Inquiry and Assistance

I am delighted to let you know that my short story “Inquiry and Assistance” can be found in the January/February 2016 issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, in which we also celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the magazine.

Here is the celebratory cover and look who, among others, has her name on the cake.

AHMM1_2016

Stop on by and get a look at Depression-era New York through the eyes of  one of my favorite characters Tommy Flood.

Special thanks to Clare Toohey who encouraged me to write this particular story.

Terrie

The Sweetness of el Dia de los Muertos

diadelosmuertos-640x360First of all, like Halloween, there’s candy and revelry, but this short animated film by three female film students shows how the process of solemn remembrance tied to festive celebration can help ease the hearts of loved ones left behind. I’ve heard stories (someday I hope I’ll get to see) of gorgeous scenes of people visiting cemeteries overnight with picnics and flowers and the altars they’ve built, enjoying the peacefulness amid candles set like fairy lights all over. Per the description:

Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in other cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico where the day is a bank holiday. The celebration takes place on October 31, November 1 and November 2, in connection with the Christian triduum of Hallowmas: All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars called ofrendas, honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts. They also leave possessions of the deceased.

Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. The holiday has spread throughout the world. In Brazil Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches. In Spain there are festivals and parades and, at the end of the day, people gather at cemeteries and pray for their dead loved ones. Similar observances occur elsewhere in Europe, and similarly themed celebrations appear in many Asian and African cultures.

h/t: Laughing Squid

Also, keep reading below, because our Terrie’s doing an online Halloween bash on Wednesday, October 28th!

Crime Movies in the Queue: Dennis Lehane’s The Drop (2014)

the-drop-posterThis movie was previously called Animal Rescue, the title from Dennis Lehane’s short story from the Akashic collection Boston Noir, which he also editedWhile the title makes complete sense once you’ve seen the film, it could be a bit misleading in advance, because the subject matter is more centrally bad and not-so-bad people. Apparently 3 different puppies played Rocco, named after the Italian saint and patron of dogs, and they are deadly cute. If you’re sensitive to animals in peril, though the pooch starts in a tough place, I think you’ll feel okay with how this plays out. I’m glad they changed the title to The Drop, and since then, Lehane’s expanded the story into an entire novel to go with it and also got to make his debut outing as a screenwriter for the film.

Three days after Christmas, a lonely bartender looking for a reason to live rescues an abused puppy from a trash can and meets a damaged woman looking for something to believe in. As their relationship grows, they cross paths with the Chechen mafia; a man grown dangerous with age and thwarted hopes; two hapless stick-up artists; a very curious cop; and the original owner of the puppy, who wants his dog back. . . .

Boston-NoirI fear the movie’s release was a bit chilled by having the unfortunate distinction of being James Gandolfini’s last film appearance. (Maybe I’m wrong about that, and people flock for such reasons.) Gandolfini, as Cousin Marv, is very good, as are Englishman Tom Hardy as bartender Bob Saginowski (with a funny-pitched voice I liked) and Sweden’s Noomi Rapace as Nadia from the neighborhood (allowed to keep hints of her accent). Turns out another important character, Eric Deeds, was played by Matthias Schoenaerts, who is a Belgian, as is the director, Michaël R. Roskam, making his U.S. directorial debut. Unlike Lehane’s story, which was originally set in Boston (duh), the movie’s location moved to Brooklyn, which I think worked just fine. Hardcore, long-time Brooklynites might have quibbles, but having recently coped with seeing Coors on a “Boston” bar’s sign in Black Mass (also a recommended watch, but, um, NO), I’m feeling forgiving.

Lehane didn’t write the screenplay after his novel Mystic River, but director Clint Eastwood stayed very close to his source material. That meant lots of times when what was said wasn’t what was meant, where the simplicity of a statement was like the tippy-top of an unfathomably huge iceberg. The Drop is paced and told like that, too, a style which I really enjoy, because that’s what happens when people have painful enough history to speak in evasive shorthand about it. No one needs to say “As you know, when we did this thing at that place on such a date….” I always prefer mystery to be left in that kind of shared background, because it adds to the perceived import of whatever it was. Funnily enough, I think about what it meant that people at Hogwarts were so traumatized by the past they were afraid to speak Voldemort’s name. Bad times and bad people are like boogie men, and we can be afraid their names work like evocations. A life-changing moment or relationship may be reduced to “She left me.” or “He died by himself,” but that’s because we know words are insufficient. We barely sketch the outline for each other and require our shared humanity to fill in the rest of the significance.

