Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere

Endearing characters


zoey awake Rich characters are an author’s goal. If we can create characters that stick with readers after they have closed our book, we’ve done our job.

But we don’t always consider adding an extra little treat to our stories, especially if we write in the suspense or thriller genres.

Pets are something we can add to our stories to enrich them, and round out the human characters. I mean, many readers can relate to a character who has a dog that needs to be walked or a cat that insists on being let outdoors at the most inconvenient times.

In cozy mysteries especially, pets seem to be everything from sidekicks to co-protagonists. In the Fudge Shop Mysteries by Christine DeSmet, Lucky Harbor, a fudge-loving mutt, is both a sleuth and a troublemaker. In the Stephanie Plum mysteries by Janet Evanovich, Rex the hamster is Stephanie’s only roommate. More entertaining is Bob the golden retriever, a galoot who eats anything (including socks and underwear) and later “horks” it up.

Pets aren’t just for cozy mysteries, either. In J. D. Robb’s In Death futuristic police procedural series, Eve Dallas owes her life to the plump cat she names Galahad. Even in a few of the later Special Crimes Unit/Bishop Files books by Kay Hooper, she added dogs and a cat named Pendragon that all seem more than average.

Some of my favorite fictional pets appear in urban fantasy. One of my favorite urban fantasy series is the Dresden series by Jim Butcher. Harry Dresden lives alone in a basement apartment with Mister, a huge domestic cat, as his only freeloader–er, pet. Later, he acquires a foo dog, which is a mythic temple guardian in Tibet (think of those dog/lion statues you always see outside temples) that looks like a Tibetan mastiff. Mouse is one of my favorite fictional pets. He’s huge, but sweet. In Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series, Oberon is an Irish wolfhound who adds some comic relief.

If I could choose any fictional pet for my own, though, it’d be a close tie between Mouse and the firelizards from Anne McCaffery’s Pern series. I mean, who wouldn’t want tiny dragons to hang out with?

Adding a pet, or a stray that winds up as a pet, is a great way to give your readers another reason to feel connected to your characters. In my debut novel, I have a pet ferret as a little extra source of endearment. As I’ve been working on Book 2, I didn’t start out with a pet, but the more I write, the more I think a pet is needed. One of the characters went through cancer treatment, including surgery. Her husband would be worried, and lonely while his wife is in the hospital. Then there’s the time he can’t be at home with her while she’s recuperating. What better than a dog–or a cat–to keep them company?

Not every story needs a pet, but sometimes it makes sense. Remember, we want our readers to think of our characters as real people. Real people have pets. Besides, you never know when that pet will be the key to resolving a conflict or reaching a goal.

Amazingly, I have a free weekend–woo-hoo! I see two days of heavy writing in my future ๐Ÿ˜€

Write Well! Write On!

zoey asleep


Author: Julie Holmes, author

A fiction writer since elementary school (many years ago), and NaNoWriMo annual participant for over a decade, I have been published in small press magazines such as "Fighting Chance" and "The Galactic Citizen". I write adult mystery with a touch of romance, mystery with extrasensory elements, contemporary fantasy, and epic fantasy, and I'm represented by the fabulous Cynthia Zigmund of Second City Publishing Services. My debut novel, "Murder in Plane Sight", has been released by Camel Press (an imprint of Coffeetown Press/Epicenter Press). In real life, I am a technical writer and empty-nester with a wonderful hubby, one cat (what writer doesn't have cats??), two dogs, four chickens, and more chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits than any garden should have to deal with. My garden, our hobby farm, and Nature's annual seasons are some of my muses.

34 thoughts on “Endearing characters

  1. Pets really can add a great deal to a series, Julie. Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole has a cat; Peter James’ Roy Grace has a dog; Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski has two. And the list goes on. It’s quite true, too, that although we often associate pets with cosy mysteries, they can enhance all sorts of stories. I would only add that I like it best when a pet acts like, well, a pet. I admit to not having much patience with a pet who solves mysteries in a way that only a human would in real life, if that makes sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you, Margot. Pets can help solve mysteries, but if they actually do the solving, I think that goes too much to the unrealistic, unless of course the animal is some sort of paranormal or supernatural or alien sentient beast. Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. True about pets, it can also add funny conversations between the Charachters and the ” free-loader).๐Ÿ˜Š .


