ANIMALS AND WRITING

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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?

108 thoughts on “ANIMALS AND WRITING

  1. A lot of my stories have animals as the main characters, many of them being obviously inspired by my own pets, and others less obviously so.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve done the same thing, Victoria. I blend in my own animals and experiences with new ones:) I love animals are your main characters.

      Liked by 1 person

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  3. I enjoy books that include animals and pets and they don’t always have to featured in a positive way for me. Some creatures, like sharks and crocodiles are dangerous and fit a more sinister role. With regards to cats, they have long been viewed at the aids to witches so they do pop up in a more negative and creepy role from time to time. I had a creepy cat in Through the Nethergate. One of the best books featuring animals I’ve read is Swamp Ghost by Marcia Meara. What a great story!

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  5. Ah…Black Beauty, Peter Rabbit, and of course we have always had pets…dogs, horses, snakes, lizards, parrot and cockatiels I probably should write about them…some great ideas for including them …:)…I love the image of the deer…

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  6. You make some excellent reasons here to include animals in a book. I read Beatrix Potter, Black Beauty and lots of books about ponies when I was a child. Oscar Wilde’s story The Happy Prince reduced me to a sobbing heap because of the relationship between the prince and a swallow. When I started teaching in a secondary school, I plucked Paul Gallico’s The Snow Goose out of the book cupboard. I hadn’t read it but it was short and would fill an unexpected timetable hole. My voice broke as I read the last page but it was all right – half the class were already in tears and none of them, not even the brash ones, scoffed. In my first novel, dogs play an important role. In my current one, I have a dog that is crucial to the plot and very much in evidence in most of the scenes.
    I confess to not having read Jonathan Livingstone Seagull and, after all these mentions, I’m going to have to redress that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Alex. It is a true gift when a story stays with us it can evoke emotions like it did for you and your class.

      I’m going to have to reread The Happy Prince, the title is familiar but I don’t remember much. You’ve made me curious sbout the Snow Goose too.
      Jonathan Livingstone Seagull is one I’ve read more than once and always find it inspiring.

      Like

  7. Great post, Denise! I adored Black Beauty as a child and loved the book Johnathon Livingston Seagull. Excellent points. Probably because I haven’t had pets since I left home at 15, I tend not to write in animals in my books … something I shall have to address in the future. In my current WIP, the MC has a bear called Fluffy with AI she talks to … not a pet but a fun element. Thanks for giving me something to think about 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • I love a bear named Fluffy that your main character talks to. Definitely a fun element and something that pulls me in for sure:) I’ve always been drawn to animals and have them around me inside my house and outside. Black Beauty is on my classical books to reread list, I’ll have to get to that soon. Thanks, Harmony!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This is a lovely post, Denise. Animals often get important parts in my stories. The only one with no animals at all was Hullaba Lulu a Diesel Punk Adventure — and there I made angel-bots instead, without realizing that was the void I was filling with them.
    I love that your stories have animals. Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 4 people

    • You’ve had some great animal characters, Teagan, including cats and a crow. I like using angel-bots to replace the animals portion of story. This is one that’s been waiting for me to read:) Thanks, Teagan! Xo

      Liked by 2 people

  9. This is wonderful Denise and inspires me to include more animals in my stories. I will be publishing my flash memoir soon and it includes a whole section about dogs! I love your list of suggestions. Well done. As a child I like reading books about animals but I cared about them so much I sometimes cried. I agree with you about Stephen King’s Pet Cemetery . 😓

    Liked by 5 people

    • I’m looking forward to your flash memior, especially the section on dogs. There are some stories that still tug at my heart from childhood, it’s hard not to care. Glad you liked the suggestions, I see can doing a book from an animals prospective someday. Thanks, Pam:)

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Sandra:) So many good books to remember! I loved your cat series, and how you captured their personalities so well. In your westerns, besides the horses I always enjoy when an animal strolls in and stays around. Animals really tie me to a story, including dolphins.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I really enjoyed your example of a grumpy old woman who feeds stray cats. That brought her to life for me. I enjoyed this post. I often include pets in my stories. They show a different side of a character and add depth.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Judi:) A grumpy person who has that softspot for animals, can’t be fully grumpy and offers some clues as insight into their character. Adding pets certainly does give the story that extra depth, I agree.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. I haven’t used a pet in my stories, but have used inanimate objects. Thanks for touching on the pet aspect of writing. I enjoy stories with pets. As a Stephen King fan, I enjoyed “Cujo” and “Pet Sematary” for what they were.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I like when inanimate objects take on a life of their own. I’m a big Stephen King fan too and loved Cujo and all of his earlier books. I found I was the only one who didnt like Pet Sematry in my group of friends:) Happy you liked the topic, Michele!

