Lizard Brain is a shared blog about Science Fiction and Fantasy from Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.

The Dogs Project: Part Four

by Daniel Abraham

What is the Dogs Project?

“Hey,” Adam said.  “Sorry about that.”

“Well.  Can’t say you didn’t warn me.”

“They mean well.”

“I know,” Charlie said.  “And I appreciate the thought, it’s just . . .”


Adam stood, neither in the room nor out, his expression friendly.  The moment stretched just a little too long.  If Charlie wasn’t looking to talk, it wasn’t an invitation.  If he did want to, then it was.

“They didn’t find them,” Charlie said.  “The dogs who . . . They never found them.”

Adam stepped in the room, sat in the chair beside Charlie’s desk.  Charlie’s fingers hovered over his keyboard, then folded into fists and sank slowly to his lap.  A telephone rang in someone else’s office.

“It bothers you,” Adam said.

“I keep thinking about how they’re still out there, you know?” Charlie said.  “I think maybe the pound picked them up and put them down and never knew they were the ones.  Or maybe they were a pack that was just moving through the city and didn’t really belong here.  Or maybe . . .”

“Or maybe they’re still out there,” Adam said, speaking into the pause.  “Maybe they belong to people in the neighborhood.  Maybe they’re sleeping on one of your neighbor’s couches.”

“Like that,” Charlie said.  He felt his hands shaking a little, but he couldn’t see the tremor.  “I don’t know how we do it.”

Adam took breath and let it out slowly.

“You get people, you get dogs,” Adam said.  “Strays, yeah.  But pets.  People love their pets.  Seriously, there are probably more dogs in this town than cars.”

“I know.  I’ve had a dog my whole life.  At least one.  It’s not like I expected them to—“

“That’s not what I meant,” Adam said.  “We’ve always lived with predators.  Before dogs were dogs, they were wolves.  I mean, that was a long-ass time ago, but they were wolves.  I don’t know how they decided to hang out with us and we decided to hang out with them, but we’ve being doing it since before they were dogs.  Maybe before we were humans.  I saw this thing one time that said how we’d never have gotten above hunter-gatherer without digs to help with herding.  We breed for the nice ones, except when we don’t.  And no matter what, some of them are always predators.”

“Yeah,” Charlie said.

“Most of them aren’t though.  Most dogs go through their whole lives and never bite anyone.  Bark, maybe, make noise, but actually do the thing?  And how many therapy dogs are there, right?  Seeing-eye dogs.  Companion dogs.  Even just good pets.  Dickens.  Most dogs are good.”

“About how many, do you think?”

“I don’t know.  Four out of five?”

“So for every ten dogs you see . . .”

“Yeah.  A couple.”

The air conditioner hummed.  Someone walked past Charlie’ door, bitching about the copy machine.  On the street, a truck lumbered around the corner, it brakes screeching metal against metal.  Adam leaned forward, his elbows on his knees.  Charlie was afraid the man would reach out, touch his shoulder or his knee, but Adam only waited.

“I don’t know how we do this,” Charlie said again, more softly.

The afternoon the worst.  The pain ramped up a little, but worse than that, Charlie’s mind seemed to fall into a haze.  The documentation he was working on seemed to mean less and less, sentences and paragraphs running into each other without any two ideas connecting.  The graphics didn’t fit the allotted spaces, and Charlie couldn’t remember how to resize them.  He tried to walk to the bathroom without his cane, which turned out to be optimistic.  Everything felt too hard, too forced, like something he should have been able to do, and couldn’t.  By three o’clock, the exhaustion robbed him of anything resembling productivity.  He sat at his desk making a list of everything he had to do instead of doing it.  Eventually the hour hand moved far enough that he could go home without it feeling like a rout.  He called for a taxi.  Between the fare coming in and the one going home, the day was almost a financial push.   Next week would have to be different.  He’d feel better.

At the apartment, Dickens leapt and bounced, running in a tight circle they way he had since he was a puppy.  Charlie collapsed on the couch, closed his eyes.  When he heard claws scratching at the front door, he shifted his head, opened his eyes.  Dickens looked at him, at the door, at him again.  He needed to go for a walk.  It was almost more than Charlie could stand.


Daniel here.

So, you see what I did there?  It was an honest mistake.  The outline called for this scene (the fourth one) to be Charlie taking Dickens to the dog park and the talking-to-the-coworker thing to be the next scene.  But I switched them in my head.  IN this case, the outline was wrong.  That happens a *lot*.  You can ask Ty.  We always start off the Expanse books with an outline, and by halfway through the book, we’ve pitched it out and remade it at least a couple of times.

I think that the folks who refuse to outline are concerned — some of ’em anyway — that the outline will be come a kind of contract.  That because you say the fourth scene will be this and not that, you’ve somehow bound yourself.  That’s not my experience.  For me, the outline in a way to start thinking about the overall structure, but it’s only a tool.  I’m the boss here.  If I get in and it becomes clear that the summary-narrative-laden first day back at work needs a little dialog to leaven it, and that the best way to do that is swap scenes four and five, then of course I’ll change the plan.

I’m mostly pleased with this scene.  It got the most dogs are good idea stated out loud without — I think — being too preachy or obvious.  It restated that the taxi’s not a long-term solve.  We get to see Dickens trying to live with the same habits and patterns he and Charlie had before, and Charlie having been changed to the point that the past doesn’t apply anymore.  We have Charlie’s discomfort with the attack’s being acknowledged to anyone except Adam.  I think we’re more or less on track.

That said, it’s Sunday, I didn’t sleep well, and I’m tired as hell.  From experience, I suspect that the scene won’t show the fact — that the overall quality of the writing hasn’t *actually* taken a nosedive just because I desperately want a nap.  But the beautiful thing is that even if the dialog is lumpy and ham-handed, this is a first draft.  I can fix it later.

The more I look at it, though, the more convinced I am that Adam should be a woman.  It’s not just the subtext of intimacy either.  There are sentences that would just work better if I could use a less ambiguous pronoun.  Like this:

Adam stood, neither in the room nor out, his expression friendly.  The moment stretched just a little too long.  If Charlie wasn’t looking to talk, it wasn’t an invitation.  If he did want to, then it was.


She stood, neither in the room nor out, her expression friendly.  The moment stretched just a little too long.  If he wasn’t looking to talk, she wasn’t offering.  If he did want to, then she was.

If I could use he and she, I wouldn’t have to keep putting in names to clarify which he I was thinking about.  Plus which, in the next-to-last scene when Adam’s supposed to lift his shirt and show his scars, the sense of exposure is more pronounced if it’s a woman doing it.  The idea of having no women in the story at all wasn’t a bad one, but it’s causing me more trouble than it’s worth.

I’ve also been wondering — along those lines — what would happen if I made Charlie a woman and kept Adam male, but I think that wouldn’t work.  It still adresses my pronoun problems, but it feels like it would betray my subtext.  Anyway, I’m going to finish up with both the boys, boys and fix it in the rewrite if that seems like the Right Thing.

The draft’s not quite half done, and we’re going to be just over 4000 words at the end of next scene, so I’m expecting this to land between 8000 and 9000 words when we get to the end.  That’s about where I want it.


2 Responses »

  1. There’s no where to post this so i thought i’d add my Leviathan Wakes review here.

  2. I like the office environment, this is how I am getting to know Charlie. And you’re right, I don’t care what job he has.

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