Animal Magnetism


Welcome back, loyal listeners! This week, we talk about how best to use animals in fiction. Audio and video casts are below, and beneath them, the show notes. Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and to subscribe via YouTube, iTunes, or your favorite podcast app. We also appreciate iTunes reviews.


Animals in Fiction

  • For our first ever “First Lines Fridays,” our winner was Mary Ruth Hughes for her line, “Father said the Scavenger Man would be coming today to clean out the privy.” Congratulations, Mary!
  • Pub term of the day: End cap

Animals in Fiction

  • Who uses them?
    • Jack London
    • Stephen King
    • Dean Koontz [Watchers.]
    • The Cat Who books by Lillian Jackson Braun.
    • Robin Cook in Coma makes use of a cocker spaniel to increase the reader’s tension and hatred of the killer.
    • Herman Melville made literary history with a whale.
    • The Yearling is the 1938 novel written by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.
    • Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
    • Rikki-Tikki-Tavi – Ruyard Kipling
  • What they can do:
    • Reveal character
      • Are they a cat person or a dog person? Why?
      • How do they treat animals? [In Stephen King’s 1979, The Dead Zone. Two years later, in an unconnected incident in Iowa, a young door to door Bible salesman named Greg Stillson, suffering emotional issues and dreaming of greatness, vindictively kicks an aggressive dog to death.]
    • Easy sympathy
      • “Save the Cat”
    • Provide a sounding board for your characters to talk to [A friend of mine was having trouble with one of the early scenes of a novel in a national park. The scene was meant to teach us about the man but too much narration was being used (it was in 3rd person). The material was needed but it didn’t move. My suggestion. Give him a dog. People talk to dogs all the time.]
      • Pets are especially helpful here
    • Constant companions
    • They have sharper senses but lack a good way of communicating it well.
    • A source of conflict (or phobias)
      • Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
      • Loves the girl, hates her dog.
      • Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?
  • How to use them:
    • Don’t kill them!
    • Well, okay, sometimes you have to. But if you do, there’s heck to pay!
    • Make them natural
    • Avoid “animal for the sake of animal”
      • If your character isn’t a dog person, don’t give them a dog
    • Be specific
      • Not a dog, but a cocker spaniel.
      • Not a cat, but a tabby.
      • Not a snake, but a rosy boa.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.