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  • Writer's pictureRachel Demeter

How to Write Believable Pet Characters in Your Novel

Updated: Sep 9, 2023

Rachel and her dog Teddy

Pets in novels can be more than just companions; they can be beloved characters that add depth and emotion to your story. Whether they're loyal sidekicks, sources of comfort, or catalysts for change, creating realistic and engaging pet characters requires careful consideration. As a die-hard animal lover, I always incorporate pets into my stories.

In this blog, I explore top tips for bringing your four-legged (or scaled!) friends to life, along with illustrative examples! Here's how to write believable pet characters in your novel.

Tip 1: Understand the Species and Breed

Just as understanding different human personalities is essential, knowing the characteristics of the pet's species and breed is crucial. A Great Dane will have a vastly different personality than a Siamese cat!

Example: A Labrador retriever's exuberance and loyalty: Max wagged his tail so hard that his whole body wiggled. He bounded over to his owner, dropping a slobbery tennis ball at her feet, his eyes gleaming with excitement.

Tip 2: Develop Unique Personalities

Anyone who owns a pet knows they have distinct personalities. Think about their quirks, preferences, and how they react in various situations. Avoid stereotyping; give them complexity.

Example: A mischievous parrot's character: Rainbow squawked loudly from her perch, her colorful feathers fluffing up. She loved mimicking laughter and interrupting conversations.

Tip 3: Utilize Sensory Descriptions

Enhance your pet character's believability by incorporating sensory details. Describe their appearance, scent, sounds they make, and how they feel to touch.

Example: A soft and affectionate cat's sensory description: Beneath Emily's gentle touch, Luna's fur was as velvety as a midnight sky. The faintest hint of lavender accompanied the warmth emanating from her furry body.

Tip 4: Showcase Bonds with Humans

Pets often share special bonds with their human counterparts. Reflect the pet's feelings towards their owner and vice versa. This connection can evoke powerful emotions in readers.

Example: A loyal dog's unbreakable bond with its owner: When Emily returned home after a long day, Daisy leaped into her arms, tail wagging so furiously it looked like it might fly off. Daisy's eyes held an unwavering trust, and Emily felt a warmth deep within her heart.

Tip 5: Use Animal Instincts and Behavior

Incorporate realistic animal behaviors to enhance authenticity. Pets' instincts can play a role in plot development or interactions with other characters.

Example: A perceptive horse's response to danger: As a distant rumble of thunder echoed through the valley, Thunderbolt's ears pricked forward, and his nostrils flared. He nudged his rider, Josh, urging him to turn back before the storm hit.

Tip 6: Contribute to the Plot

Pet characters can impact the story beyond their relationships with humans. They might uncover clues, motivate decisions, or even become catalysts for change.

Example: A curious ferret leading to a surprising discovery: Ruby, the ferret, darted between the shelves, her nose twitching. She dug furiously at a loose floorboard, revealing a hidden letter that held a key...

In my upcoming novel, Red Kingdom, Smoke plays a pivotal role in the plot and Rowan's character development.

Tip 7: Embrace Emotional Impact

Pets can evoke a wide range of emotions, from joy and comfort to sadness and loss. Their presence can deepen themes and resonate with readers on a personal level.

Example: Saying goodbye to a beloved pet: As the sun dipped below the horizon, Sarah held her aged cat, Whiskers, one last time. She whispered words of gratitude for their years together, tears falling onto his soft fur.

Conclusion: How to Write Believable Pet Characters in Your Novel

Creating believable pet characters enriches your novel's world and offers a unique lens through which readers can experience emotions and connections. By treating them as fully-fledged characters with distinct personalities, behaviors, and roles, you'll create a narrative that tugs at the heartstrings of your audience!


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