Thursday, March 4, 2009

From ArkansasCyndi: I am so pleased to welcome Margaret Golla to Pink Fuzzy Slipper Writers as our guest blogger today. I met Margaret in 2005 at the first writers' conference I ever attended... RWI's fall conference (Tulsa's RWA chapter). Today, I consider Margaret one of my closest writing friends. I don't let many people give me critiques of my writing, but Margaret is one of few people I listen to! She's funny, dry, and totally warped! Best roomie at RWA Nationals EVER! So without further ado, here's Margaret...


I stole borrowed this topic from Kristen Nelson’s blog Pub Rants. When I was growing up, I never had a pet, not even a fish or hamster. Dad didn’t like animals. Don’t know why, maybe it was because the house was already a zoo with nine of us kids running around. Anyhoo, when I turned sixteen I started working for a veterinarian. Someone had dropped off a Great Dane puppy for adoption, the owner lived in the apartment and he didn’t realize how large Great Dane’s got—uh, for general purposes here, Dude was a moron only an idiot would think a Dane was an apartment-sized dog—yes, I know people own Great Danes in New York City, but in Oklahoma? Come on. So, I brought Gretchen home, and she became one of the family until she died during my second semester of college.

I love animals. All animals, even the nasty wildcat that bit through my thick leather gloves. Currently, we have a small menagerie, consisting of fish, guinea pig, cat, and dog, though in the past we’ve had rabbits, hamsters, and horses.

And, yes, I do write animals in my stories. Doesn’t everyone?

Sometimes they are the invention of my imagination, like Inky, the scuttling shadow, or Ted, a Stitch-like six-legged creature from another universe. I’ve also written horses, dogs and cats into my stories. I’ve even written a picture book where the main character, a fly, has a pet aphid. Yeah, I like my critters. I think they give an additional dimension to my stories by way of characterization. The reader can learn a lot about your characters by the way they interact with our fuzzy/scaly friends.

Now, Pub Rants original blog post was basically in response to another blog post about the lack of characters in science fiction/futuristic/fantasies. I find this amazing considering how many writers DO write animals in their stories. They could be your basic dog, cat, or not:

· Jim Butcher’s Dresden series—Mister the tomcat, and Mouse, the temple dog

· Andre Norton & Robert A. Heinlein—cats

· Jayne Castle’s (Jayne Ann Krentz) Harmony series has omnivorous dust bunnies (LOVE THEM!) Uh, a word to the wise, don’t get on their wrong side

· Robin D. Owens has various critters throughout her Heart series

· Johanna Lindsey had a futuristic with saber tooth’s as pet felines

· Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series has fire lizards

And some movies:

· Star Trek’s Tribbles—cute fuzzies, but bred faster than rabbits

· Alien (#1) had an orange tabby cat Riley went back to rescue

I know I’ve missed tons of fuzzy critters, but these were the few examples I could think of off the top of my head.

So what’s your take on pets in novels? Love them? Hate them? Will always write some sort of critter into your story?

22 comments

  1. magolla // March 4, 2009 at 7:19 AM  

    GAK! Where on earth did you dig up THAT picture, Cyndi!! And I'm twisted??
    Uh, and I BORROWED those slippers from my 8 year old daughter--so what if they are still in MY closet?!
    Thank you all for inviting me to sit by the fire with a cuppa (tea, gave up coffee for Lent) and a good book.

  2. Jianne Carlo // March 4, 2009 at 8:46 AM  

    Welcome Margaret,

    Lovely piece. I think the addition of animals to a tale can enhance the mood, tone, and setting significatnly. In this technology age in which we live, having a pet can really make a difference.

    Jianne
    www.jiannecarlo.com

  3. Judy // March 4, 2009 at 9:35 AM  

    Welcome, Margaret! Loved your blog 'cause I love animals too. Our first child was a dachshund and we're on our fifth one! Dachshund that is. I like to add dogs to stories because they lend a warmth and a sense of reality to them. Pets are totally honest and their reactions to people and situations add depth to the story line, IMHO. Good luck!

  4. magolla // March 4, 2009 at 10:04 AM  

    Thanks, Jianne and Judy, for such a warm welcome!
    Both of you hit upon two different points and they are both right on the money. Animals--even the unexpected types (dust bunnies)--can add so much depth to a story.
    I'll be popping in and out all day, so keep your comments coming!

