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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Friday, August 28, 2009

Q&A Friday

Alfred Hitchcock is attributed as saying, "Never act with children or animals," due to their propensity for stealing a scene. Scene stealing animals can be a problem for writers as well as for actors and directors.

What are some other challenges in writing a story featuring an animal? How can you overcome them?



At 11:36 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

I think one of the problems is anthropomorphizing the pet or animal so that they take on the characteristics of people more than the animals they are. I like to see animals portrayed realistically, acting like real animals and pets, not like a cartoon character.

The test, I think, is to say, "Would an animal really do that?" If so, then keep it in!

At 1:23 PM, Blogger Mo H said...

Thanks for that tip, Diane!

At 6:35 PM, Blogger Merrillee said...

I tend not to use animals in my stories. I have one story that takes place on a farm, so naturally there are animals. There are a couple of pet kittens in that story.

At 7:46 PM, Blogger Judy said...

That picture is just way too cute! It drives me crazy when they have a pet in the story, and then it seems to magically disappear at the right moment, and then reappear, if you know what I mean. I read one a bit ago where the owner ended up not going home. There was no doggy door. What did that poor dog do? Magically, there was no mess, though the owner had been gone for about 24 hours, which says more about the author than the characters. Talk about the author invading the story. I was so worried about the dog that I no longer cared what happened to the characters. Better to have no animals than to conveniently ignore the responsibility involved with them simply because it doesn't fit the plot line.

At 7:46 AM, Blogger Terry Odell said...

When Danger Calls has BOTH a five-year-old child AND a dog. I did have to rein them in when they were on the page. But they were vital for the plot. I hate sickly-sweet, precocious kids, and tried to make sure Molly behaved in more typical kid fashion.

The dog was perhaps more difficult, since he had some vital tasks to perform in the book, and he didn't actually belong to the hero, but rather the hero's father. I might have stretched things a bit with Wolf's ability to sense that the hero came to him troubled, but I think animals do have a way of knowing 'something's wrong.'

(If you'd like to meet Wolf, the first chapter of When Danger Calls is on my website

I've got cats in my Sarah & Randy books, but they seemed much easier to work with. Being independent creatures, they went off by themselves unless I needed them.

At 1:06 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

I do much more than anthropomorphize my animals, Diane, but then I don't think that[s what you have in mind. Since I'm writing them in paranormal historicals and the people also have un-human traits, I think it's fair enough to give the animals an extra boost too.

But for straighter historicals, yes, I agree. I like my animals to behave like what they are, not like people.

At 8:04 PM, Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

Great tip O Divine One. While I know animals have personalities (if you don't believe it ask every vet who has every treated Frodo - they say he has the personality of Hannibal Lechter!) I need to remember that their personality does NOT need to be on show on the page!

At 9:13 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

If the intent is use animals in an anthropormorphized way, like in a Disney cartoon or a paranormal, that's different. But if you are writing about the "real" world, whether it be historical or contemporary, then I like for animals to act like real animals.

That does include animals providing a story function, as Merrillee has done. If an animal really could do it (and animals have done amazing things, like a parrot recently using the word "baby" for the first time to alert his master that the baby was choking-really happened), then I'll buy it. And I'll buy distinct personalities in the animals. Frodo could be a character in a book, O Doggie One. As long as they are stay in that realm of possibilities.


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