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What a Dog: why you need a pet in your book

May 15, 2018 by in category The Write Life by Rebecca Forster tagged as , , , , , , , ,

My granddog Tucker & Max roll model

Today a lady wrote to tell me she loved my book Hostile Witness* because I hadn’t killed Max. I’ve been traveling a lot in the last few weeks and it took me a minute to figure out who Max was and why it was so important to her that he was alive. Max, of course, is Josie Bates’ dog; Josie is the heroine of the Witness Series. The reader’s concern for Max made me wonder why a book that includes an animal is richer, more entertaining, and more engaging than one without?

The answer is simple. Pets provide a natural assist in plot, dialogue and emotional content.

Max-the-Dog (his legal name) was originally created as a reflection of Josie Bates, his mistress. Both Max and Josie had been abandoned, had to fight for their lives, and were protective of others. As the series unfolded, though, Max became so much more than Josie’s mirror. Here are four ways Max contributed to the success of the Witness Series:

Max kicked up human action/reaction: Those who attack him were inherently more evil than a bad guy who ignored him. Those who love Max were more admirable because they cared for and protect him.

Max was a great listener:Internal dialogue can be tedious. However, speculation, rhetorical questions, or monologues sound natural when directed at pets.

Max changed the tone: A scene tone can be set by the way a human character speaks to or interacts with an animal counterpart. A whispered warning creates a much different tone than a screaming command; a languid pet conjures up different visions than a playful ruffling of fur.

Max moved the plot forward:An animal’s needs can change a human character’s trajectory. In Privileged Witness, when Josie takes Max out for his evening constitutional they find her fugitive client hiding outside. Without Max, Josie would have no reason to go outside and never would have discovered her client. An animal’s heightened senses can also warn of danger or alert a human to a change in their surroundings without the scene seeming forced.

From The Hound of the Baskervilles to Lassie and Blue Dog, My Friend Flicka and The Black Stallion, The Cheshire Cat and Puss-in-Boots, animals have frolicked as humans, served to reflect human frailties and strengths, and just plain worked their way into reader’s hearts.

So, to the kind lady who was concerned about Max, have no fear. He will never come to a violent end. No matter what happens to him, his presence or lack thereof, will be a decision motivated by story and plot and, of course, love. Max has sat at my psychic feet with every Witness Series book.

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If you like a cop with a brogue and an attitude try the new Finn O’Brien Thrillers! Severed Relations is FREE!



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