Today's Topic: Have you used pets or other animals in your stories? What function do they perform in the story? Do they need to have a function? Can they be a character?
Since I am an animal lover and owner of a multitude of pets (exotic, barnyard, and typical suburban) at various times during my life, it only goes to reason that I will have them peppering my short stories, novellas, and novels. My Rodeo Romance Series (understandably) incorporates a cast of horses, sheep, cattle, dogs, cats, etc. Some of these animals only have Cameo roles, while others are characters in their own right.
My Fun & Sassy Fantasy Series also features a pet as a main character in each story line. Gertie, a pet Teddy-Bear Hamster, is Zombie Meredith’s BF is “Here Today, Zombie Tomorrow”. “Brede” Rodeo Romance, Book 2 features a horse and cattle dog. “Lynx” Rodeo Romance, Book 1, features the hero’s horse named Texas. The next book in my series, “Rand” Rodeo Romance, Book 3 features a poodle who belongs to the heroine. Rand’s interaction with this very unrodeo-like dog is priceless!
For realistic purposes I select animals/breeds that I either have owned, or have working personal knowledge (chickens, turkeys, quail, pheasant, pigs, sheep— bred for. . .well, dinner during my rural days). My dogs: Greyhound (my favorite & a rescue) Poodle (AKC champion pedigree), Shepherds, Collie, Weimaraner and– my husband’s dog, a Chi-wienie (Chihuahua Dachshund mix). I also like to add my horses (Quarter horse, Arabian, and a Paint –a retired rodeo barrel racer) into the mix. Due to my allergies to cats, my info comes mostly via friends and the Animal Channel. Now the unconventional pet experiences, were learned firsthand (I did raise sons and have 3 younger brothers). Pet mice, geckos, iguanas, horned toads & lizards, hamsters, parakeets, an Amazon parrot, finches, a runaway cockatiel, and canary have a way of finding a place in my life and my stories.
Future adventure with pets? Probably.
I simply adore baby pygmy goats. Mind you, I reside in the quirky suburbs of Southern California. Therefore, my husband reminds me, often. “You cannot raise a goat in our backyard, there are zoning laws.”
Of course I know there are zoning laws. I also know goats are herd animals. “We will need to have two goats,” I say him.
“We?” He grunts and goes to his ‘man-cave’.
I watched a YouTube video and read an online article titled: Pigmy Goats. With the opening hook: You should reconsider your choice in pets if you want an animal to stay indoors with you.
One fact was of particular interest, and brought back memories of living in an all-male household: ‘Goats are messy eaters too, pulling feed out of buckets and leaving it on the floor. Once it’s trampled, they really don’t want to touch it.’
Ummm. Obviously, I am not alone in my secret desire to own one of those adorable little goats. However, since have zero desire to relocate or have two goats head-butting or chewing my maple dinning room set or my wood flooring, I guess I’ll settle for a petting zoo outing with my three-year old grandson.
While my characters do not always have pet, my characters have often had a pet during childhood, interact with an animal, or (YA stories) would like a pet.
Why, do I believe animals are important to a story line?
It is a way to show character, good and bad.
How people treat animals will give a reader insight into my main character, or my villain. Treatment of animal hints at how he/she will treat a vulnerable person (child/spouse). If the hero seems uncaring and selfish to outsiders, give the heroine a view into an unguarded moment he shares with an injured puppy, or his care of his horse. His truck may be battered and dirty, but his horse is well groomed, fed, and sheltered each night.
However, my animals need to have a purpose. Sometimes it may only be comic relief, or a confidant in a YA novel, but unless it is a Cameo role (or red herring), my animals have a personality and a place in the storyline.
Who doesn’t remember, “Call of the Wild”, “Old Yeller”, “Misty of Chincoteague”?
I believe pets, can enrich a story—my novels, as are (in my opinion) most genre novels, are about life and the human need for love and companionship.
Not every novel calls for an animal to part of the story.
Not every person wishes to be responsible for a pet.
I did a bit of research and discovered these stats (the info about fish surprised me).
*Stats: 2014, 83.2 million dogs live in U.S. households, 95.5 million freshwater fish live in U.S. household, and 85.8 million cats live in U.S. households.
So, what do you think? How do you feel?
As a reader, do you enjoy pets in a storyline? Do you look for authors who have a series you know will feature a heroine with a pet(s)?
Please add a comment with your opinion beneath this blog article.