Hey, baby, what’s your animal?
Not, I imagine, the zinger to supplant that hoary old pick up line about signs, but totem animals have been on my mind lately and even better, I figured out a way to incorporate this preoccupation into my writing process. Hooray!
|Otter love this baby, she's so cute|
Otter has been my curious, bright-eyed companion since I was a teen. We both like the water, we love to play. “A little quirky and unorthodox” with an “unusual way of looking at things” and a “brilliant imagination,” what’s not to admire and emulate about my furry pal?
And really, SHE didn’t think she needed a companion on ye olde totem pole. But on New Year’s, my family and I were at the diner for breakfast, storing up the calories for the long journey called 2013 we’d begun that day. Mom was talking about her totem animals. Jeri was talking about hers. And I realized, hey. You two have THREE animals and I only have one?
Not. Fair. Foot stomp. Pout.
“Well,” I was asked with patient forbearance, “Do you have an animal in mind?”
“Yes.” I blurted. “The camel.”
|Camel tea pot|
Uh, camel? Where the heck did that come from? Dunno, except that I’ve collected camel objects here and there for a few years now. Their funky looks appeal to me.
Quickly, Jeri did a search and came up with a list of characteristics that made this claim of mine seem not so very random. In addition to being great at conservation (see caloric breakfast above), adaptive to their environment, and filled with stamina, camels are “designed to take on the challenges of long-distance journeying over harsh terrain.”
Excuse me, but does that not sound like the kind of spirit guide every writer needs? Lost in the harsh landscape of her manuscript’s barren desert of a middle act, a writer could do worse than to rely on the intrepid dromedary.
All this got me thinking about my characters. Mostly, my heroes are werewolves. Wolves are “the lover of the zodiac” and they’re “fully capable of providing” that love.
Can I get an amen on that?
They’re also fiercely independent, loyal, affectionate, and obsessive. Joe is obsessed with making sure Della eats properly. Marco loves his grandmother so much, he’s planning to take a long walk off a short pier rather than subject her to his unstable wolf side. Ky is a super-soldier “fully capable” of ending Jilly’s long sexual drought (though maybe she should look for a camel shifter instead? Or, uh, maybe not.).
|A favorite childhood tale|
My heroines are not werewolves and so don’t come with a handy pre-set list of characteristics I can draw upon, alas. Della would make a damn fine wolf, but I’m more inclined to think of her as a hedgehog: spiky on the outside, tender on the underbelly. She can take care of herself. She’s so used to going it alone, she bristles at the thought she might need a helping hand. Yet she’s perceptive and resourceful and willing to do what must be done to protect those in her care. Even if it means accepting help from a wise-cracking wolf who tries to feed her green things all the time.
|What, you've never heard of a|
Christmas angel cat?
Krissie’s totem is a domestic cat. She intuitive, clever and just a wee bit mysterious (well, after all, she is a high-ranking elf in Santa’s top-secret special delivery squad. Keeping her own counsel is crucial to conducting a successful Operation Christmas each year). Cats are a harbinger of change, and Krissie sure alters the trajectory Marco has planned for his last night of life.
I’m not sure about Jilly’s totem yet. She’s overworked, under pressure and it’s been Way Too Long since she’s had sex. She’s got a strong vision for how her life should play out. It’s just not the right vision (and Ky plans to show her why in the near future). But all that sounds depressingly human. Maybe once she and Ky shed a few clothes, Jilly will shed a few layers and give me a better understanding of what makes her tick. We’ll see!
My research for totem characteristics comes from this terrific website: www.whats-your-sign.com.
Do you have a totem animal or two or three? How about your characters?