The-dropThis movie is like that, told in hints and the looks crossing faces. The people in it are worth watching as they try to figure out who to believe, caught in situations where trust is in short supply. There are some darkly funny moments, too, and plot-wise, a couple of big surprises I really enjoyed. It was also nice to look at, because it was so regular. If they spent a lot of time masterminding a just-so production design, rather than just dropping into what is true-life for a lot of people, it didn’t look orchestrated. Having served my time behind the stick, Cousin Marv’s feels like a million local bars you could find anywhere across the country, and the streets and other interiors seemed that way, too. Even with genuine movie stars in it, the small, local ordinariness of it was very appealing. Experiencing a film less as cutesy, manipulative calculation and more just as being witness to a story can be a relief.

So, I’m recommending The Drop if you like such street-level crime dramas. The trailer gives a decent idea of the tensions at play, except the movie has much more quiet in it. It’s not relentlessly-paced, which makes the shocking scenes more dramatic and lets you know the characters and their lives better. So, add it to your queue, or tell me what you thought if you’ve seen it, too!

Ginning the Bestseller Lists, Old-School

imageI came across a fabulous write-up on the hoax of I, Libertine, which conned the New York Times bestseller list, also literary reviewers, publishers, and booksellers (even a lit professor) in the mid-fifties. Not because it wasn’t an obvious hoax. I encourage you to read the whole post to see how funny but transaparent the hoax was, and how easily it could be detected by people who asked questions rather than pretending to have the answers. From the blog of author J. Mark Powell:

Shep [Jean Shepherd, radio host and satirist] may have been working in Manhattan, but having been born and raised in Hammond, Indiana (where A Christmas Story is set, by the way) he still had Midwestern sensibilities. One thing that astonished him about New Yorkers was (and still remains) their slavish obsession with Top 10 lists. “The 10 Most Beautiful People…” “The 10 New Looks for Summer…” “The 10 Hottest Movies…” Shep felt New Yorkers blindly followed whatever appeared on those lists without thinking or questioning them. The one that got his goat most of all was The New York Times Best Seller list for books….

But here’s the thing: in Shep’s time, despite its name, the criteria for making the list involved more than just book sales. It included customer requests for and questions about books to book sellers. So if a retailer had a stack of a particular book that wasn’t selling, he could gin up enough queries about it to get the title included on the best seller list, which then made people go out and buy it.

You have to read it all to marvel and laugh at how long the hoax went on, how many people knew, and how many other people fatuously pretended to have read the book or to have met the author. The truly turgid cover above came rather late in the game, actually, when a real book was finally written to fit the hoax. Yes, it also hit the bestseller list.

There are still ways that people try to shift this list or that one, and the keepers of the lists still put their own thumbs on the scales, too. But also, for me, the story also highlights the way that people still assume if they haven’t read about it or seen it from a handful of media outlets, something couldn’t possibly be happening or be true. I’ve come across this more in New York than other places I’ve lived, to be frank. The downside, if there is one, of immersion in perhaps the preeminent media capital of the world is that people within may not look outside very often, assuming they already know all that’s worthy of knowing. Therefore, a story that’s unremarked and unreported in the northeast ends up working like a very successful “conspiracy,” because a huge number of people (in this case, listeners across 37 states) know something of which the self-appointed tastemakers and trendsetters remain ignorant and/or are satisfied to have other people remain ignorant.

In some salons, Frederick R. Ewing was considered the acme of success, but who among us will ever compare to his reach (not to mention his genius)?How do you define a writer’s success? How tough are you on yourself about your own?

Enjoy the Sweaty Dog Days with Celestial Erudition!

canis_majorWe’ve had a pretty mild season, but it is mid-August, so these are precisely the dog days of summer! This name given to the hottest days of the year in the northern hemisphere is reputed to have come about due to Sirius, (also Canis Major, Sothis in Greek, or Sopdet, Isis’s star to the Egyptians).