    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely, Miriam! The Iron Druid series has some great examples of humorous conversations. And even if the pets don’t talk back, it’s fun to see their reactions to whatever the other characters say or do. Have a wonderful weekend!


  3. I have pets in all of my novels. It seems natural and helps me share my character better. Good article, Julie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve only had a pet in my debut novel so far, not the others, but they absolutely help with the characters. I think most people can relate in some way to having a pet of some sort, even if it’s the family of wild turkeys that stop by the yard to peck at the bird feeder overflow every day. Enjoy your weekend, Jacqui!


  4. I love pets in books. I’ve written them and I certainly enjoy reading about them. You always hear the advice about making a hard character softer by introducing an animal for them to care for. It’s become a trope because it works.

    Wishing you a productive writing weekend!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have pets in a couple of my novels and short stories (and I write in the mystery/suspense genre). I agree they add depth to the characters and tell us much about their personalities. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Joan! I agree that characters’ pets can tell us a lot about their personalities, and the type of pet means a lot as well. Somehow a person with an iguana or a turtle as a pet to me would have a different personality than someone with a guinea pig or a parrot. Enjoy your weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m a sucker for pets in books. I’ve added them in several of mine and also love when they appear in books I’m reading. They definitely add something to the stories, allowing readers to see characters in a different vein,

    I love the Zoey pics. I need to stalk Raven with a camera ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hmmm. You’ve named my favorite pets here: Gallahad, Oberon, and on Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden, i read once that Bob was supposed to be a joke. someone told Butcher to add a character who Harry could talk and discuss cases with, and that someone not be a skull – so Bob came along.
    Now i want to go check on Anne Mccaffery.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You too? I didn’t know that about Bob the skull (I see how Butcher got around the “not a skull” bit ๐Ÿ˜€ )

      Yes, check out Anne McCaffery. To get a really good sense of firelizards, read the Harperhall trilogy (the Dragonrider trilogy takes place at about the same time, but fewer firelizards). First book is Dragonsong.

      Enjoy the rest of your weekend, Jina!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I totally agree that pets are often a great addition to stories. They can say so much about the characters and I like them for comic relief too. Fun and informative post, Julie. Happy Writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Could you please deliver this message to Zoey for me? “Meow meow. Pur. Purrr. Puurrrr. Meow.”
    Thank you. Let me know what she responds.
    Oh, and were there words in this post??

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I think you are right about having pets in stories add that extra dimension to the story. For me it’s normal to have a pet or animal nearby. I’ve never even thought about it, but they are there around the characters. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Catching up this morning and youโ€™ve made some excellent points, Julie, about introducing pets into fiction. They are relatable to so many and I can see how they bring in some โ€˜normalcyโ€™ into perhaps a less than normal story line. I remember reading The Cat Who series by Lillian Jackson Braun. It was a fun mystery stories and the Siamese cats made it so entertaining. Glad you had some quality writing time – I bet your muse is ecstatic!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love how you say ‘bring normalcy into a less than normal’ story. Made me chuckle. You are absolutely right, though. Even with the urban fantasy genre, the presence of pets like Mister or Mouse anchors the story in the familiar.

      And yes, my Muse is happy I’m getting some writing done! He might send his reinforcements away (I hope so–I think ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh, and P.S. I love the Stephanie Plum series and her pets add to the humor!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Pingback: Rain, Changing Seasons, and The Week in Review – Joan Hall

  14. Julie, Iโ€™ve never included a pet in my writing but see how they can enhance oneโ€™s writing and make the characters more personable. Reading your post I feel inspired to find room for a a pet … I envisage a cat or guinea pig! Hope you got lots of writing finished last weekend! Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Go for it, Annika! I am personally biased toward cats ๐Ÿ˜€ In fact, I just added a cat to my WIP, and so far he’s quite charming for an older tom (he’s about 10 in the story). And I will say I did get some writing done. I’ve actually managed to write at least a couple hundred words every night this week (except yesterday; I picked up my daughter from school after work). Not as many as I would like, but still moving forward (and my Muse seems satisfied I’m writing every day ๐Ÿ™‚ )

      Have a wonderful weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

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