October 3, 2018

Raining Cats and Dogs: Writing Pets in Books

By Audrey Wick

Pet lovers rejoice! There’s a lot to love in books when furry friends are involved. Yet as a writer, there can be challenges with choosing to include a cat, dog, or other animal in a manuscript.
So if you’ve ever wanted to write an animal into one of your projects, here are some quick questions to ask yourself as you plan.

       To what extent will the animal be physically described? Readers imagine animals differently, so deciding how much description to provide when you include a pet is an important first step toward writing the animal into the book. A two-dimensional description may work in some cases, but for animals with robust roles, writers can go bigger with more portrayal of the animal’s actions and reactions.

       To what extent will the animal be involved in the plot? In some books, animals are used as decoration, almost like arm candy for a character. They can be mentioned as one might mention the type of car a character drives or her preferred beverage brand. But when animals are used alongside the main characters, they can become part of the plot. Perhaps a dog intervenes during a park outing to force her female owner into a conversation with a sexy single. Or maybe a cat’s illness forces his owner to reconsider his own life’s journey. Ultimately, this decision will drive the pet’s inclusion.

      To what extent will the animal be personalized? Pets have strong personalities; just ask any owner! So writers shouldn’t shy away from adding that same level of individuality to the animals they write. Whether it’s a propensity for mischief, a unique sleeping habit, or an annoying trait, adding spunk to an animal’s behavior will help make the writing shine.

Whether you decide to put a pet on the page or leave your work-in-progress without an animal’s involvement, answering these questions will help you make an appropriate plan that works best for you as a writer.

Now, think about books you’ve read with animals. Do you have a favorite pet from a book? Share your most memorable pet inclusion in the comments section below. 
Audrey Wick is a women’s fiction author with Tule Publishing whose latest book, Coming Home, includes a spunky Persian cat named Bella. She is also a full-time English professor at Blinn College in Texas with writing that has appeared in college textbooks published by Cengage Learning and W. W. Norton. Audrey believes the secret to happiness includes lifelong learning and good stories—but travel and coffee help. She has journeyed to more than 20 countries and sipped coffee at every one. See photos on her website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @WickWrites. Publisher Site (where chapter one of Audrey’s books can be read for FREE):

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