Does your protagonist need a pet? The value of animals in writing.

Most of us have heard about the health benefits animals can have for those who care for them.  Scholarly articles round up studies that show that pets offer therapeutic value for people struggling with depression or chronic illness, as well as soothing loneliness and isolation.  Ask any pet lover and they’ll tell you how much they treasure their companions, or tell tales of animals that simply “know” when they’re hurting.

As the owner of three cats, I can tell you about many times where they offered comfort in difficult times.  Recovering from abdominal surgery a few years back, I was bedridden and in pain.  My oldest cat, Gravity — never a lap cat, but affectionate — gently walked up to me and laid down, resting her head perfectly between my incisions so as not to cause pain, one paw stretched to gently cover the sorest spot.  A second cat took residence between my feet.  Their love was of great comfort.

We know about the power of the bond with a pet.  So why do pets seldom come up in the discussion of supporting characters?  With their lack of human language and their honesty, animals can serve several critical roles in a book.
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Writing Tip: Summary Scenes and Keeping The Reader On Track

When you’re writing a complex tale – say a mystery, or a tale of vast government conspiracy – it’s important to remember that readers may not be sitting down and devouring your work in a single setting.  They may be gobbling up chapter-size bites on public transit or between chores.  If your novel is long, it’s best to remember that no one can really keep it all straight in the skull for too long.  That’s where summary scenes come in.

We all recognize them:  the scenes that play out like the “Previously on Lost” recaps on TV.  Two or more characters have a chat about what’s been going on.  A character is making notes about what they’ve learned.  A cop interrogates a witness through several recent crimes’ worth of material.  If done right, they feel natural and are a breather.  If done wrong…. well, they suck.  Let’s not bother to beat around the proverbial bush.

Roz Morris has a great post on this topic that I recommend writers take a peek at.  She discusses when to use these scenes and how to ensure they’re done well.  Take a look!