Often visible in the evenings of spring and winter, during this time of summer, the sky’s brightest star (after the sun of course), appears to us to be “far” enough from the showoff that it’s actually visible in the morning skies, just before dawn. It appears to us to twinkle, even to be multi-colored. This time also marks the season when the Nile would flood, its yearly inundation bringing fertility in its wake, and also being associated with Isis’s tears for her dead husband Osiris, who was, in Egypt at least, the constallation we call the hunter Orion. In fact, if you follow the line of Orion’s 3-star belt behind him, you can’t miss bright Sirius just above the horizon in this picture. Whether as a goddess or best friend, the star is known for its fidelity and radiance.

Orion-and-Sirius

Sirius is the bright star near the center of the picture. You can draw a diagonal line from the mountain peak through it and then the belt of Orion.

The gorgeous picture above is from the youth blog of the Delaware Nature Society, which has more info on naked-eye stargazing. And here’s another story about the star from India, as reported by Deborah Byrd at EarthSky:

In India, Sirius is sometimes known as Svana, the dog of Prince Yudhistira. The prince and his four brothers, along with Svana, set out on a long and arduous journey to find the kingdom of heaven. However, one by one the brothers all abandoned the search until only Yudhistira and Svana were left. At long last they came to the gates of heaven. The gatekeeper, Lord Indra, welcomed the prince but denied Svana entrance. Yudhistira was aghast and told Lord Indra that he could not forsake his good and faithful servant and friend. His brothers, Yudhistira told the Lord, had abandoned the journey to heaven to follow their hearts’ desires. But Svana, who had given his heart freely, chose to follow none but Yudhistira. The prince told the Lord that without his dog, he would forsake even heaven. This is what Lord Indra had wanted to hear, and then he welcomed both the prince and the dog through the gates of heaven.

Finally, on the subject, Wikipedia offers this Homeric quote from the epic poem, the Iliad:

Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky
On summer nights, star of stars,
Orion’s Dog they call it, brightest
Of all, but an evil portent, bringing heat
And fevers to suffering humanity.

Now doesn’t that make the sweat in your toga feel altogether more expansively erudite?

Summer Means Happy Birthday, Roller Rinks!

John Joseph Merlin, the Belgian-born inventor of the roller skate.

John Joseph Merlin, the Belgian-born inventor of the roller skate.

Did you know that today, August 11th, in 1866, the world’s first roller rink opened? (Because that happy event occurred in Newport, Rhode Island, I expect that our own Anne-Marie Sutton knows a lot more about it than I do.) But roller skating must’ve been a great way to manufacture your own breeze before electric fans and A/C, so opening in the dog days of summer makes perfect sense!

Did you also know that there’s a National Museum of Roller Skating in Nebraska? Well, there is, and from it, I learned that the first roller skate in recorded history was invented way back in the 1760s by this dignified-looking gent here. We’re also told:

Merlin wore a pair of his new skates to a masquerade party at Carlisle-House in London. Though he was a well-known inventor, he was not a good skater. He could not control his speed or direction and crashed into a large mirror, severely injuring himself and possibly setting back the sport of roller skating for years.

All the early skates were in-line, and the father of the modern, 4-wheel, easier to manuever skate is James L. Plimpton, who, I gathered from The Pandora Society, also founded the New York Roller Skating Association (NYRSA) and, on its behalf, rented the dining room of the Atlantic House, a resort hotel in Newport, to convert for open skating. And that, as they say, is history.

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The image below is an engraving of Victorians skating indoors, and came from Curbed‘s interesting history of the roller rink, its attendant immoralities (!), and its growth with the nation, by Scott Garner.

Interior of a Victorian roller skating rinkPerhaps coincidentally, or not, this week is also the 35th anniversary of when the roller-skating-disco cinematic awesomeness that is Xanadu opened at the box office. It was about an artist who’s bored with his work and stuck in a rut until he meets one of the Muses. (Couldn’t we all use that kind of assistance?) People‘s Drew Mackie says:

Roller skating. Greek mythology. Hollywood. Olivia Newton-John. Gene Kelly. Electric Light Orchestra. By some measures, Xanadu should have been a hit.

