Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Today I'm thinking about animals in fiction.

A long time ago we had a discussion on Books and Writers about dogs, and how every novel seemed to have a dog in it somewhere.

TMT has 2 dogs, look-alikes, which is slightly important for the plot. The second dog reminds the MC of the first, and home, thus allowing for reflection; he supplies a needed distraction to allow a conversation to take place; and he smooths over the introduction of a male MC. And at the end, the reappearance of Dog 1 emphasizes the complete circle.

The dogs also provide one of the usual "pet" effects: a softening of the MC, allowing her to show affection and care for an animal as a precursor of what she'll do for other people later. I think this is a fairly common reason to have an animal in a book, actually. With an animal, particularly a pet, you can show sides of your character that normally might be hidden. You can make them vulnerable, or human--or, with a different kind of "pet", even vicious and vengeful. You can make an extra connection to the reader.

Dog 2 came first in TMT, very very early on. In fact, Dog 2 was the first moment, in my early days of writing, when I did not control the plot. My MC was walking down a medieval street, off on her own (my) business, and suddenly there was a DOG! I had no idea at the time what had happened (Why is there a dog? I didn't plan for a dog!), but it was just the first instance of the characters taking over, for their own reasons. Usually much better than mine.

So let's try for some comments today. Is there a dog in your WIP? Or a cat? (A pet horse? An iguana?) If there is, what purpose does he/she serve?

Medieval Word of the Day: lykewake: The watch kept at night over a dead body.


Vicki Pettersson said...

Funny, when I read this yesterday I had just come from PBW's site, and she had a post on this very subject: http://pbackwriter.blogspot.com/2006/06/apocalypse-now.html#links

As for me, yes on cats and dogs, though they're directly tied to plot points so I can't tell you what their purposes are. {eg}

Susan Adrian said...


Thanks for the link! That is odd.

As to the plot points? Grrr. {g}


Julie K said...


Boy, I can't wait to read TMT [g]!!

I've got a dog introduced in the first chapter, but haven't really done too much more with him. I have a few ideas - but I think he'll mostly be a protector of sorts, maybe a source of comfort, too - and thereby, a source of bravery for my poor Katie [g].

I think he'll also serve as a commonality between Katie and my other MC, Ben...as they come from two very different backgrounds, but can bond over the pet.


Susan Adrian said...


That's right, I remember your dog!

I think dogs are even MORE common in YA--perhaps because often the kids end up feeling isolated? They can share their problems with a pet, and thus the reader, and yet still be isolated from adults...


Julie K said...

I think so, too - it's a good way to get some internal dialogue out and into the open, while not having the child interact with a grown-up.

I'm hoping to work a cat or two into the story, too - mostly to soften the mother character. That's a little tid-bit from my own grandmother - she was a shapr woman, but she's a sucker for a nice kitten [g].