The importance of animals in world building

Animals are around you all the time. Put them in your manuscript to enhance your story.

Most novels (and nonfiction books) revolve around and portray human life. Typically, people are a big part of people’s lives and the world we live in.

You know what else makes up your world? Animals. A lot of them.

Life. It’s everywhere. Write a realistic world.

From pets to pigeons in the park to sneaky spiders slinking along behind your refrigerator while you sleep, life is full of creatures. Don’t neglect adding them into your stories for action, rich description, and a change of pace.

Why do animals matter? Where do they fit in your story?

Animals add texture, sounds, tastes, smells, and characterization to a story, and they can fit into nearly every scene.

Include animals example 1: Pets

If your character owns a pet, consider not only how the ownership of the pet enhances the human’s characterization, but consider how the animal itself becomes a separate character. Pets have emotions, respond to and interact with their humans, and add something to human life. Not only will your character reveal what type of person they are by how they treat their pet, but the big picture of their life or their society can be shown through the thoughts, actions, choices, or personality of their pet(s).

Consider how the pet will affect the person’s life constantly – dog hair woven into every article of clothing that the character deals with throughout their day, or a cat who marks your character’s suit jacket and although the suit’s been drycleaned, the smell sticks to him. Consider how people with pets often rearrange their schedules, priorities, and finances to accommodate these animals.

Include animals example 2: Meals

If your character is an omnivore, consider how animals – the sight, smell, taste, or thought of them – affect their meals. If vegetarian or vegan, your character may be very consciously aware of the presence of animals during mealtime.

Include animals example 3: Outdoors

And, depending on location, consider indigenous animals that give zest to places around the world. In some cities, monkeys swing through trees, or parrots fly overhead, or oxen are a common sight. As natural and unassuming as the wind, animals give life to the world.

No matter where your character goes — except maybe in space — there will be animals. In the fields, there are insects chirping and birds flying overhead and snakes slithering underfoot. In the city, there are rodents that scamper along building walls (remember: squirrels are rodents too!), and neighbors who keep strange exotic pets.

A written world is not a believable world, if it disregards animals.

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I don’t edit animal languages, but I do edit English. Contact Me if you need an editor.

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