Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Character Study of Buttercup, Michael's dog in SONATA

I can’t begin writing any new book without first writing background character studies of the people who will inhabit my story. Somehow, in my mind, my stories always begin with place, and, after place, with characters. My stories evolve from the settings and the people.

But even I had to laugh at my preoccupation with character studies when I found myself writing one for a dog.  Of course Buttercup is not just any dog. She’s Vancouver Police Detective, Michael Donovan’s dog, and she plays an important role in Sonata.

What she’s like and how Michael came to have her are vital elements in the story.

Below is the first draft of my character study for Buttercup. Initially, as you will see, I made Buttercup a male, but somewhere during the writing of this novel she told me she was female. My characters have a way of changing on me sometimes—although not usually gender.

Buttercup—Michael Donovan’s dog.  

Michael rescued the dog when a drug bust went bad. He found the dog, only a puppy at the time, malnourished and shivering with fright under the bed after its owner had been killed. Michael took him to a vet and then home. Fed him up and ended up with a dog who would gladly give his life for Michael if it seemed needed. Physical description— Malamute and St. Bernard cross, but somewhere in his lineage is a wolf—(other indeterminate ancestors as well). This is one BIG, fierce-looking animal, with a sugar sweet disposition.

 The odd name? I haven’t figured that out yet, but it is his name. Maybe because of a bright yellow patch under his chin.  Brown and white fur, soft and thick.  Face, white with brown freckles from the top of his head to his nose. One blue eye and one brown eye. Buttercup is a real coward, afraid of his own shadow. Hides under the bed when anyone new comes into the apartment. He stands high enough to eat off the dining table without any effort.

In the following excerpt from Sonata Michael tells Sayuri about how Buttercup came into his life:

She heard the key in the lock and a moment later man and dog were back in the room. Buttercup trotted over to Sayuri and leaned against her, looking up at her adoringly with one blue and one brown eye.

“That was quick,” Sayuri commented as she scratched the dog behind her ears.

“She was anxious to get back to you. We don’t often have visitors. Actually, I’m surprised at her reaction to you. She usually hides under the bed when there’s anyone she doesn’t know in the apartment.”

“Under the bed? I can’t believe she can get all that bulk under a bed. Just what kind of dog is she? I’ve never seen anything like her. She’s huge. And those eyes are amazing.” Sayuri moved to the armchair and sat down. Buttercup followed her and put her massive head in Sayuri’s lap.

“Clearly she’s fallen in love with you. The vet thought she was probably half Malamute and half Newfoundland, but I’m pretty sure there’s some wolf in the mixture. And the two different color eyes are unusual, but they do happen, particularly in those breeds.”

“Did you say wolf?”

“Watch.” Michael came over to the dog, knelt down beside her and put his arm around her. He lifted his head back and started to howl. The dog threw her head straight back and joined him. The sound was both musical and eerie.

“Wow. I haven’t heard anything like that since I was twelve and went on a canoeing trip up Desolation Sound with my father. We could hear the wolves from our campsite every night. I loved the sound.”

“Don’t let her howl give you any ideas about Buttercup’s personality. Her wolf genes begin and end with her howl. She’s a complete wimp.”

“She’s a big dog for an apartment dweller.”

“Yes, well, I didn’t exactly choose her. She just sort of happened. It was a drug bust that went wrong. An apartment house on the east side. They were cutting and bagging cocaine when we came in. Gun fire was exchanged and people got hurt. It wasn’t supposed to have happened that way.”

Michael paused and frowned. Sayuri wondered if he was going to say anything more.

Then he sighed. “When it was all sorted out, as we were to leaving the scene I heard whimpering. I pulled this small scrawny shivering mass of matted fur out from under the bed. I was supposed to take her to the SPCA, but I didn’t. I took her home with me. She couldn’t have been more than two months old and she was half starved and filthy. I fed her and bathed her and the next day I took her to the vet for a checkup. He said there was nothing wrong with her that food and love wouldn’t cure.”

“So you had a dog.”

“I had a dog. I had no idea at the time she was going to grow into a giant hairy mammoth.” This was spoken with obvious affection as he ruffled the dog’s head.

“But her name?”

“Just look at her.”

Sayuri studied the dog. She had fur as thick as a bear’s, only longer. Her underbelly was white and everywhere else she was brown and black and white in large splotches. “I don’t get it.”

“Look under her chin.”

Sayuri laughed. “Of course.” There was a large spot of bright yellow there.

The dog, tired of being the object of so much attention, moved to the fireplace, circled three times and plopped down in front of it.


I currently have three published novels and one short story. I hope you will add them to your reading list and let me know if you enjoy them. Go to my Goodreads page, to find more info and reviewsTo purchase one of these books, just click on the book link below and choose the vendor of your choice.

 • The Memory of Roses ~ The story of a secret and how it impacts two generations of the McQuaid family.  It unfolds on the beautiful Greek Island of Corfu and is a tale complete with beautiful and passionate women, handsome and fiery men, and an intriguing mystery.

"The Memory of Roses by Blair McDowell is simply an incredibly lovely story. It’s also a love story, and a story about finding yourself, and about closure. The theme running through the book is “all’s well that ends well.”  --  Marlene, Reading Reality

 • Delighting In Your Company ~ Delighting In Your Company is a paranormal romance set on an exotic Caribbean island, featuring a handsome ghost and an adventurous heroine who travels back in time to solve a mystery!

"Delighting In Your Company is a unique paranormal romance that brings together island folklore, history, and mystery with an unlikely romance between the past and present that had me going through a torrent of emotions and made it impossible to put down." -- The Romance Reviews

 • Sonata ~ Sayuri McAllister has just arrived home to Vancouver to find some shocking situations 
~ A robbery has taken place at her family home, and it is being investigated by her old flame;
~ Alyssa James who she barely knows, is about to become her new stepmother; 
~ and Alyssa’s brother, Hugh James, is a charming Irishman who is intent on bedding and wedding the rich and beautiful Sayuri. 

It’s a confusing and difficult time for Sayuri, especially when dangerous accidents happen to her father and herself – or are they accidents?

“I found Sonata to be a charming novel that left me laughing out loud in parts and gnawing nails in others. It was a delight to read.” – Night Owl Reviews

 Abigails Christmas (short story) ~ An enchanting tale of love and romance, with a magical touch of fantasy.
Abigail's Christmas is a holiday story about Abigail who goes looking for a tree on Christmas Eve, and ends up with the man of her dreams in a sleigh in the Rockies --- with a wedding in the offing! Is it real?  Is she dreaming?  Or is it just Christmas magic?

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Blair McDowell