Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Wednesday, 17 July 2013

ARE YOU A CAT OR A DOG PERSON?

'But there aren't any dogs in your stories!' a friend wailed at me. 'Or any cats for that matter.' Well, that wasn't entirely true because I did once have a short story published where a missing dog was instrumental in repairing a relationship between step-father and step-daughter. But the romance I wrote about how a cat got girl to meet boy and live happily ever after got me a rap over the knuckles from my, then, agent -'An absolute no-no, Linda. Never write another'. And I haven't. Certainly no animals - pet or wild - appear in any of my novels. Anna Sewell, of course, changed how we think about animals for all time when she wrote Black Beauty from the horse's point of view. Elizabeth Taylor probably eclipsed the horse for some, but the book - and the film - has stood the test of time.
And then there was Argos - not, not the cheapo retail outlet! - the dog of Odysseus who was the only one to recognise his owner after a twenty year absence. Poor Argos then died, but has remained a symbol of fidelity and love. I am, most definitely, a cat person, although I don't own one. That said,a neighbour's Bengal seems to think it lives here most of the time.
I can't think of a single book I've read in recent times where a pet of any sort has been crucial to the story. Is it because there are none? Or few.... There is, of course The Hound of Baservilles, but hey, that's crime not romance....and who would want a dog like that around? I've never owned a dog. I know there are those who think I must be a sad person but I simply don't want the tie that comes with dog-ownership - neighbours are happy to feed cats when one goes away but most draw the line at daily dog-walking. I do have a grand-dog, Guinness - my son's dog - so if ever I get the urge to write a dog into a novel I have some handy hands-on research. Write about what you know, is a good maxim, so perhaps because I know so little about animals - and pets - is the reason they don't feature in my fiction. Do you write animals - wild or domesticated - into your fiction? I'd love to know.

11 comments:

  1. Ooh, you've got me thinking now, Linda. I don't have any pets in my work but I do know the power of an animal in a story. I cried buckets over Black Beauty and when I gave it to my son to read - knowing I could not read it aloud to him or I'd weep all over again - he was distraught I'd given him something so sad. And there's Greyfriars Bobby about the dog who refused to leave his master's grave. As for The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall, the only think I can remember from reading that many hundreds of years ago, was being terribly upset when she had to shoot her horse. Maybe that's why I don't write animals into my fiction - it would be far too upsetting if anything happened to them.

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    1. REading your reply I'm wondering if, as writers, we are concentrating hard on the emtion between human characeters - especially in a romance of whatever heat! - that we don't think about the animal connection???
      I knew you would all find references to animals in fiction.....clever lot!

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  2. I can't help disagreeing! I think pets add a further dimension to characters - and offer opportunities for more action and interaction, plus some plot possibilities too. My last hero, Ibsen Brown, had a brown Labrador, who signalled his presence before he appeared and demanded attention at delicate moments.

    I'm sure Jennifer will have comments on this post!

    Thanks Linda.

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    1. Jenny, you know me so well!

      Fascinating post, Linda. I have to confess - I almost always have a cat in there - usually more than one. And I suppose I pretend that they're crucial to the plot, although if I tried most plots would somehow work without.

      Not that I do try. In my cupboard I have the umpteenth draft of a novel in which a cat played a crucial part. The plot has changed so much that the cat is now a complete irrelevance, to the point at which I can barely remember why he was there - but if I ever dust it down, you can bet your life the cat's there!

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    2. So, a cat person then, Jennifer??? I wasn't really thinking of novels where cats/dogs/horses/donkeys are crucial to the plot, but where they - perhaps - add another dimension to the hero's/heroine's character......hmmmm, wondering now if I can get an animal into wip....hmmmm.

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    3. Ah, Jenny, but that's what blogs are for....to disagree as much as to agree. Chocolate lab......we have a visiting one next door to us here - and what a character! Might have to fit him in now....:)

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  3. I can only think of one novel I have written that didn't have animals in it. For some reason I'm particularly fond of dogs in books, like Jenny I htink they help give an insight into the owner's character. In real life, however, I'm mostly a cat person, although you wouldn't necessarily know it - we have 4 dogs and 3 cats in this house!

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    1. Oh my, full house chez Stwart, then? Not sure what it says about my character - as opposed to a character's character if you know what I mean - that I am not,at the end of the day, a pet person.....hmm, am I going to be excommunicated???

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    2. Of course not. As long as you're a writer person!

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  4. I particularly like wild animals and used an eagle as a fantasy/allegorical element in my first tween book. Only domestic animals I've used are a dog and cat in one WIP - I hadn't planned them, they suddenly appeared in the story but I'm leaving them there!

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    1. Wild animals? Now there's a thought! We have a fox who often sits on our top lawn sunning himself, raises an ear if I go out there (at a distance) to hang out washing, but otherwise ignores us all. And badgers who have beaten a very difined path over the years to get at worms in our bottom law, digging it over from time to time, but do no other damage and which we rarely see. Of course there is Kes......but I was thinking more animals in, say, an historical romance or a hot contemporary....thinking cap on now!

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