  5. Edie // March 4, 2009 at 10:52 AM  

    Margaret, cute picture of you. :)

    I'm a human mommy/slave for my cat and dog. I tend to put cats in books more, though I love dogs, too. But cats can be left alone while the hero and heroine are off doing wild and romantic things, getting in all sorts of danger. But with a dog ... Not so much.

  6. Cyrano // March 4, 2009 at 11:04 AM  

    Margaret,
    I love animals myself. I have two right now, Cyrano and Roxanne. They are my kitties and so incredibly mis-named. I've mentioned this before but Cyrano, the male should have been named Roxanne, he's the biggest fraidy cat on earth unlike his namesake. And my dear sweet Roxanne should have been named Cyrano, she's absolutely fearless.
    I love books that incorporate animals in them. I read one recently called, the Art of racing in the rain. Great book by the way and it's told from the family dog's point of view. It's truly inspiring.
    And I was just on the PFHT blog and the theme is villains, so it got me to thinking. How about Cujo? He was an animal in a book. Psychotic, bloody and full of frothy saliva, but a dog none-the-less.
    Great post Margaret.
    Happy writing to all and to all a good day!
    Tamara

  7. Arkansas Cyndi // March 4, 2009 at 11:37 AM  

    The picture came from our fall RWI conference with Deb Dixon (Who, for those who may not know, does an incredible weekend workshop)

    I do love animals in books. I agree that they bring a different depth and perspective to the story. They can also be used to show a different side to the character...maybe you have a tough guy but with his cat, he's all gooey. If anyone reads Janet Evanovitch's Plum series, we found out in the last book that Tank (big ol' tough Tank) has cats and he adores them. New (sensitive) side to Tank.

    Great topic Margaret. Thanks for blogging with us today. Have a great spring break with the kiddo and hubs! Why do I think you're going snow skiing?

  8. Toni V.S. // March 4, 2009 at 11:50 AM  

    Enjoyed the article, Cyndi. I think adding animals to a story, even if just a sentence that a character owns a pet, makes them a little more real. They also offer someone for the character to talk to, giving bits of plot, evidence of emotions, etc., without just talking to himself, and--as everyone knows--animals are very sensitive to the presence of the supernatural. I've featured animals in many of my books (not about my vampires, though. For obvious reasons, vampires don't own pets--unless you consider the humans they associate with pets!) My Bloodseek series has Rigel, Ayn, and Grif, weir-hounds who are trained to protect a warrior's back as he fights, horses Taj and Hros, Andi Talltrees has a cat named Tommy who travels to Felida with her. Sinbad calls Tommy Andi's pet housecat (but everyone knows Sin is really her felis domesticus, though he's still pretty untamed). There's also a pair of Belgians and a pinto named Chief. Runaway Brother has an arabian horse named Shazam and A Bit of the Dark World and The Doorway Opens featured Timothy, a white Persian. My WIP Blood Bay has Mr. Spock, a black cat, COnan the Barbarian, a malamute with bicolored eyes, and--last but not least--a chocolate poodle named Brad Pitt.

  9. Toni V.S. // March 4, 2009 at 11:54 AM  

    Just another thought--about Harry Dresden's cat Mister...Besides being Harry's pet--and what wizard doesn't need a cat as part of the ambience? Mister acts as a vehicle for Bob the Skull. Being bodiless, Bob is allowed, at Harry's discretion, to inhabit Mister's body, Bob is allowed out of Harry's apartment and into Chicago. Knowing jow independent cats are, wonder how Mister feels about that?

  10. magolla // March 4, 2009 at 2:04 PM  

    Hi, Edie! Thanks for visiting. I got a cat story for you.
    *warning, may be TMI*
    --Kato, my kitty now 19, used to bite my hubby's toes(pre-marriage) when we were, uh, in *bed* together, yeah, that works.
    I think he had some jealousy issues.
    Tamara--thanks for visiting. Shoot, I didn't even think about the plethora of animal villains!
    Cyndi, Cyndi, Cyndi. You DO know that I WILL get you back for posting that picture, don't you? Hm? I'm a patient gal, I can wait.
    And doesn't Stephanie have a guinea pig or something that eats cheese puffs?
    Wow, Toni, you REALLY write a lot of critters in your stories. I wrote a horse in a story and a couple of contest judges didn't understand why I didn't cut the scene and another knew exactly what I was talking about--yeah, guess who had been around horses. And, of course, the horse happened to be the catalyst in the story.
    I had forgotten about Bob taking his outside jaunts in Mister. I think he would enjoy traising around town. Cats usually stay within their territory, but when Bob took control of Mister, he got to check out other areas--and the strip joints, too!

