Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Authors, Pay Attention To Your Animals


Morgan Mandel with Rascal
 Since I own a dog named Rascal, or should I say she owns me, I bond with animal lovers in fiction and in real life. I don't purposely seek books with animals included, but consider it an added perk if I find one. Somehow the characters with animals, even if they're villains, seem more human, as long as they treat their animals right. In Killer Career, a dog is mistreated by a villain, but the hero and heroine save it in the nick of time.

One thing I don't like is a storyline where an animal is introduced, yet the author doesn't pay attention to it. Sometimes it seems a dog is completely forgotten in the plot, and never seems to go out or get a walk. Or, a cat is never mentioned when the person comes home and the poor cat has no litterbox.

Later, conveniently the pet may be trotted out when the author remembers, oh yes, maybe I better say something about that animal I stuck in here to lure animal lovers to my book.

All I have to say about that is Authors, Pay Attention To Your Animals!

Are there any books with animals in them which you like, or have you noticed instances where authors don't pay attention to their animals?



Killer Career is 99 cents on
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31 comments:

Holly Jahangiri said...

Why, Morgan - in A Puppy, Not a Guppy, the animals get at least equal billing. And food. And treats. I don't think there was ever a guppy who got more attention. ;)

Good points, though.

Of course, I grew up with All Creatures Great and Small (and the entire series by James Herriot) and The Watchers is what got me hooked on Dean Koontz. If the pets are an afterthought, then they're just not worth including in the book at all. Kind of like real pets - if you can't be bothered to remember to feed and play with them, don't have them.

Allene said...

Just finished reading a book where the dog was horribly crippled then killed by the madman attacking the main character. It was painful to read but actually gave the scene, where the woman repeatedly stabbed and killed her attacker, more depth and passion. As a reader I really wanted him to die, slow and painful.

Marian Allen said...

If I put an animal into a book, it pulls its share of the story. :)

My FAVORITE person who uses animals (dogs) in her work is Merrill Markoe. Her WALKING IN CIRCLES BEFORE LYING DOWN is priceless!

Worst "dog" book ever: THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN.

Of course, the Cat Who... series always remembers the cats, even when they don't play a very big part in the story.

Good reminder, Morgan--Thanks!

MA

BrennaLyons said...

If you love animals, definitely read Robin Owens's Celta/Heart series. She has fams in the series, and Robin knows animals like few do. She's all over the cats preening, the puppy accidents, the young animal exuberance, the older animal tutoring the young one... In addition to cats and dogs, she has foxes, rabbits (no starring roles for rabbits yet), some animals from the world in question, and has just opened the possibility of horses as fams.

Brenna

BrennaLyons said...

And my kids absolutely adore Erin Hunter's Warrior Cats series. It's told from the cats' POV entirely. Though it's YA, my husband also enjoys it.

You could also add in the classics, like Jack London's works, Black Beauty, and so forth. And of course, I've loved The Watchers forever! My oldest read that book for the first time when she was 10 or 11 and has read it at least another dozen times since then.

I rarely use animals in my books, simply because my characters are too busy ducking bullets to properly care for one, and if a character gets kidnapped, I don't want that poor animal hungry and home alone. Grin... I do have one upcoming title where the main character has always had an affinity for the wolf-like animals on his home world. They aren't so much pets as friends.

Brenna

LK Hunsaker said...

If I've read books where an animal was mentioned and forgotten, I don't remember. ;-) I read one recently where the cat was so obnoxious, I wanted the heroine to take it out to a farm where it could be obnoxious without destruction. (I don't like obnoxious people, either, to be fair, and being sent to a farm for some good hard work could also be good for them.)

I have one where a rescued dog plays a major role in recovery, both for the dog and the girl who adopts him. I also have one with a farm dog that plays the role most farm dogs do: he matters to the hero and is well cared-for but largely independent. He is not essential to the plot. It does need to be realistic.

dm said...

Robert Parker wrote active parts for dogs into his character's lives. Pearl, beloved of Spencer and Susan, and Jesse Stone's dog, who kept his troubled master company on long lonely nights. The character's interactions with the dogs were more than shallow distractions, they helped add dimensions to the men's personalities without whacking the readers over the head with, "Hey, he is a tough guy, but sensitive."

Helen Ginger said...

I prefer books where the animal(s) is treated like another character. They're not just an occasionally walk-on and then disappear. I think they need a stronger purpose than just showing the protag's softer side.

Barbara Weitz said...

Oh, pets! Here's a passion of mine as the former owner of tropical fish, hamsters and lot of BIG dogs. My current release "Teed Up for Love" has an adorable Westie named Malcolm. He gets the ball rolling in this sometimes zany romantic comedy/mystery. Malcolm has a small supporting character role but he's important and gets the story launched and closed. I loved creating him as I've known a few Westies in my time.

My next release, due Feb 2012, features a cat named Tinkerbelle. He could care less that his owner (a child) has attached such a girly name to him. Why should he? I've given him a small but very, very important role to the plot.

