Welcome to the first Writers Reveal of the year! This month’s topic was sent to me by Ashley Howland, who asked me to write about animal characters: who are my favorites, what makes a good animal character and storyline, etc. Honestly, I don’t think she could have picked a topic better suited for me. Thanks, Ashley!
Favorite Animal Characters
I was pleasantly surprised when Ashley sent me this topic, because the truth is that many of my favorite fictional characters in the past have been animals (or at least non-human). I’ve mentioned before that I spent part of my childhood writing stories about video game characters, most of which were non-human (e.g. Yoshi, the colorful dinosaur species from the Mario franchise). Even today, I love writing stories about animals, especially flash fiction pieces narrated from their point of view. Maybe it’s because I studied Biology (or maybe it’s why I studied Biology), but I have a lot of fun imagining the world through the eyes of animals!
Honestly, I find it hard to choose just a few favorite animal characters. It really depends on their stories. In books, I love the animals in the children’s stories I used to read all the time, like Horton the Elephant in Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who! and Mr. Fox in Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. As for movies, my favorite animals are usually the sidekicks thrown in for comic relief (and often to help move the plot forward): Maximus, the horse in Disney’s Tangled; Dug, the dog in Pixar’s Up; Jack, the monkey in Pirates of the Caribbean, etc. Of course, I also enjoy movies where the main cast is comprised of animal characters; stories such as The Lion King and Finding Nemo are among my favorites!
Still, I’ll probably always have a soft spot for the animal characters of video games. Whether they’re sidekicks like Yoshi or main characters like Sonic the Hedgehog, they always bring something special to their games, and that “something” is usually a twist on the abilities of their real-life counterparts. Where else but the Gameverse can you find hedgehogs that run at the speed of sound, or foxes that fly planes and spaceships, or mouse-like creatures that can shoot lightning? They may not be like the animals of books and movies, but that’s exactly why I love them. They would likely push the boundaries of plausibility in standard fiction, but in their own interactive worlds, they fit perfectly well.
Writing for Animals
So what does it take to create a good animal character or story? In my opinion, it’s all about balance. Every character you want to make relatable must have realistically human qualities. However, one mustn’t forget that these characters are not human, and when written well, this detail is exactly what gives them their unique charm. After all, if the animals in your stories are too human, you might as well replace them with actual humans, right?
Therefore, I think the greatest animal characters are the ones that encompass the best of both worlds. They’re anthropomorphic enough to be relatable, but they still take advantage of the qualities that their human counterparts don’t possess. Horton, the most compassionate resident of the Jungle of Nool, uses his extra-sensitive hearing to communicate with the microscopic Whos. Mischievous characters like Dahl’s Mr. Fox and Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit use their agility and wits to escape from their human pursuers. Even the best mythical creatures of fantasy tales demonstrate a mix of human intellect and animalistic behavior (with a touch of magic, of course).
But these characters’ traits don’t always have to be useful to the plot. Sometimes just the fact that they’re animals is what makes them endearing. Would Winnie-the-Pooh have withstood the test of time if he were a human doll instead of a stuffed bear? Could Shakespeare’s Hamlet be appealing to children if it weren’t played out by a cast of animated lions? Would the Pokémon franchise have become successful if most of the creatures’ designs and abilities weren’t inspired by those of real animals? Probably not!
Based on my experience, animals make wonderful inspiration and even better characters for fiction. They can always bring something fresh to a story, and they have the potential to capture their audience and stay in our hearts for years on end. And isn’t that all a writer really wants from their characters?
Who are your favorite animal characters? What do you think makes a good animal character or story?
This has been a special topic post in Emily Morgan’s Writers Reveal. To learn more, just follow the button below to her site, and be sure to check out the other blogs participating in the event. Thanks for reading!
Other bloggers in the Writers Reveal
Emily Morgan: Emily Morgan Writes
Melissa Khalinsky: Melissa Writes
Jodi Gibson: JFGibson
Becky Fyfe: Imagine! Create! Write!
Rhianna: A Parenting Life
Ashley Howland: Ghostnapped
Emily Hawker: You Learn Something New Every Day
Emily Toxward: Have A Laugh On Me