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NaNoWriMo Day 19 - Writing Animals

Tuesday 19th November - Writing Animals

Most of my books feature an animal or two because, for the most part, we all have some sort of interaction with animals. Sometimes it's as a pet, sometimes in a working capacity, sometimes just admiring them in nature. Because so many of us have formed bonds with animals, you can't miss them out of your writing.

Human, animal, or something other?
Our relationship with animals make them
perfect characters.

The most important thing to remember is that animals are individuals as much as humans. There are certain traits applied to certain animals, many accurate, some unjustly awarded. But it's always good to throw a few oddities into a story. Look at Mowgli being raised by wolves, and yet in fairy tales we're told wolves are scary and threatening. As people's relationship with nature changes, our perception of it changes, too.

Take my dog, Orlando, as an example... He's a typical spaniel. He never stops on walks; he's always far more interested in smells than anything else (except possibly balls in motion); he chases cats; he's food motivated. Typical spaniel. BUT... when people see a spaniel, they see a family dog who they can pet immediately. There have been a couple of close calls on this one! Orlando is not a dog for petting by anyone but a select few. Maybe not a typical spaniel.

Here are a few examples of animals I've written, and a few ways in which they've been built into unique characters:

  1. Kindarn - A horse - Let's face it, if you're writing High Fantasy a horse is always worthy of its own name and characteristics. Choosing its colour, height and temperament will tell your readers everything they need to know about the person who rides it. And I don't care what anyone says, cliches in High Fantasy exist for a reason, if you break them all, you're probably not writing High Fantasy anymore.
  2. Gulliver - A dog - And, surprise, surprise! he's a spaniel. Gulliver is in one of my Historical Fiction novels, and named after Jonathan Swift's most famous character. The naming process for a pet is not a decision which is made in an instant. Taking into account the time and placing, I gave this dog his name and his role in the family.
  3. The Eile - A whole menagerie! - In Historical Fantasy these two factors combine. You have to take on board the understanding which existed at the time in relation to these animals, as well as looking at what they embody in the human pschye.
  4. Ysolde - A squirrel - In my 2019 NaNoWriMo project, a modern day mystery, Ysolde represents the freedom both main characters are searching for, although the idea of freedom is very different for the two characters. Her name is significant as she's one half of a partnership torn apart. She's far from tame, and never interacts with the human characters beyond taking the food they leave out.
The list goes on...

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