      Liked by 3 people

  12. I hadn’t really thought about it, but animals do appear in my stories. In my Wolves of Vimar series (Wolf is the name the group of people give to themselves) there is a dog, who in Book 3 has a chapter as the POV character. There is also a little creature related to dragons who appears in several of the books. He is called a dragonet and has psi capabilities.
    In my Elemental Worlds duo there is also a dog who is a very important part of the story.
    In my historical series, in book 1 there is a horse called Tan (Welsh for fire).
    I, too, enjoyed books about animals. Black Beauty was a favourite, as was one about a sheepdog called Shadow by Enid Blyton. Shadow the Sheepdog it was called and it was my very favourite book for a long time. Jack London’s White Fang, too I enjoyed immensely, and Jonathon Livingston Seagull. And when I was very small, I enjoyed a story about two little pandas called Pink and Ponk.

    Liked by 5 people

    • It sounds like you’ve incorporated animals nicely into your stories. I like a dog has his own chapter, and you have off shoots of dragons. I’m a fan of dragons. Horses seem to play a strong roll in a lot of Historical Fiction.

      White Fang Black Beauty are ones to add to the amazing list, I agree. They are a natural part of our lives in some fashion and find ways into stories:) Thanks V. W.!

      Liked by 2 people

  13. I love writing animals/pets in my stories. I think having a pet can give insight into a character.

    I loved your bear story!

    Some of my favorite childhood books we’re Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, and The Incredible Journey.

    Liked by 5 people

    • I’m drawn to stories with those pets, that really do add so much to a story, just like they do in real-life.

      Thank you, Joan. Bears have found a way to get my attention more than once in the past. I believe there is messages to pick up from that.

      It’s amazing to me all these years later thinking about Old Yeller or Where the Red Fern Grows, still bring all those emotiins I felt when I read them.

      Liked by 3 people

  14. I love this post. I owned bull terriers for 18 years, largely because of The Incredible Journey. I’ve never written an animal story, but I’ve written many pet characters. They’re some of my favorites to create. I’ve also allowed a couple to cross over to real characters, like a talking yak. Great post today.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Isn’t it amazing how books from our youth still effect us today? I love the reason you have bull terriers, I have a soft spot for collies, and grew up with one. Animals give their love so unconditionally and that comes out in stories. They can also offer a humorous insight into their human counterparts. I have enjoyed your takes on pet characters and have the Yak story coming up soon on my list. Thanks, Craig!

      Liked by 2 people

  15. I’ve added pets to several of my stories. Somehow they just worm their way in, although in Food for Poe and End of Day, they were key to the plots. My current WIP doesn’t have a pet but there are a few animals that make an appearance.
    Great list of why animals add depth to a story, Denise. I really enjoyed this post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Mae:) You know I’m a big fan of Food for Poe and have read it more than once. I see the reason I love cats in that tale. Animals do manage to make appearances, they seem to know when to show up!

      Liked by 2 people

  16. A super post, Denise. I have not included animals in my books. I suppose it might be because I feature Twiggy and Lucy on my blog. You do make some excellent points about using pets or animals to further amplify character traits. Your seven examples are terrific reasons to include animals in a story. I remember your bear, and it certainly added to the tension of your story. Thanks for sharing your ideas today.

    Liked by 5 people

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  18. Ah, you’ve hit on something really dear to me, Denise. And yes, ALL of my main characters have pets. Not only do I like animals well enough to include them in my books to begin with, but I think the type of animal a character chooses to share his or her life with tells us something about that character. For instance, Gunnar Wolfe, a great huge viking of a man, shares his home with a Norwegian forest cat named Odin. I liked the idea of this big, very masculine guy coming home to talk to his beautiful, fluffy cat at night. It emphasizes a tender side to him. MaggieDevlin has a Quaker parrot, Hunter Painter has Biscuit, his smooth-haired collie, and of course, Lester Purvis has a whole house full of albino snakes, and a ten-foot long leucistic (also) white alligator named Big Blue. (Not the cuddliest of pets, but they show a certain side to Lester’s personality that I wanted to emphasize.) Same is true in my mountain series, with Sarah having found a cat (Handsome), and MacKenzie Cole living like a hermit with only his enormous Scottish wolfhound for company. Pets are a big part of my stories, and often serve very useful purposes.

    So far, I haven’t given any of my bad guys pets, though. (I don’t think they deserve them. 😉 )

    Excellent post, Denise, and I like your list of ideas for other reasons to include animals in our writing. I hadn’t thought of using them in a couple of those ways, but I’m thinking about it now! 🙂 Well done!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Marcia:) You really show the contrast of animal and owner. Isn’t it kind of endearing for a big tough man to love his cat? I appreciated the name Handsome for the cat too. I love your statement the villians don’t deserve a pet…lol.

