(I stole this idea from Dave Eggers.)
Let’s try and write a story. Fiction. Or maybe some non-fiction elements thrown in, but let’s not let the reader know what is what. So it will sound like fiction then.
800 words…no, make it 1,000. It’s easier to write more and cut it down later anyway. About a guy and his dog. But we’ve got to come up with a cool name for the dog, something tough. He’s a skinny dog, but he’s a survivor. He’s fiercely independent of his owner, but loyal to a fault (like all good fictional dogs). He’ll often wander off on adventures, sometimes for weeks – no, that’s too unbelievable – let’s make it days. But he always returns. Sometimes with a new scar or a tuft of fur gone missing, but intact nonetheless. We’ll call him Andor. Andor, ‘the shark hunter.’ No, the ‘bear hunter.’ He’s an Akita. A badass.
But where should they live….obviously near the forest, what with a name like that…’the bear hunter.’ Okay, so they live on an island. But not a tropical one, that’s too cliché (and there’s no bears there). An island in the high latitudes maybe. Somewhere like the Falklands. They’re almost fictional sounding and nobody knows for sure where they’re at, so that should do just fine. But I don’t think there are any bears there. How about Spitsbergen. Yes, perfect. Another fictional sounding name nobody can locate on a map. And Andor can hunt polar bears. Yeah. Andor looks more like a sled-dog, like a husky. But a svelte, tough sled dog, not the pampered, groomed overweight types you see on those dog shows on TV. His coat isn’t quite as shiny, the white bits not so white. Andor definitely doesn’t prance around on his toes.
Andor’s owner is a quiet man, the type that doesn’t speak unless spoken to. But when he does speak, his words are smart. People enjoy listening to him, and he can be genuinely engaging if the subject is one he feels strongly about. He has blond hair. No, that’s too clichéd too. Dark hair, but not quite black. With flecks of gray around the ears, making him look older than he really is. And a perpetual three-day-old beard (it seems that way anyway, because he only shaves every third day or so, and his face is much less memorable without any whiskers). He’s weathered from working outdoors his whole life. On ships. No, that’s too obvious. As a postman. He loves riding the mail around on his bicycle during the warm months, and cherishes the brisk saunters in the wintertime. The locals invite him in for coffee when it’s particularly cold outside (his record in one day was 27 cups). He’s never in a hurry on his mail runs, so he enjoys these visits. The town is small enough that he can easily manage his route in half a day when he has too, but he’d much prefer to make it a full eight-hour work day and really enjoy it. His bosses trust him so much that he works his own hours and makes his own schedule – the mail is always on time, the townspeople forever happy for it. He never runs to catch a train.
Sometimes Andor joins his owner on his daily route. He’s never asked, of course, for his owner knows it must be on Andor’s terms. He might be off on a three-day adventure and suddenly turn up at, say, the local fire department, and continue along the mail route as if he’d been there from the start. The locals like his presence, and only a few of them are fearful of inviting him into their houses, particularly that one prickly middle-aged woman at the end of the street who doesn’t seem to like any sort of wildlife (so why is she living on Spitsbergen?). They skip her house on the mail route on days when Andor tags along. Serves her right, she can wait until the next day to get her mail if she wants to act like that.
His owner isn’t so sure how Andor got his nickname as ‘the bear hunter,’ but he likes it that way. It adds a sort of mysticism to his dog, and in turn to him, the respectful mailman with a mysterious bear-hunting husky dog. At home they sit in front of the fireplace and Andor’s owner drinks red wine at night while thinking about how satisfying is his job as the local postman where he can be friends and drink coffee with the entire town and yet leave their hospitality on his terms and with no hard feelings, because, after all, it’s his job to deliver the mail and everybody loves him for it.