Friday, April 1, 2011

Animal as Secondary Characters

Today begins the April journey of the A to Z Blogfest. For the leader of the alphabet army, the letter A, I have chosen to write about animals as characters or part of our characters lives. 

Animals can add another layer to a story. I don’t mean the talking ones from Beverley Hills Chihuahua or cartoons like Mickey Mouse or Thundercats .  (Damn, I think I just dated myself there.)

I’m referring to a beloved companion or pet. The Lone Ranger had Silver the horse, Sonny Crockett had Elvis the alligator (Miami Vice), Roscoe P. Coltrane had Flash the dog (Dukes of Hazzard).

Even tough Beretta had a cockatoo. All of these critters didn’t tell their owners Timmy was stuck in the well, sing a song or even wear cute lil outfits. But they did enhance the stories they were in.

A pet can allow you to show another side of your characters personality. A softer side of a tough guy for example.  Having an animal they care for lets the reader see that there’s something under that hard shell.

The hero in the story Rose and I are working on has a cat. The orange tabby follows him wherever he goes, is his best friend. Sylvester, the cat, gives us the chance to let Ethan speak his thoughts instead of internalizing them. It allows him to share parts of himself or personality that otherwise might be more hidden from the reader. Ethan has been cut off from the world in very big way. Sylvester has become his connection to it.

Another great pet character example would be Steven King’s frightening tale Pet Sematary. *shivers ….  This is one creepy tail. You look at your cat or dog in a whole new way after reading this one.

The animals are part of the story as loving adored pets who come back as some kind of undead creatures. They become some very frightening characters that move the story. With out uttering a word, a mud covered, slightly decayed kitty can make a powerful statement in a scene.

Animals can distress a scene. If you need a moment of relief you can always have Fido do something cute or the kid’s hamster get loose.  They can be not so friendly also. Rex might turn on his owner in a horror story. Oh has a favorite of your human secondary characters he likes to use for a chew toy.

A bird such as a parrot or cockatoo that has the ability to talk might repeat a word or phrase they’ve heard earlier in a scene or story. The secret is out or a clue is reviled. Could even just be a comedic or embarrassing moment for the character. 

Pets can comfort in a time of need, come to the rescue, or just be a calming influence in a frustrating moment. Just as in real life.

While a talking dog is pretty cool, they don’t always fit into a story.  A cute fuzzy kitten or talkative parrot might be the perfect fit to add some spice of life to your character’s tale.

Don't forget to head over to Tessa's Blurb and vote for Canvas in The Nature of Magic Blogfest. You can read Canvas here then head over to my Sis in heart and writing partner Rose's blog for another part of the story. :) Thanks for reading and your support! 

Premier Pet Busy Buddy Twist 'N Treat Dog Toy, Small Pet Sematary (Special Collector's Edition)


li said...

I use them on occasion to add a little humour :) Innovative post.

Michelle Teacress said...

You've made some excellent points. I love animals in books, and there seems to be a flux of books specifically about animals lately (I'm thinking Oogy).

I'm visiting via the A-Z hop. Nice to meet you. I'm #881 on the list. :)

Jaydee Morgan said...

Even though I have a personal zoo of pets, I've never incorporated any in my writing. You make some good points. I'll have to keep them in mind and possibly add an animal/pet into a story sometime.

Julia Smith said...

As a dog owner, I adore animal secondary characters. In historicals, it always shines through when the writer has real affinity for horses and is always appreciated by this reader.

A Piece of My Mind

Suzie said...

They also make some photos make powerful statements. Kitten in a soldiers helmet, police dog, rescue dog. You've all seen harsh photos made soft & powerful by the animal in it.

Great blog & I think we're the same age LOL

Dawn M. Hamsher said...

Thank you for your post! I appreciated seeing this about animals in stories. I have a dog in my WIP and I really think he adds a lot to the "feel" of the story...if that makes sense.

Oak Lawn Lady said...

Love your "A" for animals.Great idea We've always had cats and dogs, too.
I found you with the 'surprise me' button and am a new follower.
I'd love for you to check out my take on the April Challenge, comment and follow, if you'd like.
I'm at:

Kathy at oak Lawn Image