By Margaret Lucke
I'm working at my computer, wrestling with the details of the mystery novel I'm writing, when my Muse waltzes into the room. "It's about time you showed up," I tell her.
She sits on my desk and announces, "I've got a great idea."
"Wonderful!" A great idea is exactly what I need. "What is it?" I look at her more closely. "And what are those crumbs on your shirt?"
Looking down, she casually brushes them off. "A dog!"
"A what?" I ask. "Wait, did you eat the last croissant?"
"No, she doesn't."
"She does now. Think about it. Readers like animals. They find it easy to relate to a character who loves her pet. Having a dog will make Jess more believable, more sympathetic, more -- "
"More tied down. She's a private investigator. She needs to be able to move around wherever the case takes her. If she has to have a pet, it should be a cat. Leave a cat with fresh water and a supply of kibble and it's good for hours, even a couple of days if necessary. With a dog she'd have to worry about getting home in time to feed it and take it for a walk."
"No problem. That kid who lives in the downstairs apartment? He adores the dog. He's thrilled to take care of Scruff any time Jess needs him to."
"Scruff? What kind of name is that?"
"Jess's little brother named him. The puppy was the runt of the litter, so he looked kind of scrawny and scruffy. Don't worry, he's sleek and healthy now."
"Oh, I wasn't worried. Not about that." I'm trying to figure out how the heck I'll fit a dog into the story. "What kind of dog is he? I'm trying to get a mental picture."
"Oh, Scruff is a mutt." My Muse closes her eyes as she visualizes the dog. "He's sort of reddish gold, with silky fur and a long plumy tail. A cross between a terrier and an Irish setter named O'Meara."
"O'Meara! But that's the name of a character in my book. One of the partners in the PI firm that Jess works for."
My Muse nods. "Right. That's the one."
"You don't understand. Patrick O'Meara is a human. He's from Texas, he went to law school, he has red hair -- "
"That's right. Red hair. Just like an Irish setter."
"But -- "
"Save the Texas lawyer for another book. He doesn't belong in this one."
"But -- "
She pats my shoulder. "Trust me. I'm your Muse. I know what's best for your story." She slides off my desk and starts to the door. "Come on, let's go get a snack. There's one croissant left. You can have half."
With a sigh I get up and follow her out of the room. To my surprise two companions emerge out of the air, taking shape and substance, becoming almost real. An Irish setter to my left, a setter-terrier mix to my right.
I wonder if they'd like a bite of a croissant.