It wasn’t, however. Upon its release in theaters on Aug. 8, 1980 – 35 years ago this week – the disco musical Xanadu was met with negative reviews and middling box office returns. That didn’t stop it, however, and this hypercolor fantasy has persisted, becoming a cult favorite in spite of its inauspicious beginnings.

XanaduIf you’re a glutton, as I am, you can read lots of little known facts about the production and the talented people involved, many of whom went on to do things better-received, though, to be fair, the soundtrack album was a mega-monster international hit. I also didn’t know the fact the film is kind of a sequel of a sequel and also, sadly, was Gene Kelly’s last, for which he choreographed the number he performed with Olivia Newton-John.

So yeah, having a dull day? Take yourself and you various pads and braces and helmets and grandchildren out to have some fun on wheels. After all, the Hickory Record tells me there’s a man who skates every week and just turned 89! Gene Elliott says, “I don’t feel old. When I get out there on that floor, it takes me a while to get loosened up but once I do, I’m back in my 60s and 70s.” I admit it, I have no excuse.

Skating Around the law by Joelle CharbonneauAnd because it’s Women of Mystery, I must also shout-out to Joelle Charbonneau, who’s since become hugely popular with her cool sff/dystopian adventures for younger readers, but who’s also written the Skating Series of mysteries, Book 1 being Skating Around the Law. Description: Rebecca Robbins is a woman on a mission–to sell the roller rink she inherited in her rural hometown and get back to her life in Chicago. Fast. What she didn’t count on was discovering a dead body head-first in a rink toilet. Now Rebecca is stuck in a small town where her former neighbors think she’s a city slicker who doesn’t belong, relying on a police department that’s better at gardening than solving crimes. With the help of a handsome veterinarian, a former circus camel, and her scarily frisky grandfather, Rebecca must discover the identity of the murderer before she becomes the next victim.

So, whether you do it, watch it, or read about it, hope you’re rolling on with summer fun!

Indulge the Creative Fire of Boredom!

Art by R. Ramiro of redmuseum.net

Art by R. Ramiro of redmuseum.net

What is it with me and the milieu of uncomfortable topics? Recently,  I was posting about creative people Letting Go and Moving On, and the accompanying grief. Perhaps it’s the hottest of the long summer days that inspires me now to address…without further, well, anything… the scintillating topic of boredom!

From “Life Without Boredom Would Be a Nightmare,” an article for Aeon by Andreas Elpidorou :

Pain is not the only unpleasant experience that humans are subject to. What about boredom? Might it serve some useful purpose, too? It certainly has no shortage of philosophical defenders. Bertrand Russell and the psychoanalyst Adam Phillips both spoke of the importance of being able to endure it. Russell asserted that the capacity to weather boredom is ‘essential to a happy life’, whereas Phillips speculated on its developmental significance for children. Friedrich Nietzsche commented on the creative power of boredom and found value in its relationship to art. So did Susan Sontag, who in a brief diary entry suggested that the most interesting art of her time was boring: ‘Jasper Johns is boring. Beckett is boring, Robbe-Grillet is boring. Etc. Etc. […] Maybe art has to be boring, now.’

Martin Heidegger discussed, at length, the ontological lessons that profound boredom can teach us. And the poet Joseph Brodsky, in what might be the most famous and sustained defence of boredom, exalted its existential import. In his commencement address to the class of 1989 at Dartmouth College, he called boredom a ‘window on time’s infinity’ and spoke of its ability to put our existence into perspective, to demonstrate to us our finitude and indeed the futility of our actions….

Elpidorou further explains how the mechanism of boredom changes our perception of time, sets off an internal alarm, creates an alternate line of thinking which, therefore, becomes responsively active, like the physical withdrawal from painful stimuli. Go read it all for some stuff your bored mind might enjoy chewing upon.

I think of boredom as one of the plucked strings of divine discontentment, whose grating tone pushes me to move when I can’t tolerate the dischord anymore. It always worked that way for me as a kid, too, that kind of dissatisfied cloud-gazing because I couldn’t think of a single better thing… until I did. I wonder, with the solidly-packed schedules of activities and pre-defined, fully-realized entertainment of modern kids, when they get the benefit of developing their imaginations in idleness and also to stage their own ambitious responses to boredom.

