Need help submitting your writing to literary journals or book publishers/literary agents? Click here! →
On National Dog Day, we’ve decided to let our Writer’s Relief blog go to the dogs! Our canine companions are here to offer writing tips and advice. You might be wondering, what do dogs know about writing? But many famous authors have been inspired by their pups. Dogs have also played pivotal roles in many books. So today we’ve asked our dogs to sit, stay, and offer us some doggone good writing advice on how to write good dogs.
How To Write Good Dogs In Your Stories
Allow personalities to shine through. A touch of anthropomorphism—the interpretation of something nonhuman as having human or personal characteristics—can help readers relate to your canine characters. By letting dogs “speak” to their owners or “smile” when happily panting, you make it easier for your readers to connect with these four-legged characters. And be sure to give your dogs unique personalities as you would any human characters you write. How human you decide to make the traits is up to you. A pooch could simply knowingly fetch slippers for someone who’s had a hard day…or sit down with a martini to talk about that day like Brian from Family Guy.
Give readers the ole puppy eyes. One of the biggest writing mistakes you can make is to assume your readers automatically like dogs! Just like any other character in your story, you need to determine whether the dog is friendly, aloof, or downright snarly. Then let your readers discover how clever, loyal, or skittish the dog is—and remember to show, not tell. The narrator talking about his brave pup won’t make as great an impact as a scene with Fido leaping into the river to save a child.
Let dogs be dogs. Even if you’re giving your dog protagonist human traits, these should be interpreted from a dog’s point of view. People might shout “Yes!” or “Woohoo!” when they are excited about something, while a dog will yip or run in happy circles. To make your writing more authentic, learn how dogs communicate. Check out this wonderful list explaining the many ways dogs communicate and use body language from The Center for Shelter Dogs.
Dogs also experience a very different reality than their two-legged besties. They perceive motion and colors differently; have a superior sense of smell; and hear sounds humans could never detect (at least not without electronic assistance!). Understanding how dogs interact and react in different situations will improve your ability to write believable canine characters.
Don’t rely on stereotypes. You know the cliché: Dogs and cats are mortal enemies. Okay, sometimes this may be true, but not always! Consider the two dogs and their feline companion in The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford. Many cats and dogs share a furever home together and get along well. In fact, turning a stereotype on its head and surprising your readers can be a great way to make your writing unique and memorable.
With these tips, you won’t be barking up the wrong tree when you’re writing dog characters. Instead, your pups will be realistic and easy for your readers to relate to and enjoy!
Question: Which dog character in literature is your favorite?