  11. Mary Marvella // March 4, 2009 at 2:20 PM  

    Hey, Margret! Welcome, girlfriend. I always enjoy your humor, serious person that I am.

    Carol Nelson Douglas has a long standing series Midnight Louie about a Cat detective with a human sidekick detective wannabe.

    My dust bunnies adore me. I could never get rid of 'em.

    Love the slippers.

  12. Arkansas Cyndi // March 4, 2009 at 4:02 PM  

    I think if JK left dust bunnies out of her futuristic stories, readers would be SO disappointed. In her last book (which I have SOMEWHERE under all the crap I'm trying to file), the dust bunnies play a critical role!

  13. Mary Ricksen // March 4, 2009 at 4:32 PM  

    I think I will always have animals in my stories. They are such a big part of my life. My pets are my kids.
    I agree, the way people treat animals tells you so much about character. It makes a story more real.Great post.

  14. Karin Tabke // March 4, 2009 at 5:01 PM  

    as the owner of four dogs, two cats, two birds and fish, I love animals in novels! Love them!

    and egads, Margaret! how could you give coffee up for 40 days???? God would never forgive me if I did that! Coz I'd hurt someone, or many someones! sigh, i gave up white carbs. it's been a week and i've lost 2 pounds!

  15. magolla // March 4, 2009 at 5:54 PM  

    Hey, Ms. Mary! Have you named your dust bunnies yet? When you name them they become real. . .

    I love JK's dust bunnies! Cyndi, did you read Dark Light? the dust bunny is Elvis--complete with outfit!

    Thanks for joining in, Mary R.! I love how a writer can use a very small descriptive phrase-having a dog cower or growl, or a horse with gouges in its side-it shows characterization and adds so much depth to the reader's immersion in the story.

    Karin!! Glad you see you! If I brought home all the critters I wanted to the hubster would divorce me!
    --the family asked me to give coffee up, but I will admit that I've been real foggy lately--green tea just doesn't give you the jumpstart that serious caffeine does!

  16. Mona Risk // March 4, 2009 at 6:14 PM  

    Cute post, Margaret. I am not an animal person per say, although my kids managed to adopt every stray animal in the neighborhood. Over the years we had cats, german sheperd, rabbits, parakeets, frogs, skunk, and a boa. Yes, a boa. I am not joking. I screamed my head off when I found it unannounced in my son's room. But I don'y have animals in my stories.

  17. magolla // March 4, 2009 at 8:40 PM  

    Hi Mona! For a non-animal person you certainly have had your share of critters. I was in college when I touched my first snake (human and herpavore-is that the right word?) I was amazed at the satiny feel of their scales.
    Thanks for commenting!

  18. Pamela Varnado // March 4, 2009 at 9:15 PM  

    Bonjour Margaret,
    Because I love to write very dark, brooding alpha heroes, I often use an animal (dog mostly) to show a softer side to the character. This helps me to create a more rounded character.

  19. Scarlet Pumpernickel // March 4, 2009 at 11:54 PM  

    Welcome Margaret, glad to have you pull up a chair and enjoy our little parlor! I love stories with pet. My family currently belongs to a very curious blue Russia cat named Bonnie Blue and a spoiled Pomeranian who is smarter than a fifth grader!

    Scarlet

  20. magolla // March 5, 2009 at 7:24 AM  

    Bonjour Pamela! I think that is a smart move in your writing, because when you have a dark, dark hero who lives on the edge it helps ground the reader into realizing he is redeemable.

    LOL, Scarlet! Here I was thinking they were OUR pets, when I had it all wrong. We feed them, clean up after them, brush and love them (but on their terms). Yeah, we are the critter's slaves, but we all seem pretty happy to do it!

  21. Beth Trissel // March 5, 2009 at 8:22 PM  

    Love the pic and the post. I'm a big fan of critters, have plenty of my own and they find their way into most of my stories. Thanks for such a wonderful post.

  22. Nightingale // March 6, 2009 at 2:00 PM  

    I'm a horse nut. Particularly the Andalusian, which I bred and showed for years as my sole passion. Andalusian horses appear in most of my manuscripts. My favorite hero is a master horseman, and I even started a traditional romance with the hero being an Eventer and the heroine wanting to buy his horse.