Fifth Installment on The Book Coach Is Writing a Book
(for previous installments, email Francine)
In describing the sleeping habits of the human and the pet(s), I had to offer enough background and context to highlight the remarkable aspects of their interaction.
Sometimes I needed just a few sentences and sometimes several pages.
For instance: Beau, the ten-pound Maltese of Carole and Larry Paulsen in Concord, California, likes to sleep between them. He lies facing the foot of the bed, then turns onto his back with his back legs wide open.
“He likes for us to put an arm on him the length of his belly, and every once in a while he will stretch and squeeze our arm with all four legs,” says Carole.
In this case, the disposition of the three bodies in space is pivotal to understanding the affection between the Paulsen’s and Beau. And that’s all it needed.
Also: Sandy Farber of San Francisco adopted a 20-pound male cat. The first night she brought him home, Sandy put him in the bathroom—following much-accepted advice about introducing a new animal to unfamiliar surroundings.
She suspected he was an escape artist so she pushed her television on its stand against the bathroom door to secure him within.
Sandy awoke in the morning with the cat snuggled against her in bed.
Here the element of surprise makes the story work.
However, in relating how Marti Touchstone’s two Airedales pinned her under the covers while she was mourning her husband, I had to provide more detail. I had to describe Marti’s relationship with her husband John, John’s fondness for the dogs and his death. Only by building up this background could I give the story the poignancy I was seeking.
I had determined that Cat Naps and Doggie Snorts would be a series of unrelated anecdotes, not a story with a continuing plot line. But I did have to organize them in themes. Several stories could fit into more than one chapter as I sorted them, for instance Reveille, Murdering Sleep, Bed Real Estate and so on. So I just made a decision based on the length of the item and its balance in the chapter.
Always in the back of my mind was the question, will this format sell? I hoped an agent and a publisher would see its value as a gift book.