Downward Dog is a delightful show that chronicles the relationship between a woman and her dog with humor and insight. And the way it handles the dog’s interior monologue is a lesson in writing great romance.
Each episode includes Nan’s real-life story of struggles with work and an on-again, off-again boyfriend. Her dog, Martin, plays a role, visiting her office, causing joy and strife with the boyfriend, and loving Nan.
It also includes interviews with Martin, where he shares the feelings he has about Nan, her focus on work, and his life. The way he talks about Nan is the way good romance heroes talk about their heroines, and it has reignited my spark for that part of romance writing.
My growing disdain for hemming and hawing
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten a lot less patient with indecision.
I found the Twilight movies much more pleasing than the books because page upon page of Edward and Bella rambling about how they weren’t good enough for one another was reduced to one furtive or longing glance.
Watching Friends episodes that focus on Ross has become a chore because they could all be solved in 15 seconds by him saying what he feels. Not comfortable with your ex and your best friend dating? Just say, “Hey, I’m happy for you, but I’m not quite ready to accept your relationship yet.” No need to invite them over for fajitas, get super drunk, and forget to use potholders. Leave your tooth whitener on too long? Just tell your date, “I was nervous about our date, and I went a little overboard. My teeth are preternaturally white, but that shouldn’t get in the way of us getting to know each other.” (Viewed in hindsight, Ross really is the worst.)
Yoda has become my spirit animal: “Do … or do not. There is no try.”
The problem is that indecision, confusion, and interior monologue are the backbones of both great sitcoms and great romance.Indecision, confusion, & interior monologue are the backbones of great #romance. Click To Tweet
The solution in my current work
In my current work in progress (or WIP, as we writers like to call it), the indecision is not based on wondering if the hero and heroine have a connection. That’s clear from very early on. Instead, their issues are based on whether the obstacles their relationship faces will crush that connection.
That allows me to follow romance format and provide a compelling story while not letting my characters waste my readers’ time wondering, “Does he/she really like me?”
How Downward Dog revitalizes romantic interior monologue
When Martin waxes poetic about his love for Nan and the issues in their relationship, it’s tinged with humor — we know he’s just a dog and the relationship isn’t the same as one between two humans, even though he uses the same terms we’d use for romantic love.Why Martin and Nan on #DownwardDog are my favorite TV couple. Click To Tweet
But it is also so pure. I imagine the love I’ve had for my dogs in the past and my current dog (shown here laying on the couch next to me while I work), and everything Martin says makes so much sense. The writers captured the way we humans see our canine companions so well.
The love stuff also isn’t the only thing going on. Events and choices that have nothing to do with Martin shape Nan’s life, and Martin has his own adventures and angst that don’t involve her.
Romance continues to evolve. It’s opened up to love stories that aren’t just heterosexual, that involve people of different races, ages, and weights. It runs the gamut of young love to mature love. It happens in space, on different planets, between magical creatures here in our own cities. And it doesn’t have to follow the exact formula of 27 does he really love me’s to work.
Sadly, ABC has decided to cancel Downward Dog, but the creators are hoping it can continue in another venue. Until then, give it a watch online or OnDemand and see how you think Martin’s interviews work as interior monologue in a romance novel.
What TV shows do you think really get the changing face of romance?