Monday, August 11, 2008

Guest Blogger ~ Jami Davenport ~ From the Horse’s Mouth

Hi Title Magicians, I just couldn't resist asking Jami to blog about how she used animal character POVs. It's been a huge fascination of mine and Jami is the perfect person to blog on the subject. You'll understand once you read on and discover her background.
Hint: Not only is Jami an accomplished author, she is also an accomplished horsewoman.
Without further adieu...

From the Horse’s Mouth--Using a Horse’s Point of View

First, I’d like to thank Savanna for inviting me to blog today. I’m a Siren author with two books published in print and ebook format, Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bed? and The Dance.
I’m an animal lover. I have 2 dogs, a cat, and a horse. All of my books have at least one animal as a secondary character. For a long time, I’ve been experimenting with scenes from the animal’s point of view (POV).

When I first started using animal POVs, an agent told me to remove those scenes or write children’s books. So I dutifully, yet reluctantly, I removed all of the animal POVs in my first two books, Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bed? and The Dance. The Dance had a mystical scene in which the hero, a cynical former pop singer, encounters Orca whales in the San Juan Islands. That magical moment is a turning point in his life. Originally, this scene was in the Orca’s point of view. In Who’s, I have a three-legged rat dog who is a voyeur. He also attempts to save the heroine from the villain. Again, I wrote his POV out of the book. Regardless, my animal characters still retained their personalities and played important parts in each book.

Lately, I’ve been hearing buzz that editors are looking for books that include an animal’s point of view based on the popularity of recent books. Regardless, I’d already decided to follow my heart with my next book.

In The Gift Horse, the horse’s POV was integral to the book. For once I wrote my book, my way and include an equine POV. Gabbie is an opinionated show horse who witnesses suspicious behavior in her barn on more than one occasion. She wants to tell the hero and heroine about it, but they don’t speak her language, and she doesn’t speak theirs.

So how does a horse actually communicate and think? As humans, we’ll probably never know how they really think, though I’ve read some interesting articles and books by horse psychics. According to them, horses communicate in images not words. You have to picture an image and relay it to the horse. The horse relays an image back to you.

Horses are also attuned to body language. As herd animals, they utilize their bodies to express their emotions and intentions in subtle and complex ways. Horses apply this knowledge to other animals and humans, too. Most of us are oblivious to the messages we send and receive via posture and other physical clues. Horses read us better than we often read ourselves and other humans. They reflect their riders’ and handlers’ feelings in an honest and thorough way. For example, if you’re afraid of horses, a sensitive horse will sense that fear and assume there is a predator lurking in the woods and react accordingly with the two weapons a horse has—fight or flight. It doesn’t occur to him that he’s the source, not an unknown predator. The rider assumes the horse is misbehaving when actually the animal is reacting to the rider’s emotions.

When writing from a horse’s POV, I had to decide whether to portray how a horse views the world or to give the horse human qualities. I chose to do a combination of both. My horses usually have horse goals, such as staying safe, looking for food, or finding the path of least resistance. Here’s a paragraph from a scene in The Gift Horse. Gabbie has just witnessed the hero (Carson) and heroine (Sam) in one of their many arguments:

Gabbie nickered after Carson as he strode out of the barn, his back stiff and his shoulders tight. The two humans had been battling for herd supremacy since they’d met. Sam needed some education. Any good lead mare would grab the offending horse by the scruff of his neck and give him a good shake, followed by a disciplinary nip to the butt. That kept the herd in line. Didn’t she understand that mares ruled the herd, not stallions?
The motives for such an argument were beyond her. They weren’t fighting over a prime piece of grazing area or a better spot under a shady tree or the first drink in a stream. Instead, it had something to do with those ribbons that humans seemed to find so valuable. Their pursuit of these ribbons mystified her. After all, you couldn’t eat the things. They didn’t scare away predators. They were too small to offer shelter. So who cared whether you got one or not to hang on your stall door or what color it was? It made as much sense as being asked to trot in endless circles that never went anywhere.
Humans. Gabbie snorted. Poor dumb creatures.

Gabbie has several human qualities, too. She has her opinions and isn’t afraid to express them. She also falls in love with the hero, who’s scared of horses. In the paragraph below, she’s observing the hero and heroine together. She knows they’re attracted to each other long before they admit to it.

