It's National Dog day! And it got me thinking about the importance of adding pets to our stories.
Do you do this?
I ALWAYS do. My characters always have pets, usually dogs, but sometimes parrots, cats, ferrets, and fish. The reason is not just for the cute factor but because it's CHARACTER TELLING--or SHOWING.
Think about it. Ever see someone walking their dog? They look like the dog and or you just know immediately they are owner and pet because they fit?
I have a terrier, see the above photo. It takes a special kind of dog mom to have a terrier in their lives as they are demanding, needy, stubborn, wilful and can be a pain the arse. Westies also need a lot of activity. This says a lot about me, who I am as a person!
So who I am based on my dog?
I'm athletic & active. I have no movement limitations. I like challenges, I can handle the high maintenance dog, I can be stubborn, and also loving-just like a Westie.
When I say that a character has 6 cats--what do you think of? Crazy cat lady? Sure, but beyond that. Loving, affectionate, possibly lonely, caring, and kind.
It's important that if you have a dog in your story that he/she is there for a reason though, not just as an accessory. He/she doesn't have to drive the story forward but be purposeful in that choice.
Here is an example from a movie.
YOU'VE GOT MAIL. Joe Fox has a dog named Brinkly-he talks about this dog in his chats with Kathleen and we see him as a good person because of the way he takes care of his dog. We know he's kind, loving, and has a good heart. His ruthless father? No pets-no surprise.
Most recently a photo of presidential candidate Joe Biden and his wife Jill popped up on social media with their dog. That shows us who they are as people.
In the romantic comedy WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING Peter's girlfriend has bought him a cat-his brother knows nothing of this, that shows that Peters ultimately wants to please others but isn't an animal person.
Start watching movies and reading books and look for the pets and take notes if you need to but the pets/furbabies are always character telling.
You can also make the pet the star of the story! More on that later.
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