I realize my title is a bit vague, but I wasn’t referring to the pets of writers, but rather the pros and cons of including pets in our stories. I’m a big animal/pet lover, so my first inclination is to give any stable characters some sort of pet. It’s just my own personal “thing” – right or wrong, in my fictional world stable characters have pets.
Pets can add a lot to a story, but they can make it ten times more difficult to write, in my opinion. When I decide to give a character a pet, not only do I need to have all the care info for that particular animal, but I have to work it seamlessly into the character’s days/actions. If a pet appears in the beginning, the thread must be continued all the way through, otherwise readers are left hanging and wondering what on earth happened to the pet. I didn’t learn that as a writer – I learned it as a reader who always wondered what happened to the dog or cat or rabbit when things got chaotic. Pets don’t just “disappear” – unless the author says they do (and even then, I want to know why & who’s looking after it).
In the first draft of Her Private Chef, Hannah had two pets – a cat and a dog. In the second, she just has a dog….and a smaller breed who is easier to move around with. Adam in Indelibly Inked has a dog named Sly who’s been out of the picture too long now…I lost his “thread”, and need to pick it back up again. In both cases I try to use the pet for a couple of things – to show the character’s, um…character, to provide more drama and conflict, and occasionally to inject a little comic relief. Someday I’d love to write about someone with a quirky taste in pets – perhaps a nasty iguana or a jealous bird. I’m still working on how to work those in…
For writers – do your characters have pets? Any particular reason? Do you find that adding a pet makes the writing more work?
For readers – how do you feel about pets in fiction? What’s your favorite fictional pet? What bugs you most about pets in novels?