Who Let the Dogs Out?: A Quickie

When I was a kid, my all time favorite book was White Fang. I remember finishing the “abridged for young readers” version, finding that particular amendment in the jacket cover, and asking my dad where the grown up version was. See, until then, I had it in my head that only kids’ books had animals in them. Children’s books were about animals, and grown ups’ books were about people. Jack London became my personal hero.

I have always connected with animals, and I have always wanted to read stories where they are the heroes. You tell me the hero in this movie has an animal companion and I’m there. Damn ending better be happy though.

As I reached adulthood, and even still today, I wonder if my childhood assumption had some fact to it. Children’s movies are still commonly based on animals. The human heroes always have an animal companion, even if he never serves a function besides comic relief. The stories are strong without the furry sidekick, but the sidekick always makes it into the script. It just isn’t the same with stories meant for adult audiences.

In ‘grown up’ movies, animals are not only less common, but they’re taken far less seriously. They aren’t characters so much as slapstick fodder or a reason for the humans to share their own conflict that eventually ignores the animal that caused it. Does Hollywood think only children want to see the dog save the day? The cat solve the murder? The orca bring the father and his estranged daughter back together?

How does this affect us as writers? Even applied to a concept besides animals as main characters, how do these odd boundaries influence the ideas we’re brave enough to take to press? If the market for your passion is not your intended audience, can you still market your product?

The Reading List for Week Three will launch this morning,

and you are called upon to reflect upon a great change in Week Four.


About RicoChey

I'm just an unmarried, childless, thirty-something high school dropout with big ideas and a small attention span. Weave drunkenly behind me as I meander through my own life: a winding path of musings on life, relationships, food, the few politics I can stomach discussing, and probably really dumb stuff like the ratio of Sex and the City episodes wherein Carrie does and does not appear to be wearing extensions.
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4 Responses to Who Let the Dogs Out?: A Quickie

  1. Growing up reading animals as heroes, and dependable sidekicks in reading, then lurching into YA and adult reading in which characters are generally only human might be one of the reasons that my own fiction never includes animals. Maybe you’re on to something — maybe we come to accept that “serious” work can’t have furry best friends. This topic has definitely got me thinking … 🙂


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  4. t.s.wright says:

    I’m not sure if this is related to your question, but I personally find the possibility of publication in the YA market disappointing. I acknowledge that my Norse tale has a 19-year-old protag with a canine best friend so the YA market is where the publishing world would wedge it in, but I would much rather write for adults. I feel like most Young Adult novels are marketing sex to teenagers, as well as an independence from adult intervention…like there’s more gimmick than substance going on. I don’t want to be tarred with that brush.

    Adult books with animal characters (which I have read and enjoyed):
    The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski –
    This one even has a child protag but is an adult novel. Wiki claims it is a retelling of Hamlet set in rural Wisconsin, but I didn’t get that out of it. The dog in the story is so awesome, I wish my dogs had all been breed and trained by Edgar’s father.

    Suspect by Robert Crais
    The story of a broken cop who gets partnered with a canine bomb-dog who lost her Marine in battle and has no desire to take another human into her pack. It’s a suspenseful crime drama but it is so much more. The scenes written from the GSD’s perspective are some of my favorite. I cried a lot reading that book.

    I have never read White Fang, but I will now. Also, if you ever come across a show on Netflix called “Klondike” check it out. Jack London is a character in it, along with his four-legged inspiration. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2761630/

    Liked by 1 person

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