Monday, April 27, 2009


Lady Glamis, as usual, had a very good post about pets in your writing. I left an amazingly brilliant comment. Okay, so it wasn't amazingly brilliant. In my defense, it was early this morning, and the coffee IV wasn't working . . . that's my story, and I'm sticking to it, dear readers.

Personally, I love it when author's insert pets (dogs, cats, parakeets, hamsters, whatever) into their writing. Pets, for me at least, make people more real.

The best example (current example) is Rex the hamster in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, oh, and Bob the Dog. The pets, without being major characters, are integral to the story. What's a good Stephanie Plum novel without her hauling Rex to . . . Ranger's apartment, Morelli's house, or her parents' house, not to mention all the different foods (pizza, cake, etc.) she gives Rex.

For me, pets provide more depth to the main characters.

In most of my mainstream (commercial/literary fiction), at least one or more of the characters have either a dog, a cat, or multiple dogs/cats. I guess it's fiction mirroring real life since my partner and I currently have two dogs (Jesse & James - Cocker Spaniels) and two cats (Tasmyn & Squeaky - both black, with Tasmyn having one gold eye and one green eye - seriously). So, as I write, somehow, someway, a dog or cat (multiples sometimes) pop up in my writing. The insertion of pets is never intentional on my part, it is just part of the writing process.

Lady Glamis' post made me wonder why more writers don't insert pets into their stories. I mean, almost every one I know has either a dog or a cat, or multiple dogs/cats. In fact, I have one friend who has eight (yes, eight) dogs. At one point, my partner and I had three cats and two dogs. : ) Life is never dull around our house. So, why don't more writers give their characters pets? Is it too hard? Do the writers not have pets themselves? Do they not know the joy of coming home at the end of the day and having the cat curl up in their laps? Do they not know the joy of having a crappy day, coming home, and there are the boyz (Jesse and James in my case) furiously wagging their tales in greeting? No matter how bad a day, they always make me smile. Do they (those authors who do not include pets in their writing) not know the joys (sarcasm here) of getting up at 3 AM to let the boyz out? Do they not know the joys (double dose of sarcasm here) of cleaning up the ginormous hairball that the cat just hacked up at 2 AM? Why, oh, why, can't they hack up hairballs when I'm not in bed? Why?

Speaking of hairballs, I've never made one of the fictional cats hack up a hairball at 2 AM to disturb a character's much deserved rest. Hmmmmm . . . (note to self: in editing process, include a ginormous hairball incident!!). Talk about inspiration . . . and not necessarily a good visual.

So (yes, I use that word way too often, get over it), go on over and read Lady Glamis' post, then pop back over here and tell me why you do or don't put animals in your writing.



Tess said...

Interesting thought. I should put more animals in my writing. I guess it takes all my creative power to follow the mystery line/characters/sub characters/setting...that I just don't get to the pets. I do have frogs in my finished ms (the one I am submitting -- remember, this is a middle grade novel) and it might be a good idea to go back and play that part up a bit.

Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

I agree. Since I write historicals, my characters are often calling their horses by name. However, I do need more animals, now that I think of it.

Scott said...

Tess - w/MG, I'd definitely play up the frog angle, especially if the MC is a boy, or, if a girl it would be really interesting since it falls outside of stereotypical girl behavior. If I remember correctly, my sisters thought frogs were gross, which led my brother and I into all sorts of trouble. : )

Scott said...

Jennifer - it's the little things that 'make' the characters. Pets are one of those things. : )

james oh said...

Thanks for your kind thoughts and you have an excellent point there. As pets can add color to our lives and I don't see they can't also do the same thing in our writing.

Litgirl01 said...

Woo hoo! One of my characters has a dog. It helps show his gentle nature. :-)

KLo said...

Just out of curiosity (reading the blogs of others usually gets me off on tangents, so I apologize :-)), do you ever find that a lot of authors use stereotypical pets for their characters (an agoraphobic old woman with a ton of cats roaming around, for example)? Or maybe do they go too far to try to break a stereotype? I agree with you that interactions with pets (or even their reaction to animals) make characters more real to me.

Lady Glamis said...

I agree! Pets can really show the depth of a character, and if you're looking for a way to endear your reader to your characters, that may just be the ticket.

Thanks for the link to my post. And I always think all your comments are brilliant!

In one of my next novels I plan on putting a dog in there for one of the villains. It'll be fun... :D

Scott said...

KLO - to a certain extent, I do think some authors use the stereotypical ideal of pets for their characters. For me, I take from real life. I have a friend with 8 dogs. I somehow created a character with 8 dogs. Go figure. : )

As I mentioned, Stephanie Plum has a hamster named Rex. Too funny, too real, and I look forward to the small interactions with Rex.

Scott said...

Lady Glamis - will the dog 'humanize' your villain? What type of dog? Rottweiler or Yorkie? : ) I sometimes think the choice of pets (or the type of dog/cat) for the character makes all the difference in the world.

Davin Malasarn said...

I also think pets are great, and I use pets a lot in my stories. In the context of writing, though, I think a pet should be considered as a character just like anyone else. So, if that character becomes extraneous--if it plays no other role in the story other than to be charming--I'd probably consider cutting it. But there are a lot of occasions when a pet is critical.

Scott said...

Davin - is a character stepping on the hacked up hairball charming? Yes, that unfortunately did happen to a character, but was - sadly - based on true life events. 'That' is what I try to put into my writing when a character has a pet. I'm all about the character curling up on the couch with a cat/dog. I'm also about the cleaning up the messes, the 'drat, I've got to run home at lunch and let the dog out because the wife/partner/girlfriend/whatever is out of town' and all the other, very minor I might add, cons of having a pet.

I also agree that if the pet doesn't truly serve a purpose in the writing, then the pet needs to just disappear. I've had peripheral characters disappear through the edit process when I realized they really don't serve a purpose.

Thanks for your comments.


Nocturnal Intellect said...

I so agree with you. I love Rex and everything eating dog, who despite the size and amount of ummm poop he produces, still manages to be fit into every days life of the characters.
Pets add a little extra color to the picture, and I always enjoy reads where they are included.