“Don’t kill the dog.” When I first started writing romances, I took a story I’d been working on to a writers’ meeting and read a portion. In that section, I had a dog die. Oh, my. The reaction was immediate and unanimous. “Don’t kill the dog.”
I obviously changed that scene.
Since then I’ve seen the same advice in many articles and heard it in talks. In a way, it’s sad. We can kill men, women, and children in our stories, but dogs are to come to no harm. That’s not to say all writers adhere to this admonishment. Occasionally a dog is killed in a story, but not often.
There’s something about our four-legged friends that makes readers and writers alike very protective. Dogs often become side-kicks in our stories, detectives in their own right, or the only one who understands. Sometimes they bring a couple together; sometimes they keep them apart.
I’ve written books where dogs were key to the plot: A Winning Combination was a story about the Iditarod sled dog race. Jared’s Lady was about a search-and-rescue dog. A Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy plays an important role in all of the P.J. Benson mysteries (The Crows, As the Crow Flies, and Eat Crow and Die.) Baraka doesn’t really act as an aid to P.J. solving the mystery, but by being a dog, especially a young, energetic dog he ends up helping her. He grabs things, runs and bumps into people, chases after people, or gets people to chase after him.
Including a dog in a plot can create problems. If the dog’s owner must be away for an extended amount of time, what do I do with the dog? (Cats are easier to include. Leave food, water, and a litter box and they’ll be fine for a while.)
Not all stories lend themselves to including a dog, but having one in a story appeals to a lot of readers, and I think it gives another dimension to the character. Just DON’T KILL THE DOG.
And don’t forget to stop by A-to-Z Blogging Challenge