How do you write a convincing animal in a fantasy novel? Is it OK to take some licence and anthropomorphise the beast like crazy, giving it a human degree of cognition and emotion? And if you do what do you do with these creatures as the story progresses? Can an animal character develop an d progress?
I’ve just introduced a mythical-style creature into my children’s fantasy book that I’m writing for National Novel Writing Month (currently at 20,000 words and counting) and I’m finding it to be a very unusual experience.
I’m finally starting to understand why Enid Blyton utilised ‘Timmy’ in her ‘Famous Five’ books, and why the various owls and other creatures feature so much in Harry Potter: writing animals allows you to add emotion with minimal wording and no dialogue.
In short a dog can catch the emotion of a whole group of people with some perked ears or alternatively with a drooping tail.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of owning animals but that doesn’t mean I don’t like them, I’d just rather see them in the wild or at least with minimal human supervision.
However it’s precisely the humanisation of pets and domesticated animals that makes them so useful in fiction, they’re like miniaturised versions of a human self: they express emotion, they form social attachments, and they can perform important roles within a group.
To an extent they’re characters that don’t need too much writing to make them feel real. This can make it difficult to demonstrate subtle things like allegiances and it can hinder your ability to predict their behaviour, but even these elements can be strengths.
I’m very pleased with my new wee character ‘Sparky’, she’s becoming a very easy character to deal with and of all of my characters, she’s in the top four that I feel i really know well already (and she’d only been in the story for three chapters so far).
Who else out there in writer land is writing an animal character? Are you finding them to be a blessing or a curse as your story progresses?
As I said, Sparky has only been with me for three chapters at the moment, and so far I’m loving having her around, but has anyone found a animal character getting in their way as they get closer to the end of their novel?
I look forward to hearing from you, thanks for reading, all the best, John