This month’s Topic: 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 in “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), and– my husband’s dog, a Chi-wienie (Chihuahua Dachshund mix). I also like to add my horses (Quarter horse, Arabian) into the mix.
Due to my allergies to cats, my info in developing feline characters comes mostly via friends and the Animal Channel. Now the unconventional pet experiences, were discovered firsthand (I did raise sons and have three younger brothers). Iguanas, horned toads & hamsters, parakeets, an Amazon parrot, a runaway (flyaway?) cocktail, all have a way of finding a place in my life and my stories.
Future adventure with pets?
Right now I seem to be fixated on goats--pygmy goats to be exact.
I simply adore baby pygmy goats. Mind you, I reside in the suburbs of Southern California. Frequently, my husband reminds me, “You cannot raise a goat in our backyard, there are zoning laws.”
Of course I know there are zoning laws J. I also know goats are herd animals. “We will need to have two goats,” I remind him.
“We?” He grunts and goes back to his ‘man-cave’.
If you look at a YouTube video and read the mentioned online article titled: Pygmy Goats. The opening hook states: You should reconsider your choice in pets if you want an animal to stay indoors with you.
Well, sugar. I really don't relish those cute little darling's chewing my maple furniture.
I did find one particular fact of interest while websurfing —(probably only humorous if you're the sole female in 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.’ Ah, the bygone days of life with teenage sons and team members.
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. I believe treatment of an 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) as most genre novels, a story 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? Do animals add depth to a story? Do you love un, or not?