When I looked up famous quotes on boredom, what I mostly found were notable, quite high-achieving types talking about how they’d never, ever been bored, and how it represented some kind of moral failing and lack of curiosity and enterprise. Oh, Blah and pull the other one! I frankly call out this this positioning of virtue as BS. I consider that if you’ve never been bored–admit it, you have!– you’ve never gotten your mind out of first-gear. Case in point: my Boston Terrier, Tessie, who has loved her purple squid toy for years. We can play with it daily, and it’s never not new and wonderful. Every toss is a fresh joy. This is one of her undeniable charms, her in-the-now ness. But if I were trying to, say, write a story, this plotline seems to lack something: There was a dog with a purple squid… and then a squid… oh, and then there was a squid… how about adding a squid here? Not exciting? Well perhaps more purple squid is what this story needs!

Dynamism is the result, the solution of tension, and boredom applies tension. Sure, you may be the type of person who recognizes and intervenes quickly to stuff something you value more into the void represented by boredom, but boredom is inflicted upon us and against our wills by waiting rooms, bureaucracy, incompetence, well-meaning fairness, the weather, people who aren’t jumping to the end of a process with us and need our company from square one. Internal boredom with ourselves is what happens when there’s something wrong we haven’t named yet, perhaps something so wrong that even contemplating fixing it is so exhausting or intimidating that it brings on the anxiety-releasing yawns that are also shorthand for boredom.

I also think the time dilation that Elpidorou notes is a tell, an indicator that boredom is a kind of stirring intellectual impatience, a desire to jump ahead to the “good part.” Yes, when indulged, that can show up as bad behavior and lousy attitudes in the immature (also, I’d say an inability to conceive or appreciate intricacies of process or investments over time). But among the emotionally growed-up, who appreciate that some things do take time, some of the best things even, and who try not to make the world suffer for our very personal foibles, these transient, disinterested moments of mental drift, when it’s too frustrating to engage with the now, can be surprisingly creative. They can be problem-solving. And often, we must have this kind of useful torture inflicted upon us, because we refuse willingly to incur idleness or rest on our own.

The-Idlers-CompanionYou can go look up boredom’s many scolds yourself. As an antidote, I offer this collection of essays, The Idler’s Companion: An Anthology of Lazy Literature, which looks like it’s had a couple of different covers since the one I got. Probably, the editors and publisher got bored with previous editions. Here’s the scoop:

More than 50 authors celebrate the independent spirit struggling against the drudgery of the work ethic. The essays, poetry and fiction excerpts in this anthology are filled with convincing arguments for reclaiming our days from the monotony of the working world. These persuasive voices prove that although Idlers reject conventional labor, their time is well spent…. Sometimes humorous, sometimes thought-provoking, this anthology of essays, poetry, and fiction extolls the virtues of the life of idleness. It is divided into four sections by type of idler: courtier, monk, unemployed, and epicurean. The eloquently lazy contributors range from Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne to Bertrand Russell, Friedrich Nietzsche, Henry David Thoreau (who argues forcefully against a life of excessive labor), and G.K. Chesterton, who muses on lying in bed and having a pencil long enough to write on the ceiling. This little volume is sure to provide a few pleasurable hours of intense intellectual idleness.

Hat tip: Arts & Letters Daily. 

Also, the leading image appears at The Writers Bucket List. Regardless of the pain evidenced in Lauren Tharp’s (@lilzotzwrite) post with tips on how to live through a dull freelancing gig, the death shown above is entirely metaphorical.

Boredom doesn’t have the power to kill you. It can only provoke you to murder it.

Creative People “Moving On”

I was thinking about cutting free from projects or reassessing goals, but my search for “Moving On” located depths of love and grief so much more profound than the plebian snippers I sought. Please enjoy these thoughts from creative people about the various necessities of Moving On…

EMForster-moving-onSome of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go. – Hermann Hesse

Walt-Disney-moving-on

The tiny name under the quote is Walt Disney.

Kirkegaard-Moving-OnYou gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Tupac-Moving-onVictoria-Holt-moving-onRobert-Frost-moving-on Considering I was only thinking about moving on from a nascent story idea, my current dilemma seems unworthy. But in the past, when it was the project around which I’d orbited for years, I gave up on a manuscript and left it in the rearview. Hurt then, feels solid and righteous and like a necessary part of my development now. How about you? Have you ever let go of a long-time idea or goal or creation, and how did it feel? How long did it take to feel better?

