Monday, March 4, 2013

Forgotten Characters

I read a lot and one thing I've noticed; most novels don't have family pets in them. Yes, I'm a cat owner (2 babies who spend more time with me than my children), and pets-cats, dogs, squirrels, etc., figure into almost all my works.

This is Mink, a part Persian, part Maine Coon cat we rescued from a short and brutal life as a barn cat in Upstate, New York. (AKA the "Kitten.')

This is my gal pal, Casey. She, too, is a rescue cat (ALL of my pets have been rescues, ever since I was a little girl), who is what they call a mackerel tabby- she's gray speckled like the fish with orange stripes.

(No beauty queen, but the soul of a poet and a sweetie pie.)

I love the way people interact with pets; my sons coo over them, not afraid of being less manly as they pamper, pet and praise these 'siblings.' Even the hubs, who swore he wanted nothing to do with them (grew up in a house without pets, see?) can't resist playing with the kitten or stroking Casey as she sleeps on the bed and baby talking to her. I think that loving a pet adds a dimension of compassion to a character. People who own hordes of animals and don't take care of them are a different matter. But when you take a pet into your home, feed and love it, talk to it, take it to the vet, and cry when it passes on-I think this makes you a better person. (I didn't say perfect, just better.) We share our soul with another creature that is dependent on us for the rest of their lives (grown children coming back to the nest to mooch not included), and give of ourselves.

Many successful people, i.e. Hemingway, Einstein, presidents, etc. had pets. Maybe if we allowed prisoners to take care of a rescued animal, becoming solely responsible for its care, they would become more compassionate, more giving, and break the cycle of violence. It worked for the Bird Man of Alcatraz.

So don't neglect to put pets into your story; it shows a character with a hidden depth. If they mistreat the animal, well then we know he's the villain.