Gabbie watched as the two humans engaged in some odd courting ritual. She tossed her head and offered a disapproving snort. Too bad humans didn’t have tails. All a mare had to do was swish her tail in a stallion’s face. He got the point. After which, a couple well-placed kicks kept him in line. Horses didn’t have to do all that groping, moaning, and slobbering on each other.
The Gift Horse is contracted with Siren/Bookstrand and will be available in 2009. It is part of a series of books about the Reynolds siblings. The next and possibly last book in the series features an animal communicator as a heroine and a skeptical hero who is hell-bent on proving she’s a fraud.
Available Now From Siren Publishing: Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed?
What happens when reformed bad boy Jake Reynolds discovers a racy Goldilocks sleeping in his bed on a dark and stormy night?
Goldilocks never had it this good. The characters are superbly written. Romance, suspense, and passion fill this book."—Review Your Book (4 Stars)
Fun, whimsical, and full of romance. I can’t wait to check out more books by Jami Davenport.--Fallen Angel Reviews (5 Angels)
Available Now From Siren Publishing: The Dance
What's a girl to do when her former fiancé declares that she's frigid? Take a jaunt on her wild side with the scruffy Puerto Rican next door?
Bio ~ Jami Davenport has been writing since she was old enough to know the alphabet. An advocate of happy endings, Jami writes sexy romance, sizzling suspense, and equestrian fiction. Jami lives on a small farm near Puget Sound with her husband, a former Green Beret turned plumber, a chocolate Lab with a tennis ball fetish, a prince disguised as an orange tabby cat, and an opinionated Hanoverian mare. In her spare time, Jami rides and shows her dressage horse and grows roses. An avid boater, Jami has spent countless hours in the San Juan Islands, the setting for her first two books.
Saddle Up for a Sizzling Ride into the Sunset
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Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Great post Jami! I've included animals in my stories but I've never even thought of writing from their POV. I think my dog would make a great character--she's done things that a lot of humans have never done, like white-water rafting. :)

It's too bad you removed the animal POV scenes from your earlier books but hey, at least they caught on (finally) that it's a very cool idea. :)

Mel Hiers said...

Hi Jami! Welcome to TM!

I love the idea of animal POV, and have only really come across were in the Mrs. Murphy mysteries by Rita Mae Brown. It's good to know there's some buzz going in favor of it!

Mel Hiers said...

Uck. I have Monday brain. That made no sense.

What I was TRYING to say is that I've only ever seen animal POV scenes in the Mrs. Murphy series.

I think I need more coffee. Either that or I've had too much. :-P

Savanna Kougar said...

Jami, thanks again for this wonderful blog. I so love the snippet of Gabbie's thoughts.

Anitra, your doggie would make a great character.

Mel, I think I'm going to have to do more with animal POV. I've only written them when they are shifters, or characters in an OtherWorld story.

Jami Davenport said...

Thanks, everyone for the comments. I wish I could find the reference, but I get a newsletter from a literary agency. They mentioned a couple books that'd come out recently that sprang to the top. Both books had scenes with animal POVs. These agents mentioned that they had editors looking for more books like that.

Savanna Kougar said...

Jami, that's an interesting trend, indeed.
In When a Good Angel Falls, when I was doing the edits, there was a suggestion to write the scene of one character, who could shift into a dog form, from his POV, which I did.
It isn't quite the same as writing the POV of a dog, even though he thinks like a dog, but he still has his other sentience,as well.

Renee Knowles said...

Hi Jami!

Great post! I've never thought of writing from an animal's POV, but I think it would be fun to read!!



Evonne Wareham said...

I loved this. Having an equine take on the love scenes really adds another dimension.

I have a scene in one of my ms where the cat had a point of view, and I had fun thinking up catty thoughts, like food and shelter being prime motivator.

Interesting if the animal POV does take off.

Jami Davenport said...

Thanks, everyone. One of the advantages of writing for a small press is that you have more freedom with your stories. I'm only have about six or horse POV scenes in The Gift Horse. It'll be interesting to see what the readers think of them.

Thanks for having me here. It was great fun.

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Jami, it will be interesting. I'm betting readers, for the most part, will love your horse POV scenes.
And I totally agree. That's one reason why I prefer writing for smaller presses. Gives me more freedom to write what I truly want.

Evonne, why don't you do a blog on your kitty pov. I know I would enjoy it.

Tim said...

Good Job! :)

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Tim, thanks for commenting.