November's Round Robin Blog asks the question: What is the oddest or most unique character you
have ever dreamed up, and how did they fit into a story?
My stories have featured a number of odd characters, many of whom are walk-ons. They don’t appear in the preparation work for character sketches, but suddenly, part way through the book, there they are. And always for a reason. Sometimes for comic relief. Sometimes because your hero or heroine needs a reality check. And most often just because they popped into your head, so vivid and real they just had to be included.
Not odd in any way, but certainly my most unique character is Kip, a police K-9, grieving for his partner lost in the line of duty. Kip is a German Shepherd with valuable service years behind him, but the trauma of losing his partner has left him unfit for service unless my hero, Ben Cameron, who raises and trains dogs for police work can rehabilitate him. Kip wasn’t in my original outline either, but Ben’s wife, Meg, is a Marine lieutenant, recently returned from service in the Middle East. She came home burdened with guilt over the loss of the shepherd attached to her unit when an IED that she felt she should have suspected before the dog found it exploded. Now the dogs in her husband’s kennel just exacerbate that guilt and the nightmares she suffers. And then there is Kip wandering about the house looking as lost as she feels.
Years ago, I read the book The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. It’s a classic piece of literature that gives those who have never gone to war a glimpse into the minds and wounds of those who have, especially the wounds that don’t show, the ones soldiers don’t talk about much. Also, part of my research for Loving Meg took me to another newer classic, Until Tuesday by Luis Carlos Montalván, a warrior so crippled by injury and PTSD that just getting himself to the VA for treatment was a nightmare expedition. Tuesday is the beautiful golden retriever that made his life bearable and inspired him to reach out to help others. Then I checked out a local non-profit that rescues suitable dogs from shelters and retrains them to become service dogs, partly to get more information about these service animals and also because I’ve seen them shepherding their soldiers through the busy tourist downtown where I live on the final days of their training. And suddenly Kip became a part of my story.
Both Meg and Kip were traumatized but Kip recognizes Meg’s issues long before she sees the same sadness in him. He shadows her even when his presence seems to haunt her and eventually, when her dam of isolation bursts, unable to share with her husband the torment she is living with, she wraps her arms about Kip and weeps into his furry, warm body and finds solace. Kip and Meg reappear in a later book in the series, Healing a Hero. My hero in that story isn’t mentally crushed, he’s just frustrated with the healing and rehab of his physical injuries and eager to get back to his unit, but Meg is his sister-in-law and along with Kip she visits vets who are recovering at Camp LeJeune. So we see Meg and Kip as a pair, having helped to heal each other, are now busy helping to heal others.
For those of us who have dogs, we appreciate the incredible bond that can grow between a dog and a human, but for those who’ve never experienced that, it’s probably hard to understand how a service dog can make so much of a difference in the life of someone suffering from anxiety, PTSD, physical disabilities and despair. For me, Kip was a chance to open a window on this marvelous ministry. Kip might walk on four feet, but he’s a character that brought a unique personality to my story about Meg and her struggle to find her way back to the life she’d left behind when she went to war.
All the royalties for the book, Loving Meg are donated to K-9s for Warriors to help rescue and train more dogs like Kip and pair them with men and women like Meg in real life.
Want to meet some more fun, unique, strange or odd characters? Hop on over to these other author's and check them out:
Dr. Bob Rich
Robin Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com/