By Betty Thomason Owens
Why would we choose to write about pets? These (usually) quadruped members of our families add so much to our lives and have become wildly popular. Why not write about them? Stroll around any bookstore or library and I guarantee you will find books about animals/pets. I’ve found several books written from the animal’s POV. Seems like a stretch, but could be entertaining, which is probably the point. Those of you who are writers may often include a pet in your stories. Why? Because most of us have them. To describe a family situation without some sort of pet is almost un-American.
An odd sort of person who lives down the hall and has not one—not two—but a dozen cats in her tiny apartment might make an interesting side character. You’d just have to provide the occasional glimpse of the character, maybe a peek at the many cats. You’d have the smell and the noise to round out your sensory points. Odd character could be an ugly old crone or a sweetly gentle octogenarian.
One of my absolute favorite movies includes several dogs owned by an old Italian man. In an incredibly cute and funny scene, he’s walking all the dogs under a gorgeous moon. Care to venture a guess? Yes, it’s the one with Cher and Nicolas Cage: Moonstruck. The dogs add so much to that movie. I’m still smiling at the memory.
There are dogs and there are cats and then there are…horses. Beautiful animals! Horses can be as loyal and loving as any dog. They can also be mean and/or dangerous (as can dogs). Horses figure highly in the movie industry, from National Velvet to War Horse. Who didn’t fall in love with that wonderful horse in War Horse? These are also considered pets and they can become as much a part of our life as any dog or cat, but they usually eat more and require a lot more care. And the pooper-scoopers are a lot bigger (been there…).
When writing a family style story, you want to appeal to everyone, so why not include an animal and give it humanlike characteristics. Animals tend to communicate very well through actions and eye-contact. Have you ever been stared down by a cat? I have. Have you ever been licked by a cow? That has also happened to me. I mothered a couple of calves in my youth. So cute as calves, they’re just plain scary at a thousand pounds plus, especially when they’re running at you in the pasture. They come to a dead stop directly in front of you and toss their heads. “Just kidding—snort!” Yes, they are actually quite the kidders. I’ve had my heart stop on several occasions.
When writing their characters, you can use some of the same principles as when writing human characters. They have names, hair and eye color, height and weight, distinct voices, and oh yes, instinct. Their natural instincts can get them into a lot of trouble or deliver them to hero status. They can scare off a burglar or bite the hand that feeds them. An animal can be gentled in much the same way your heroine gentles her man. And a woman’s immediate rapport with a guy’s dog is akin to a guy’s immediate affinity with a woman’s child. Oh yes, that’s great romance.
And how much fun would it be to write a Milo and Otis-type story? One of childhood’s great adventures (my guys loved it). So next time you’re mulling over a list of characters for your WIP or you want to pump-up the humor in a story, you might consider adding a pet or two into the mix. Don’t hack the job though, as they can take away or distract from the plot. It’s a little like scratch cooking. You have to know how much to sprinkle in and sometimes it’s ok to add more sugar.
In looking over our articles this month, I thought you cat owners out there might be feeling slighted, so here’s some cuteness to tickle your funny bone at Dontpkethebear.com. These pictures prove there are some pretty clever cats out there.
If you have a few minutes, complete the prompt below or send us a comment to take part in this month’s contest. Thanks!
Friday Prompt: Numb and shaken, Doug stared at the stirrup. He’d seen this done, but had never actually ridden one of these critters. But his buddy needed help, and the horse was the quickest and best solution. So he sucked in a deep breath, grabbed hold of the pommel, stuck the toe of his boot in the stirrup, and…