How the real horse in my life affects my fictional creation

A Shire – my character only has two white socks in the front

The cat’s out of the bag. Or in this case, the horse. My new work in progress includes a character that is a horse.

Not too surprising since I’ve already admitted my fascination with the beasts. Hopefully, I’ve come up with a unique way to include a horse in my fantasy novel. You can be the judge when the book is finished, published and available from book sellers everywhere.

In my book, the horse is a magnificent Shire stallion. He is nine feet tall and broader than two barrels. Indeed, he is a beast. But a magnificent one.

In real life, I’m spending time with a lovely mare who is about five feet tall at her back (eye height or so for me. I can see over her). Her coloring is delightful, but she can be stubborn and headstrong.

Enter real life experience that I can use in my fiction. Some horses are docile, meek and cooperative. Others are haughty, high-strung and obtuse. Which one most resembles my experience?

Many people are intimidated by any horse. They’re big, weigh five times the average human and have you seen their teeth? Also, their hooves can crush your foot, or at the least give you an ugly bruise. We won’t even go to the kicking angle.

I’ve never really been scared of a horse. Neither has my protagonist. However, I want her and every reader, no matter how experienced with horses they are, to be intimidated by the horse in my novel. But I don’t want him to be mean, just majestic and worthy of respect.

Spending time with Lily has given me some ideas about how to incorporate authentic horse actions and reactions into my writing. Laying the ears back and showing teeth might be an acceptable (and scary) reaction from my character horse. Kicking and biting (terrifying) are unacceptable.

Just as I would study habits of a person to give my characters quirky traits, I must pay attention to the horse. Do her nostrils flare? What about nodding and shaking her head? What do these outer motions indicate about her feelings?

I’m lucky to know people who willingly let me spend time with their horse. If you want to put a horse (or other animal) as a major character in your story, you’re going to need to spent time observing that animal.

Have you used real life experiences to add authenticity to your writing? Can you give an example? Maybe you have some horse wisdom to impart. I’m all ears, believe me.

2 thoughts on “How the real horse in my life affects my fictional creation

  1. I use real-life experiences all the time. I watch people, the way their nostrils flair when angry, the twisting of the hair, the biting of the lip. Animals are no different. They each have their own quirks. For instance, my oldest Australian Shepherd is a hair sniffer. I know it sounds funny, but he loves to sniff people’s hair. My youngest Aussie spins two circles and sits before I feed him. I didn’t teach him to do that. My mixed breed pup bows for her food. I never taught her that. My youngest son can’t have certain foods touch each other on a plate. My oldest son always eats one thing at a time on his plate. For instance, if he has mac & cheese, spinach and carrots, he’ll eat all the carrots, then all the spinach, then all the mac & cheese. I have to have all my cds and dvd alphabetized. I used to have a dog that would bring me her dog bowl when hungry. Animals and people are funny critters with funny habits. All we have to do is pay attention.

    1. True, Jenny. Sprinkling some of those quirks into our prose brings the characters to life.
      Good writers are observers first. Always. Everywhere. I really should make more notes when I see quirky things because my memory needs jogging.

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