TBT: The Confession by Mary Roberts Rinehart

A double Dell mystery: The Confession and Sight Unseen by Mary Roberts Rinehart, originally published 1921, reprint 1948

A double Dell mystery: The Confession and Sight Unseen by Mary Roberts Rinehart, originally published 1921, reprint 1948

I’ve been traveling, so pardon this quickie post. While flying a leg, I started reading this set of mysteries my Mary Roberts Rinehart. So far, I’ve gotten through The Confession, which is interesting since it was written in the 1920s. Without overmuch focus on the era by the author, contemporary for her, it’s before the time of ubiquitous car travel and features the occasional horse carriage, when a woman with newborn relatives in the family had to be concerned about only vacationing places with plentiful access to cows. One of the important aspects–you can tell from the wonderful cover– is the telephone, the single instrument located down a hall. The pace of the novel taking place in a small, insular town is slow, like a hot summer, which helps the claustrophobic atmosphere build as the otherwise-sensible protagonist begins to question her own sense. More than mystery, it’s psychological suspense.

As the title indicates, a confession to a crime is a linchpin of the plot. I have a manuscript of my own with a sort of written confession that becomes important. It’s an MS never to-be-published, I’m pretty sure, but I don’t blame the plot point for that. Anyway, it made me wonder whether you’d ever used a confession as an important feature in a crime plot of yours, or do you recall your favorite novel in which one was used?

Boring Characters? Write Them Secret Spirit Animals!

Cup of Carolina Wren photographed by Suzanne LaPalme

Cup of Carolina Wren photographed by Suzanne LaPalme

If you’re like me, you have writerly tendencies, I mean, irritatingly stubborn habits of style that vex you. When facing these, I really appreciate an icebreaker, like one of those party games that might feel dumb but gets me out of talking to/about the same old people the same old way. This can be especially helpful with necessary secondary characters. They don’t have your heart like your protagonists or your oddball sidekicks, but they’re critical to the action and can’t read like wallpaper. So here’s one idea: If you’re fatigued to distraction and self-loathing by the way you’re characterizing, but can’t seem to think up anything new, try writing a character as an animal.

I do NOT mean writing “She was a wren of a woman.” You’ve written that and you’re done, what else can be said? No, no. Keep the identification of your character’s spirit animal to yourself. But, when you struggle for a description or a reaction beyond the usual (are you typically a tracer of eyebrow heights, an eye-color obsessive, a smile documenter, a recorder of chuckles, a wink-counter, a freezer of glances, or sketcher of fidgets, until you scream at your own monotony?), then take a break from yourself. Think of what’s true for the wren.

In whatever scene this character appears, you can pop in elements of the wren’s coloration, its high activity level, its attribution of humility and industriousness, how it disappears when alarmed, its ground-feeding focus on mundane details, its willingness to chat and chat. “Nosy busybody” gets repetitive, but it can be tough to think of other, richer ways to imply that. If you start dotting in the characteristics of a wren or whatever animal fits, without even saying that’s what you’re doing, the characterization starts to get round and full and to hold together. Moreover, it rings true with us as readers.

Whether country or city folk, we know something about ubiquitous little brown birds, and they are part of our subconscious and collective understanding of the world, as well as part of our conscious education. A la Jung, animals are archetypes, too. So beyond earth-wise mothers and power-mad tyrants, tapping into this kind of animal archetype, without using overtly comparative terminology or labeling, I think you may be surprised how well readers make the intuitive leaps of understanding. They’ll comprehend the characters in subtler ways than simply recalling what you flat-out narrated at them. When bright readers (and all ours are clever, of course!) get to fill these imaginative gaps themselves, it’s an enjoyable process that engages them more deeply with the writing. Most of all, a secret animal identity like this can bring revelations to the writer of what might be in-type and playing against it for a particular character. Then, the writer can thoughtfully employ either side of that axis as the story demands. A character’s spirit animal does all this while giving you a blessedly new range of behaviors, sights, sounds, even smells to get you out of your description-reaction rut.

So, if you have a secondary characters that feel boring or repetitve, try writing them with secret spirit animals!

Image via the lovely Birds and Blooms site.