Ghostwriting a memoir for the dogs (and cats)

Woof, woof! What is your dog saying to you? Do you have a cat with a big personality or an incredible tale? Today’s post is by Kim Pearson, a writer I follow through her blog, From the Compost, and on social media. She is not just a writer, she is also a ghost. And interestingly, she has channeled her dog in the book Dog Park Diary. Does your pet have stories?

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A Dog’s Ghost

by Kim Pearson

I am a Ghost. Ghostwriter, that is. I write books for other people who don’t have time to write, or think they don’t have the talent to write, or just plain hate to write – some people would rather clean the toilet than write. Nevertheless, they have a story, or an idea, or a Cause – and they want the world to know about it. So they hire me to write their books. So far I’ve written nearly fifty books for other people, and everyone is happy. Life is good.

The biggest challenge about ghostwriting is that you must become someone else. I am invited into another person’s head, and allowed to poke around. I mine the data and the passion I find there, and bring it to the surface so I can play with it.

This isn’t easy. Your brain doesn’t work just like mine. In order to find the information and the emotion that I need to write like you, first I have to think like you. And actually, this is impossible.

So have I figured out how to do the impossible? No, I’ve just learned to pretend really, really well. I pretend to think like you. And if I pretend hard enough, something weird happens to my brain and I do think like you – at least while I’m writing your book.

Actors do this when they portray a real-life person. Think of Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles. He was more like Ray Charles than Ray Charles was. Through the mysterious alchemy of art, for the duration of making that movie, Jamie Foxx probably thought like Ray Charles. And that’s what ghostwriters do too. They’re just not in front of a camera when they do it.

I began to understand the dynamic of pretending when I wrote a book for a dog. In a dog’s voice. It was about the dog’s visits to the dog park, and the experiences she had there. It’s called Dog Park Diary: the social round of Goody Beagle. Now I’m writing the sequel, about Goody Beagle’s fur brother Alex, due out next year.

All my interpersonal skills were no use in writing Goody’s book. I had to pretend to be aDogParkDiary dog, and not just any dog, this particular dog. Dogs are as individual as people. There are dogs who have phobias about vacuum cleaners, and dogs who like to sleep under the covers, and dogs who believe that squirrels should be wiped off the face of the earth. There are dogs who turn up their noses at expensive kibble in favor of three-day-old garbage, and dogs who will learn how to roll over or shake hands. To some dogs, Frisbees are the reason for living. For other dogs, the most fun in the world is to force others to go where they want them to go, and if they don’t, the dogs get to nip their heels. And for still others, any day they don’t go swimming is an evil day indeed.

But there are some things about being a dog that are common to all dogs. For one thing, being alone is the worst fate that can befall them. But the big thing, the biggest thing that matters to a dog’s ghostwriter, is that they don’t think in pictures or words, like we do. They think in smells.

How to think in smells is impossible to explain fully in an article made out of words. But thinking in smells is how I was able to write in a dog’s voice. I pretended that smell was everything to me. I went around sniffing the ordinary things in my house and my yard – the dishwasher has a smell, the dandelions have a smell, the mailbox has a smell. Even if I couldn’t actually smell them, I pretended that I could. And guess what? When I wrote the story, the correct doggy words drifted up to my brain from my pitiful olfactory bulb (pitiful in comparison with a dog), and I got close to what mattered to that dog. I know this is true, because she told me so.

And now writing for people is a piece of cake.

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Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and the owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of polished, professional, and compelling books. She is the author of Making History: how to remember, record, interpret and share the events of your life and of Dog Park Diary (ghostwritten for a dog!), as well as fiction and haiku poetry books. She has ghostwritten (for people) more than 45 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit Kim Pearson’s website, Primary Sources.

Note: Kim’s Making History book may be just the thing to motivate you to write your own (human) stories. Scroll way down her Books web page to find a link to an excerpt.

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About moonbridgebooks

Co-author of Cherry Blossoms in Twilight, a WWII Japan memoir of her mother's childhood; Co-author/Editor of Battlefield Doc, a medic's memoir of combat duty during the Korean War; life writing enthusiast; loves history and culture (especially Japan), and cats
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