Beautiful Animal, Beautiful Setting
I’ve been thinking about my last #InspirationBoardSunday post, and I’d like to talk a bit more about that. For any who missed it, or who just looked at the pretty pictures, and skipped the text–Oh, come on! You know you’re out there!–I want to chat about the role animals play in our lives and in our environment.
Human beings love their pets, for far too many reasons to list here. Pets are therapeutic, affectionate, loyal, and beautiful. I mentioned in Sunday’s post that I give almost all of my characters a pet or two, because the type of animal they enjoy spending time with can tell the reader a lot about them.
Unmanned by a Cat? I Think Not!
When a huge, Viking of a man has a cuddly, spoiled housecat for a pet, that tells you right away he’s not worried about how it might look to the guys at the bar. (Of course, if you’re a huge, Viking of a man, I doubt that the guys at the bar worry you very much about anything.) But you get my drift. Pets reveal hidden things about us in real life, and they do so in fiction, as well.
But what I want to focus on today is using animals in the environment to create a setting, a mood, or possibly, an element of danger and suspense. There are just so many ways they can help build a scene, by sound, sight, or action.
If your character is lost in the woods, the sound of wolves howling in the dark will go a long way toward creating a sense of fear. If day is drawing to a close, and an owl hoots from a nearby tree, another type of mood is created. Dawn’s first birdsong lifts the spirit, especially of anyone who’s been through a long, difficult night.
Maybe a pair of young lovers are walking along the shore, and gulls are wheeling overhead, calling to each other. That spells beach just about as fast as the sound of waves rushing across the sand. And picture this. A father and his young son are hiking. They come around a curve in the path, and there in the middle of the trail, an enormous bear is standing on her hind legs, snarling and growling. She’s waving huge paws, tipped with three inch claws, and exuding menace from every pore. Perhaps she has two cubs hiding nearby, and she’s in full defense mode. No matter what’s going on with her, Dad is immediately aware of grave danger, and it triggers an instant fight or flight response. (Hint: Run far, run fast!)
And lest you think your book has to be a wilderness tale in order to use animals as part of the setting , just remember that feral dogs and cats often roam urban areas, raiding garbage cans, and scrounging in alleyways. I can think of many a scene where the danger level could be ratcheted up by letting your main character be menaced by a dog that is no longer a friendly creature. (Anyone thinking Cujo about now?) Even the midnight serenade of a lovesick alley cat could add a note of humor–or annoyance, if your character is trying to sleep. Pigeons and squirrels in the park, rats in the tenements–the list goes on and on.
Umm? Too Much of a Good Thing, Maybe? (Still, there’s a story here, somewhere!)
So not to belabor a point, but using animals in your fiction seems like an obvious way to help set a scene and enrich your book, don’t you think? And then, of course, you might even want to make an animal the star of your book. There’s a reason tales like Black Beauty, Lassie, The Red Pony, and everyone’s favorite tear jerker, Ol’ Yeller, are considered classics.
Aw. Such a Sweet Story. Until it smashes your heart into the dirt, and stomps on it! (And just think. It’s for KIDS!)
So that’s my POV for the middle of this week. Just my own thoughts on a subject near and dear to my heart. After all, I couldn’t have written Swamp Ghosts without alligators and snakes. What say YOU? Inquiring minds wanna know!