Monday, August 10, 2009

Characters with Pets

Do your characters have pets? Janet Evanovich’s character Stephanie Plum has a hamster in that series. I have to thank her for that. I often listen to the audio version of her books while I’m working out at the gym. Well, hearing all about Rex, the hamster, brought out the kid in me. I had to have a hamster, too.

Now, this need didn’t come out of the blue. I grew up with teddy bear hamsters. Heck, I’ve probably owned a total of 20 or more of the little furry critters with a maximum of three at one time. And now, I have another one.

As for my own work, I have yet to include a pet in a story. When a character doesn’t have an animal to care for, she can be anywhere anytime. But, how would the readers react if my heroine is kidnapped and her dog is alone in the house? Who will let him out? What if he runs out of food or water? The next thing you know, the reader is more concerned with the pet than the heroine. Not good.

What about your stories? Do they have any pets in them? How did this work for you? Have you read many novels where the main characters owned pets? How did the author handle the situation?

24 comments:

  1. My current manuscript has a bloodhound. It works well since the pet plays an intricate part in furthering the plot at certain scenes.

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  2. Interesting post! I had four hamsters as I grew up. And a frog. And snakes. A turtle. A cat. A dog. Yeah, you get the idea... I lived in a zoo.

    I had a set of secondary characters in my first book that had pets, but I'm going to be cutting them out of the book, so there goes that!

    My characters in my second book, Monarch, have pets. Kind of. Butterflies. ;)

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  3. Oh, and those characters who have butterflies have quite the interesting journey caring for them. Or saving them, to put it more correctly.

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  4. I am planning on writing a book where the main character has a parrot, but parrots are a LOT of work, so it's a big deal to add this into a story, and I haven't found the right vehicle for it yet. I'd also love to get chinchillas and ferrets into a story sometime. (Yes, I've owned all of these.)

    In the novel I have out querying, the MC's parents have a French bulldog, and one of her friends owns a cat.

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  5. I feel the same way! I've always had pets and love animals - but none of my characters have ever had a pet. What happens when that person goes to college or on a trip? I gotta worry about taking care of a pet, too!

    L. Diane Wolfe “Spunk On A Stick”
    www.circleoffriendsbooks.blogspot.com
    www.spunkonastick.net
    www.thecircleoffriends.net

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  6. I have a habit of including cats in my stories, some way or another. I'd like to include other pets, but it's hard when I have the characters jaunting all over the place... and like CKHB said, it can be difficult to get a parrot or chinchilla sitter, for example. But I really should try to include them... animals are one of "my" things... I think you've inspired me. I'm going to change my MC's pet in my current WIP... I'm thinking... skinny pig!

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  7. In a previous novel, my hero was a equine farmer. So, he was tied to his farm in many ways.

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  8. I think that using pets allows you to artfully show another side of your characters which will help them be more well rounded and also relate positively to your readers who often consider their pets to be vital to their lives.

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  9. I haven't included a pet yet, although I'm toying around with the possibility for my next novel. I think it can be done, but we have to be careful about being cliche! And BTW, my girls have two hamsters and love them!

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  10. One of my MC's has a Chihuahua....but she plays a very small part as very early in the book the apartment goes up in flames...and sadly...poor Cha Cha doesn't make it :(

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  11. Mine always have pets, for one because I love dogs, but it also provides comic relief. My first book's mc had a large dog that was the funniest character in there. She was based off my best friend's dog.

    My current book has a dog as well, but not so front-and-center. This one is just there when I need the break or a laugh.

    Also Jennifer Weiner's books usually have a pet as well. Good in Bed had a rat terrier based on her real life dog.

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  12. True, there are certain situations in which pet ownership just won’t fit the story, but there are plenty of times when it helps give color to a character. I think how we interact with pets can gives a bit of insight into a personality. I’ve seen lots of authors use them.
    Colleen Coble has built a lot of her stories around search and rescue dogs or guide dogs and Mindy Starns Clark has had dog subplots in several of her books.
    Personally, with the manuscript I’m working on at the moment, my hero is having a very hard time getting along with his parents unruly beagle (who resembles my brother’s dog very closely).

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  13. Pets have always featured in my stories and, to a large extent, have always informed my characters' personalities. I love animals, so it's a natural extension of that to write about them. The challenge is always to make certain the pets are pertinent and not just useless detail.

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  15. I was about to say, no, I have no characters with pets. But then I realized I DO! My first book, Jenny gets a cat dumped on her, a Miss Fiona, who she HATES, but ends up liking her in the end.

    I'm not a HUGE pet person, so you wont' find them in all my books. And even with the cat, I had to go back and write her in several times because I kept forgetting about her. But I like her there.

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  16. No pets in my WIP. Just a couple of horses they ride. (medieval time period) They do have to tend to them some, but not all that attached to them.

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  17. In the book I'm editing, the couple has a parrot. It mimics them and gives the heroine a hard time. I love it.

    In my current WIP, the hero has a Great Dane who is his best companion.

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  18. I have a dog so from time to time I end up putting a dog in my stories...but very rarely. I guess it's just one of those things we forget. I think I'm going to let the character in my current WIP go buy a new dog.

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  19. The manuscript I wrote last year does have a main character with a pet. A boxer, just like me. LOL.

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  20. I can't imagine not including pets in my stories. I suppose it's the product of being run by three cats for years. It might also depend on which sorts of pets. If you have dogs, they need more care and maintenance immediately; but a cat can be left to his own devices for several days or even a week if there is enough food and water available.

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  21. It's nice to see so many animal lovers and many of you have included pets in your stories. Maybe I can add one to my next book.

    Lynnette Labelle
    http://lynnettelabelle.blogspot.com

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  22. My current WIP has both a dog and a cat for the heroine's pets...and both provided some excellent comic relief. They also provide a nice pivot point in a relationship when one person isn't so much of a "pet person" as the other.

    I have dogs, a gecko, toads & fish...and have had cats, so writing about the in's & out's of pet care just seems like natural life to me. :-)

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  23. My MC, Sadie, has a dog, Franklin. She lives by herself, so he gives her someone to talk to here and there. Plus a walk with Franklin provides a meet-cute with Sadie's love interest!

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