The day began well enough. Much colder than a few days before and with a light coating of overnight snow on the ground, but otherwise fine for a weekend morning in early March. The daffodils had been blooming all week, along with white-flowering Bartlett Pears and other trees budding and coming into bloom. Yellow forsythias were just beginning to stretch and awaken, as well. In the tree tops, Cardinals were still singing despite the snow and cold, seemingly to encourage Spring warmth to quickly return.
Peacefully savoring a hot cup of breakfast tea, the day took a turn when Little Red Bear came thru the door, accompanied by my writing muse, hovering alongside. If you have never seen a writing muse, or at least mine – so chances are you haven’t – just picture a sweet and kindly fairy in your mind, but with a “my way or the highway, don’t cross me” attitude.
“Jim, I want to talk to you about something,” Little Red Bear blurted out.
“Hi,” I replied. “And good morning to you too, Red.”
“Yeah, yeah. Good morning. I want to talk to you about something.”
“Go ahead, Red. What’s on your mind?”
“Jim,” Little Red Bear began, “I want to add another character to the stories.
“What now?” I replied, aware that we had already over-filled our story character recruitment goal for “The Second Holler Over!” story collection underway now, and greatly exceeded the budget with the recently published “Pine Holler Christmas” story.
“A dog. I want to have a dog in the stories.”
“We already have a dog coming into the stories – remember? Ol’ Blue. And we just added the Barker House Blues Band, as well. They’re going to appear with Banjo the Bluegrass Bunny at the benefit concert later in the summer.”
“Well, I want one more.”
“Because is not a reason.”
“Because – I want to.”
“That’s still not a reason.”
“It’s good enough for me.”
“Not for me. Not a reason.”
At times like these I look back thankfully for a patience skill developed, sometimes agonizingly, over many years of raising four children.
“I want to add a dog to the stories.”
“We have already added Ol’ Blue.”
“Yeah. But his name says it all – Ol’ Blue – ‘old. O – L – apostrophe – D. Old. He just lays around on the front porch or by the fireplace reminiscing about the past.”
“Well, he had a very interesting past. That’s why we decided to add him. Remember?”
“Well then, I want to add another dog to the stories.”
“Why Red? Please tell me why you want to add another dog to the stories when we are already overflowing with new characters for the next collection.”
“Well, because . . . . I want a dog . . . . and . . . . Cinnamon Charlie would like having a dog around to play with. Yeah, Cinnamon Charlie — he wants a dog, too.”
“He plays around with Goat.”
“We need a dog. A watch dog. Nobody has a ‘watch goat’. To keep an eye out for the weasels poking around all the time.”
“The little fox sheriff, Albuquerque Red, takes care of that. He oversees weasel patrols.”
“Jim, now listen up here, ‘cause apparently from what I can see, you just ain’t hearin’ me well this morning. I – want – a – dog.”
Little Red Bear crossed his arms, firmly planted his right foot on the floor and then started pattering his large left foot on the floorboards of the cabin. He did seem determined and it was obvious he had his mind made up. But stories can only have so many characters and surely there must be a limit. Somewhere.
“Red, now you listen up. You know very well what the ‘writing rules’ people say. Too many characters can be confusing and make it hard for readers to keep track, and slows down the story pace. They tell writers to consolidate many characters into one. Clean – fast – snappy – to the point, start to finish. Everybody wants to hurry and get to the finish nowadays. That’s what they say. Too many characters and cooks spoil the broth.”
“Well, Mr. Fancy Writing Rules – we ain’t makin’ no broth. Are we? Or soup. Or stew. Need I remind you that we are telling old-fashioned, family-friendly stories, not modern, fast-paced thrillers? One of your own favorite writers is William Faulkner, who could take one sentence and spin it into a paragraph. Folks back then called it ‘artful and colorful writing.’ Now the rules people want everything bare bones, ‘zip-zip.’ And don’t you always and adamantly maintain that you don’t follow any rules, and openly defy the ‘writing rules police’ anyway?”
“But . . . .”
“There ain’t no ‘buts’ about it. Now Jim, listen here. You, your very own self, described our slower paced stories as being told at a pace of ‘country comfortable’. Those were your own words. I didn’t think that up – you did. And it’s you who always contend that readers today already have enough helter-skelter, hurry-up stories and stress in their lives and need somewhere to go to slow down and relax. To take time to smell the wildflowers and listen to the songbirds, and to reconnect with Mother Nature. Read and let the story unfold at a leisurely pace. That’s what our stories are about. And I don’t see how adding one more character – a dog – is going to harm anything. And what reader worth their salt doesn’t love a dog?”
It’s hard to argue back when getting beat with your own logic.
“But the character list has already grown so long, Red. It’s getting harder and harder trying to fit everyone into the stories and give them a job. Now you want to add yet another.”
“Well, you’re the writer, Jim. You’ll figure it out. And besides, you always assert that the stories are supposed to be Entertaining, Informative and Educational. How can we inform or educate folks about new animals, critters, flowers, trees, nature, and such, if we never meet them or talk about them in the stories? You can’t consolidate a chipmunk, a raccoon, a porcupine and a turkey vulture into one character no matter what the ‘writing police’ say. There ain’t no such creature. That’s fantasy then, not education. Have an answer for that one? Are you going to just sit there and let the ‘writing police’ tell you what you can and can’t do? Huh?!?”
Scratching the top of my head, I closed my eyes and thought for a minute, a curious habit picked up from working with Little Red Bear thru the years. He wasn’t playing fair, because he challenged my strongly independent nature and disdain for ‘rules’. I then looked over at my writing muse, still hovering in place beside Little Red Bear and impatiently tapping her wand in her hand, with a “you better do this” look on her face.
“I’m not going to win this argument, am I?”
“Nope,” Little Red Bear replied with a grin while patting me on the back of my shoulders, “you’re not. Now, why don’t you just busy yourself with writing that new dog into the stories and I’ll go start getting a spot ready for him to stay.”
Little Red Bear turned to leave, stopped and came back towards me.
“And make sure it’s a big dog. Not some little froufrou, yappy type. I’m a bear and need a big, burly dog to keep up with me. And if Cinnamon Charlie goes wrestling with some little teeny dog he might break it. Someone sizable and strong to guard against the weasels, like me.”
“How about an ox instead?”
“I don’t want no dadgum ox! I want a dog. A big one!”
“Yeah – big dog – got it. Anything else?”
“With a loud bark to scare away weasels and trespassers.”
“Okay. One big, noisy dog.”
“And brown. I like brown. Kinda reddish-brown, like me. And white. And maybe a touch of black here and there. And a long, bushy tail.”
“Anything else that you want on it? Racing stripes? Polka dots? Dancing shoes? Power windows?”
“Well now you’re bein’ silly. Just get busy and add the dog, please.”
Little Red Bear turned once again to leave, only to wheel back around, shaking his right paw at me in a scolding manner.
“One more thing. No tricks like you did to me with that mini pig Swinestein that I couldn’t understand or talk to in the first set of stories! I had to spend all last winter learning how to speak ‘Pig’. I want to be able to talk with this dog.”
With that, Little Red Bear went back outside and I was left to be overseen by my writing muse to make sure I got busy, with a now very cold cup of tea.
“Hey, Charlie!”, I heard Little Red Bear call out. “We got the dog!”
Note to self – “add a dog – a BIG one.”
What kind of dog do you think we should find for Little Red Bear in the next story collection? And what should we name it? Please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments, and we’ll have some fun. — Jim (and Red!)
Family Times — Together Times — The Best Times!
Children + Nature + Outdoors = Happy, Healthy Balanced Kids