March 16, 2017

Tips for Writing Animals into Your Stories

Whether the pet is a dog or cat, I enjoy reading about the interaction of the character with the pet. Pet owners have unique responsibilities that writers should not take lightly. My protagonist in the Jenna Scali mystery series owns two cats. Those cats depend on her for their food, affection, and care. She goes about her day, but not forgetting to feed the cats or empty their litter box. Dog owners must add walking the dog or letting the animal out at certain intervals during the day. All these activities add to the main character’s personality. Does your main character enjoy walking her dog or does she feel it’s an imposition? Often in mysteries, cats and dogs can sniff out the bad guy. Their ears go back or they growl. Paying attention to these details is the job of the writer.

Here are some tips for writing animals into your stories:

Tip #1: The animal must behave like an animal. I do not enjoy books where the cat solves the mystery, that is, figures everything out and does very un-catlike things. Instead, the challenge of the writer is to allow the cat to do normal cat things but the way they do them give rise to questions that might lead to solving the mystery. Dogs might dig something up that had been hidden. Animals have many behaviors that are typical of that animal but can create suspense in thd4c191a5d9cf8cbf52138415bc2ba374e story.

Tip #2: Don’t forget about the animal. If you character has been kidnapped, that character might worry about her life and whether or not she’ll get out of the mess she’s in, but she will still worry about her dog. Who will let him out? Will he think I abandoned him? Is he hungry?

Tips #3: If the animal is threatened, make sure you’ve got good reason for it. In the e-Murderer one of Jenna’s cats is cat-napped. The killer did this because he knew how it would affect Jenna. She has a strong attachment to her cats. But, the cat escaped. Killing an animal to show the viciousness of a killer is cheap. That viciousness can be shown in other ways.

Tip #4: Animals can show a different side of a human’s behavior. You may have created an assassin who never gives killing another person a second thought. Perhaps that assassin sees a hungry dog and feeds it. Perhaps that dog follows the assassin home. Our villains, just like our heroes, are multidimensional. Animals can help show the other side of a person.

Tip #5: Please don’t ask the animal to talk or do other anthropomorphic behaviors. There are exceptions to this rule. In the book The Art of Racing in the Rain, the dog narrates the entire book. But, he’s still a dog. He thinks like us as he narrates, but he’s interested in food, in smells and in the mood of his human caretaker. The author does an amazing job of putting us in the dog’s head.

The Creation Myth (For Cat Lovers)

The Creation Myth

On the first day of creation, God created the cat.

On the second day, God created man to serve the cat.

On the third day, God created all the animals of the earth to serve as potential food for the cat.895b472bfe01c782a93fddbeddabb9af

On the fourth day, God created honest toil so that man could labor for the good of the cat.

On the fifth day, God created the sparkle ball so that the cat might or might not play with it.

On the sixth day, God created veterinary science to keep the cat healthy and the man broke.

On the seventh day, God tried to rest, but he had to scoop the litter box.

 

The Cat’s Meow–Cozy Mystery for Cat Lovers–Mew is for Murder

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 This is the first in the Theda Krakow series. Theda is a freelance journalist. She’s also a cat lover and owner. The story is about Theda’s discovery of the body of a “cat” lady. How did the cat lady die? What will happen to her cats? And, is there really a hidden treasure?

She is also a young woman with man problems. She’s recently broken up with her boyfriend. Living in Cambridge in an old part of the town, she enjoys frequenting the music haunts. There she meets a potential man. She’s attracted to him, but she’s also attracted to a nice looking policeman. These distractions plus the addition of a new kitten to her household, hold the reader’s interest.

Krakow makes new friends and follows new leads until she runs into the path of a killer. One reviewer wrote that they had no trouble figuring out the killer. I, on the other hand, got a bit fooled. Will you? Try it and see.

I don’t like books where cats do super-cat things, like talk, point, or act un-catlike. Clearly Simon is a cat lover and owner. The book has a satisfying ending for everyone involved including the many felines.

I’m anxious to read the second installment in this series–Several are out and ready for my consumption.

If you like a good mystery, try The Clock Strikes Midnight. We are having a Facebook Launch Party on 11/25, the release date from 3pm to 4pm ET. Join us and win lots of prizes including the tote and pen and notebook below.

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Click to join us for the Facebook Launch Party