Hi SEers! Denise here to talk about animals and writing.
When I was young, I was drawn to books about animals. A few that have stayed with me are “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls, “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B White, and “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter.
As an adult, I’ve read “Call of the Wild” by Jack London, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach, and “All Creatures Great and Small” by James Herriot. I’m adding “Pet Sematary” by Stephen King as an example of what I don’t like in a story with a pet.
Do you have some favorite animal stories?
Animals are a part of our lives. Even if we don’t own pets, we will certainly run into one along the way. Birds can be outside the window or a cat cuddled on your lap, their tail twitching, watching that bird. On a walk with the dog, a deer may cross your path. While driving, you may have to slam your brakes on to avoid hitting a squirrel or raccoon. Did the wild animal get hit? What would you do if you came across that?
I carry experiences with wild animals and especially pets into my stories.
Here are seven reasons to add animals to a story.
- Pets or wild animals act on basic needs that include hunger, anger, fear, comfort, or contentment. Their motives are pure compared to the human counterparts who confuse their needs. They are good reminders of what is important.
- Is a grumpy neighbor wandering around the story? What if they feed local strays? This would add another layer to them and show they may have a well-protected heart of gold waiting to be exposed.
- Give a serial killer or villain a pet? I doubt it would change their tendencies toward hurting humans, even with their empathy toward their pet, but it would add more depth to the killer or villain.
- Is your busy character out on a walk or leaving a restaurant when they find an animal who needs saving? Or maybe in the same situation, the animal ends up saving them from being mugged or helps the character emotionally? Either way, it offers an interesting area to explore.
- Pets may be there when no one else is. What pet owner hasn’t shared their problems with their cat or dog? It’s a good option for your character to interact with a pet, so they get out of their head-thinking.
- Is someone breaking into the house while the character is sleeping? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a dog bark, or a cat panic and run across the character to hide, and wake them up? Hopefully, the character will act on that and grab a gun or call for help.
- Would your character fight harder to stay alive if they had a pet or animal that needed their care?
Those are just a few reasons, but certainly not all that could add in more what-ifs to a story’s dimension.
Of course, just like a human character in a book, pets and animals need a personality, temperament, and their own space. They may be picky about their food or toys, just like their human counterparts. They can express a lot with just a tail wag, watchful eyes, or a bite.
I admit I’m all in when I see the character has a pet or animals are in the story. Hopefully, the pet will survive, because that is one reason I didn’t like “Pet Sematary” and a child died. I understand in the natural course of things, animals and humans have to pass. It’s heartbreaking, and I accept that in a story—most of the time.
For me, pets and animals represent unconditional love. Most of my characters have had pets, either a dog or a cat, or both. In one story, a bear kept making an appearance.
Although animals usually always show up in my stories, I haven’t written a book from an animal’s perspective. It’s not out of the question either, and something my inner child, who still loves those wonderful stories, would embrace.
Do animals make their way into your stories? If so, how do they help your storyline?