When you live in a neighborhood for a while, you learn the habits of your neighbors, also of their pets. At the house kitty-corner from us, the woman's dog would always sit on the couch by the window and bark ferociously when I and my dog, Rascal, walked pass.
For the past few days, something strange has occurred. Instead of the dog going crazy and barking, a cat sits on the edge of the couch and stares quietly at us. The dog is nowhere in sight.
This leads me to wonder. Where's the dog? All sorts of possibilities present themselves. Perhaps the woman isn't living there any more and someone else is staying at her house. Maybe she is there, but someone with a cat is staying with her. This cat could be so dominant the dog doesn't want to be near it. Or, maybe something happened to the dog and the woman replaced it with a cat. Or, maybe she always had a cat and I never noticed it before. Or, the dog could be sick.
When you write a novel, be sure to include everyday habits of characters, pets, even area weather. Then, to show something's not right, make them behave differently. If you lay your groundwork right, your readers will pick up on the nuances. They'll wonder what's going on and keep reading to find out.
What are some of the everyday habits of your neighbors? Maybe some are diligent about mowing their lawns or shoveling snow. Would you wonder if all of a sudden they turned sloppy? Or, perhaps a neighbor's lights turn on at certain times, then suddenly don't.
Or, have you already incorporated a neighbor's habits in one of your books? Please share with us.