do.

In Chapter two of my novel TRAILS END, Donnie Williams learns of his new boss’s attempt to breed the perfect cow horse. Robert Jarrett uses a method that involves mating animals that are already related to each other. If it works, it’s referred to as line breeding. If it fails, people call it inbreeding. The result of this project is the ranch horse named Trails End.

Rare But Special came in fourth in his last race. Not too bad, but he has to win first to continue his race career. He has one more chance on August 28. I hope you’ll be rooting for him, he’s a kind sweet horse that didn’t have much of a chance early in life. A lot like my character Donnie Williams.

Joe Nichols

Fighting Human Nature


            TRAILS END- The Novel

                                                           Fighting Human Nature

Taking responsibility for the path of your life is hard work. It’s more convenient to make excuses, blame circumstances and other people, or concede to “It’s just my bad luck.” Seeing only the negative side comes easy. It takes real effort to guide yourself in a positive manner, accepting what comes your way, and dealing with it.

In chapter nine of TRAILS END, Donnie finds proof that he is a failure because of the Palomino horse bucking him off. Robert Jarrett’s wife, Allie, delays the home school lesson to present a different point of view to the young cowboy. It’s a turning point in his life and a foundation he turns to forever.

Have you ever had to face the truth to yourself? I think realizing there is always someone worse off than we are, goes along way in accepting our bad situations and motivating ourselves to dig our own way out. I hope that you, like Donnie, can find solutions to your problems, and be happy everyday.

Check in next Wednesday,

Joe

AGING WITH HONOR


Aging with honor

Getting older doesn’t happen to everybody. You have to stay alive first, as my previous blog about my cousin Bryan solemnly reminded us. For those of us dealing with the physical slow down that comes with the years, I think we have to stay active as possible, yet accept what we can no longer do without complaining or becoming depressed about it.

In my novel TRAILS END, seventy-eight year old Robert Jarrett is determined to ride and train the young colt (Trails End) by himself. This causes a spat between the rancher and his wife, Allie. Because I am trying to make the story as realistic as possible, Allie wins.

Robert decides to have Donnie Williams, (the homeless boy he bailed out of jail) ride Trails End for him. This puts enormous pressure on the boy, but Robert believes it will build his confidence. I believe this demonstrates an example of admitting your limitations while helping someone else. Aging with honor.

Rare But Special continues his race carrier at The Downs at Albuquerque. As of this year, the New Mexico track is excepting all ages of horses. This will also allow a good horse to “Age with honor”.

Joe Nichols

RARE BUT SPECIAL


RARE BUT SPECIAL

We all are faced with tough decisions concerning our animals. It doesn’t seem appropriate, but sometimes the emotions we have dealing with pets and livestock traumatize us more than our family situations.

Rare But Special ran his best race. He broke from the starting gates in the lead, and easily maintained that position until the straightaway. Down the stretch, a horse challenged him on the outside and took the lead by a half-length. In only a short distance, our horse regained the lead and left that horse behind. At that point, we thought victory was ours.

We wanted that horse to win so bad. He evolved from a starved unbroken five year old, to a serious contender in a sanctioned race. Because of his age, he needed to win first to continue his racing career. Two horses inched passed him in the last fifty yards, and he won third. This was his first long race, 870 yards. The mental and physical conditions are strenuous for that distance, and the race he ran was amazing under the circumstances. My wife and I are so proud of him, yet heartbroken he didn’t win. He may be out of options, and we’re faced with deciding his future. He really isn’t suited for any other purpose.

Donnie Williams witnesses this type of situation in chapter three of TRAILS END. It’s a hard part of owning animals. They can become so close to you, they are part of who you are.

I don’t know the topic of the next blog, but it’s going to be fun and positive, opposite of the last two. I hope to have you back for next Wednesday.

Joe Nichols

“RACE BRED”


“RACE BRED”

Rare But Special is a horse you would call, “Race bred.” His sire comes from linage of the great Easy Jet, owned and raised by Oklahoma breeder Walter Merrick. The dam (mother) goes back to another super horse named Dash For Cash. The point being, these are winning racehorses, not only successful on the track themselves, but also at producing winners in their offspring. The same selection process to breed cutting horses, reining, jumping, endurance, whatever equine discipline there is, these horse are specifically bred to be the best at what they do.

In Chapter two of my novel TRAILS END, Donnie Williams learns of his new boss’s attempt to breed the perfect cow horse. Robert Jarrett uses a method that involves mating animals that are already related to each other. If it works, it’s referred to as line breeding. If it fails, people call it inbreeding. The result of this project is the ranch horse named Trails End.

Rare But Special came in fourth in his last race. Not too bad, but he has to win first to continue his race career. He has one more chance on August 28. I hope you’ll be rooting for him, he’s a kind sweet horse that didn’t have much of a chance early in life. A lot like my character Donnie Williams.

Joe Nichols

WRITING HORSES


WRITING HORSES – Joe Nichols

After several days of 100+ degrees in my home in the Texas panhandle, I head south to Fredericksburg where it’s really hot. I do have a good reason to be here for sure. I hauled a horse owned by my wife and I to the Gillespie County Fairgrounds to run him in a Quarter Horse race.

My whole life has been involved with fast horses, rodeo broncs, and cow horses. Cow horse? A cow horse is used to handle and work cattle, such as gathering and driving them to different pastures, or to a corral to be sorted, doctored, branded, or shipped to market. Modern times will never replace this valuable tool still used on today’s ranches, feedlots, and livestock auctions.

A working cow horse provides the nucleus for my current novel and the reason for this blog. I would like people from all walks of life to enjoy my story. If I can help the folks not familiar with the western lifestyle to understand it better, the story of Donnie Williams will relate to anyone.

In chapter one of TRAILS END, the prominent aging rancher, Robert Jarrett, learns that sixteen-year-old Donnie is in jail. When Robert decides to go to the police station, it begins the transformation of Donnie’s life.

Next Wednesday, we’ll talk more about the story and some “cowboy terms”. Also, I’ll give you the results about “Rare but Special” in his race.

Click on the author page above to connect with Joe.