      When reading about a pet it can make you want that relationship they have in the book. It really does offer that hope when a hermit has that loyal pet by their side, like the Irish Wolfhound 🙂 I have always loved the Norwegian Forest cat and can see I have some books to catch up on!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks, Denise. If you like characters with pets, at least you know you’ll enjoy that part of my stories, anyway. 😀 I do love to include them, for sure, and really enjoyed this post! 😀

        Liked by 2 people

  19. I totally agree that animals can add depth to any story and also to the characters, as shown in your excellent examples, Denise. I love that all of your stories have at least an animal or two, but I think my favorite is your guardian Bear. 🙂 My current WIP is set on a horse ranch, so you can imagine I’m having to include lots of animals, including cows, goats, dogs, and cats. Sometimes I forget to put them where they would naturally be in a scene and have to go back and add them. 🙂 My sister is writing a story that has a parrot. It provides some comedic relief. A wonderful post today! Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 4 people

    • They sure do. Jan 🙂 Bears seem to find me so it didn’t surprise me one wanted to share a story. I loved your story Satin & Cinders from the horse’s prospective. A ranch offers so much to explore and possibilities with animals becoming a stronger part of the story. I’ve done the same thing not including animals where they would belong. Once I took a dog for a walk and he wasn’t mentioned again, glad that was caught. I think a parrot would offer so much to a story with endless possibilities of comedy to add. Thanks, Jan!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. I loved all of the children’s books you mentioned too, Denise…especially, Charlotte’s Web. Do you remember Paddington the Bear? You might be too young. 🙂 I agree with you, animals can bring so many possibilities into a story. I’m working on a book now where my hero breeds Border Collies. It’s been fun learning more about the breed. Great post!

    Liked by 4 people

    • I do remember Paddington the Bear. I was happy to see my grandkids reading it:)

      How fun to explore border collies. I know they are smart and are full of energy, but I will look forward to reading more in your upcoming story;)

      Liked by 2 people

  21. I used to love stories about animals. When I was very young, The Poky Little Puppy, The Little Red Hen, and The Velveteen Rabbit were favorites. (Does that count?) I decorated both kids’ nurseries in animal characters—Pooh and Beatrix Potter, respectively. When I got older, Black Beauty was a particular favorite. As an adult, I admit to being fascinated with Cujo and Pet Sematary, though I wouldn’t call either enjoyable examples of pets in stories. I know I find happy pets in novels soothing to me.

    I’ve written pets into a couple of novels now, and because I pattern them after my own dogs, I find it emotionally draining in some ways. But I love them on the pages. They add a warmth to a story. And I love your tips for how to use them effectively. Great post, Denise.

    Liked by 4 people

  22. Thank you for this lovely post, Denise. You’ve given me much to think about. I haven’t introduced pets into my fictional writing, and yet like most people, they’ve been integral to my world. While my four kids were growing up, we had quite a zoo at times. I never liked the lizards, but I’ve plenty of stories about those creatures and the others. Wildlife fills my world, and I think it may be time to bring that world to readers. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve never had lizards as pets but enjoy watching them outside. I’m happy this gave you a lot to think about and maybe an animal will guide a story for you! I know I’d love to read it! Xo

      Liked by 2 people

  23. I remember reading National Velvet as a child, but I own a huge compendium of all the James Herriot books and read them still. It was made into a TV drama that gets repeated sometimes.

    In my writing, I introduced a dog into my first Richard and Maria book. He was an adopted stray with problems, and it was intended to show the trauma of rejection that my human characters both suffered. Ben, the Jack Russell, became so popular he’s mentioned in most of the reviews. 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    • I don’t think I read National Velvet, although I know I saw the movie. All Creatures Great and Small was such an amazing read, I’d love to read more by James Herriot. I’ll have to watch for the show on TV, I know most things do repeat.

      What a great way to show the trauma of rejection with a stray dog. You got me curious about Ben, the Jack Russell and I’m going to have to add Richard snd Maria’s story to my TBR list 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  24. I agree with you about animal books, Denise. I’m reading The Tale of Peter Rabbit to Autumn right now. I gave her the hardcover collection of the four tales. She asked me to read to her twice. The stories are long and I couldn’t pass the second story before either nap time or lunch time. I’ll bring her Charlette’s Web on my next trip.

    I some of the other books to my students. I used to own a copy of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, probably I left it in Hong Kong.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Isn’t it wonderful to pass on these stories to our grandchildren? I’m sure she will love Charlottes Web too!

      Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a book I want to reread someday. Lots of fantastic animal books! Enjoy sharing the good ones with the next generation, Miriam 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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