One thing that connects people to one another is pets. I don’t think I need to explain cat videos, but in the same string think about how often they go viral. People talk about their pets almost as much as their kids, and most ‘pet parents’ are more than eager to share stories and pictures about their furry, scaly, feathery, etc.-y non-human household members. And even if someone doesn’t have a pet, they probably have an attachment to some sort of animal somewhere in their lives.
Now, think about a popular novel and if there is a pet and/or animal representation in it. It doesn’t have to be a major part of the story or a main character, or even a ‘real’ animal.
In my personal reading experience, the vast majority of stories I can think of have a pet or some sort of other animal presence in it. Why are pets and animals so popular in novels? The answer is in the first paragraph – its just another easy way to get a reader to connect with a story.
Its simple to connect pets with characters, particularly protagonists whose animal interactions can form a bond that draws readers into the universe. Most of the time, the animals serve as a ‘good’ element – they aid the hero, provide companionship, are fearless against the odds, and tend to make a sacrifice of some sort that further tugs at the reader’s heartstrings. Caring for an abandoned animal can open up the softer, compassionate side to an otherwise rough character. If a young character gets a kitten/puppy/guppy/bunny/ what-have-you as a child, its easy to have the character grow up and learn responsibility as the animal ages. If a character is drawn to less popular pets, it could serve as a tool to dive inter the character’s other interests. Farm animals are great ways to demonstrate a character’s hard dawn-til-dusk work ethic, and a zoo provides an opportunity for all sorts of interactions and character growth.
While it isn’t necessary to have a pet or animal in the story, it makes for an easy element to incorporate into a story where the characters need something to bond to, to keep them grounded and growing throughout the story.
Also, don’t be limited by reality – simply look at any mythology book and see how much animals or animal-like creatures played a part in forming belief systems. Mythology is not just Greek or Nordic or Egyptian, but nearly every major country has its own animal-based stories somewhere in their history.
This blog focused on animals as the ‘good’ element – which they mostly are because its hard and cruel to kill off Fluffer-schnuffs, isn’t it? Well, next time we see Fluffer-schnuffs, we may just have to…I’ll discuss more about ‘villainous’ animals in a later blog.