That’s not your yard

Titan, our 4-year-old Husky/Collie is my Deacon of Loyalty and Ambassador of Life-Loving Fun.

Probably the only thing he loves better than us, is walking through the neighborhood. He knows when we get home from work, he gets to go for a walk. His energy level is a 10 on the Richter Scale until he gets his harness on and we head out the door, then it drops to 9.5.

On Saturdays and Sundays, my husband started the habit of giving him a walk in the early afternoon, and now, by giving into Titan’s whining, the weekend walk is a morning affair. Begging begins 5 minutes before or after we get up with a single high-pitch hemmmn, and then he adds some not-quite-a-snort heavy breathing; a trip or two to the window; a yawn/whine combination during a full-body stretch; and some restless pacing. After a little bit – about halfway through the first cup of coffee – the whining gets louder and the prancing starts. We give in, partly because the whining is annoying, but mostly because we can’t deny his absolute love for patrolling the neighborhood.

His reactions to other dogs are typical – mostly he wants to greet them. With others, (mostly those behind wood fencing) it’s a tooth-baring barkfest, and still others (also behind fences) it’s a tuck-tail and whine response. His interaction with people continues to improve. Today he waited without pulling the leash off the harness, for us to visit with two neighbors – actually waited!

As a puppy, he did not like snowmen. He would stare them down and I would have to drag him away or he would whine the whole time we passed the yard. As he grew up, he became accustomed to those unmoving, round, humanoids and turned his attention to backyard neighbors. Although Huskies are not known for barking, he went through a stage where he would issue this deep timber alarm bark if a neighbor was out in their yard, especially our back fence neighbor who has a second-floor deck. I told Titan thanks for the warning, but that person is in their yard – that’s not your yard. Somehow that phrase, or the tone, has stuck with him and it is now my way of assuring him other people in their own spaces are OK, even if you don’t particularly like them there or like what they’re doing.

As a writer, it’s a good lesson for me as well. Some of the biggest challenges in writing a story is staying on task. It’s so easy to stray into explanation and provide more background than anyone would ever want to know. So that I can write clearly and consistantly, I’ve sketched a detailed floor plans of the home of one of the characters. I’ve researched everything from Intratec 9mm semi-automatic pistols to women’s western-style sleeveless cotton tops. But the reader doesn’t need to know every little thing. The successful storyteller will provide enough detail for readers to be on the same street as the author, but allow opportunity for everyone to create in their own backyards.

My main character in Silent Thunder, Lisa, is a cold, closed-off, woman raised since the age of 8 to be a killer. The background is that when she was 8-years-old, she was feeding cattle with her Dad, the bull attacked and killed him. Her mother, who always resented Lisa for trapping her in Idaho and in a loveless marriage, took Lisa to Manhatten and abandoned her with her uncle. Unknown to the mother, her brother was one of the deadliest covert operatives ever to work for the United States. This is all needed background. What’s not included is the Dad, Mother, and Uncle’s backgrounds. I describe key features – her mother’s startling green eyes (because they are the same as the main character’s eyes,) but I don’t go into full discriptions of these subcharacters. Although their backgrounds and discriptions exist in my head, I leave it for the reader to imagine. That’s the magic of books. The writer gives you the basics, but as the reader you get to color in the spaces and become a part of the story creation.

A part of the book is based in Tehran, specifically in the Grand Bazaar. I did a lot of research on the Grand Bazaar and it’s history, architecture, and contents, which included watching videos of people at the various venues. It was all new and exciting to me. When I first incorporated it into the story, it was almost encyclopedic, and I’m sure, boring for others to read. It took a lot of work to make it a background scene and not the focus. It was the same way with the Muslim traditional dress, the Zoroasterian religion and the country of Azerbaijan. There are some sections that may not make it past the publishers – like the train ride through the Alborz Mountain Range. I love that section. To me it signifies a metaphorical crossing Lisa – the main character – takes between her old life of taking orders and her new life of determining her own choices. On the surface, however, it is a description of the land, and I can see how someone may think it doesn’t advance the story.

That’s the writer’s backyard – story advancement. Everything else is not your yard.

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