The romantic suspense I'm currently working on has a Betta fish, Sampson. He's my heroine's confidant. Hmmm...do you see a trend here?

http://barbaraweitz.com

Morgan Mandel said...

I'm glad to read that many of you are going animals their due, as are the authors you read!

Morgan Mandel

victoriacorby said...

It used to be a given in certain types of women in peril books that if the heroine had a cat it always met a sticky end. I'm currently in the middle of writing a comedy crime novel and the stray dog in that plays a very important part.

Bob Sanchez said...

For a serious mystery centering around an animal,read The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time. A dog has been murdered, and only a young boy cares.

Sidney Allinson said...

This thread reminds me how pleasantly surprised I was that so many readers responded happily to "Mollie" a cavalry horse in my book, KRUGER'S GOLD: A novel of the Anglo-Boer War. www.esid.info

Comments often referred to her as a "character" in the book. 'Doubly touched me, as I named the horse in memory of "Mollie" my dear border-collie who passed away 11 years ago, but lives in my heart forever.

Juli Monroe said...

My former ferrets are finding immortality in my books, and my main character often forgets about them in the rush to defeat evil. Fortunately, they are quick to remind him when they are being neglected! I expect they will be favorite minor characters, and everything they do is based on what my dearly departed ferrets used to do to terrorize our home and attempt to destroy our (limited) sanity. :)

Sharon said...

I'll read just about any book or any story that has an animal in it! My daughter inherited my love of animals and could write her own books about them, I'm sure.

I love my cats even when they drive me crazy!

Debra St. John said...

I know zero about animals. (I'm highly allergic to most with hair/fur, so I tend to avoid all varieties...)

So when I had my hero give my heroine a puppy at the end of one of my books, I made sure it was asleep in a box! (And since it was the end of the book, I didn't need to worry about walks, training, or feeding as the story progressed!)

Carolyn J. Rose said...

Cheese Puff, a tiny orange mutt with lots of 'tude will have a big role in a book I'll publish early in 2012. I confess that I put him in for the cute and comic factor, but then developed a larger role for him because the members of my critique group liked him so much and lobbied so hard for him to turn up in almost every chapter.

Kate Dolan said...

I had a lot of fun writing a story from a dog's point of view, but now that you mention it, I had an earlier mystery series where the family dog turns out to be the culprit for one of the mysteries and I'm not sure if she ever got fed. She got walked (at least in the first book) and she got let out and she barked a few times but really...no food. No wonder she was the culprit. She was getting even for her mistreatment!

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Morgan,
I am not a pet lover, but it turns my stomach if I read a book with animal cruelty in it. I also don't like it when authors use animals as a prop to their storyline. Because I write historicals, horses always feature prominently in them.

Regards
Margaret

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Morgan,
I love books with animals in them and I write animals in my books. Having a pet, I believe, instantly raises a character's likability, plus I believe pets are intuitive and can tell the good guys from the bad guys in ways that we can't. When an animal says something si wrong, we'd better pay attention! Lots of good books mentioned here. I have one more offbeat choice to add. Jayne Castle writes about dust bunnies in her futuristic world. They are soft fluffy creatures until riled, then they are predators. In her world of Harmony, either the hero or the heroine seems to have a dust bunny and it adds an element of zest to the story.
Maggie
http://mudpiesandmagnolias.blogspot.com/

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BrennaLyons said...

LOL! Speaking of love of animals being passed through generations of families... My husband's father did animal rescue...the cases the shelters didn't believe could be saved and thought they'd have to put down. My family has a houseful of animals, including three big dogs, a nest of cats, and leopard geckos. We're also thinking about adding a snake or tree frogs to the mix. Oh...and my oldest is in training to be a vet, at the moment.

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Morgan Mandel said...

I think Maggie could be right about animals knowing good or evil people. Some of it may be picked up by body language, which my dog notices, since she's deaf.

Morgan Mandel
http://www.morganmandel.com
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

P.L. Blair said...

I really relate to your comments, Morgan.
When I started my Portals (fantasy/detective) series, I knew my main character, Kat Morales, would have animal companions in her life - because I have dogs and cats in mine.
I settled on cats (which makes for some interesting writing sessions sometimes ... references to Kat and her cats) because she lives in an apartment, and more apartments - at least in Corpus Christi, where she lives - are cat-tolerant than dog-tolerant.
Kat's two little felines not only have become central to her life, but in a couple of books (so far) have saved their human (and elven and wizard) companions.

Rebecca Stroud said...

As a "rabid" dog lover, all my books feature them. "Zellwood" and "A Three-Dog Night" are short stories; "Devil's Moon" is a suspense novel (and, yes, Devil is a dog); and "Do Unto Others" is a novella that does include animal abuse...yet it is about justice against those abusers.

So my animals are never forgotten; in fact, they are basically the "stars of the show"..:)

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