D is for Dog

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“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.

Zuri and me

Zuri and me

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.

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6 Responses to D is for Dog

  1. ann bennett says:

    So far, dogs are in all my stories. Write what you know and my pack is putting it on me – Fix their breakfast.
    I’m visiting from the A to Z challenge.

  2. Maris Soule says:

    Thanks for the comment, Ann. I recently went a year and 2 months without a dog. Couldn’t stand it any longer. Now have a puppy curled up near my feet.

  3. Lucy Kubash says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever let an animal die in any of my stories, although once I alluded that one might not live. Have you ever seen the movie My Dog Skip? Breaks my heart every time I watch it. Lots of human issues in that movie, but when the old dog passes away I turn into a blubbering idiot.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Where the Red Fern Grows is a book that turned me into a blubbering idiot. And there have been a couple other books that went on to be movies that had me loudly sniffing and blowing my nose. As I said, I can read or see (in a movie or on TV) people die and, even though I might be shocked that the writer killed off that person, I go on reading or watching. Have that dog die and I have to stop, at least until I get my emotions under control (i.e., have a good cry).

  4. Jean says:

    I prefer to write anthropomorphic stories. So far, I’m doing polar bears and cats (not in the same story). I’m sure I’ll have dogs at some point.

    Jean, back from the Grand Tour and visiting for the A-Z Challenge from Rantings and Ravings of an Insane Writer Number 209 on the A-Z List.

    Jean Schara
    Blackbirds First Flight (Quin)
    Blackbirds Second Flight (Glaring Upheaval and Fluffy Malone)

    • Maris Soule says:

      Jean, I can’t even spell anthropomorphic (copied yours). So far I haven’t had any of the animals in my stories expressing their thoughts verbally, but some let their owners know through their actions. I’ll go take a visit at your site. In fact, I think I have visited it a couple times.