Why a novel needs a dog
July 24, 2020
Several years ago (2013 to be exact) I read an interview with author, Donna Tartt, on the eve of the release of her novel The Goldfinch.
It was a cracking read. Tartt is a legitimate rockstar of the literary world but that’s not the subject of this post…
Funnily enough, what stayed with me was Tartt’s observation that, ‘Everything is improved by the presence of a dog.’
At the time, Tartt owned a Boston terrier called Punch.
In The Goldfinch, protagonist Theo Decker smuggles his step mother’s Maltese terrier, Popper aka Popchik, onto a bus to escape Las Vegas for New York.
Even though Theo doesn’t like the Maltese breed, ‘a girl’s dog, a toy, completely gay’, he grudgingly admits to a growing fondness for ‘the prancing fluffball.’
Theo asks himself: ‘How had I become attached to such a ridiculous animal?’
As a dog person, I knew I would have to include a dog in my novel.
I ended up with two.
Dunno how that happened. I guess it was an organic thing where I felt instinctively, as Tartt noted, that a dog would create empathy for a character or situation, and enrich the narrative with its quirky non judgmental behaviour.
In my novel, the dogs are there to offer companionship and provide a comedic element. I have a kelpie named Occy who is a companion to the hunky love interest in the book. Occy is smart and loyal, and pretty much goes everywhere with the hunk.
The chihuahua belongs to Grandma. His name is disputed by Grandma and the character who gifted her the dog, Scotsman Jimmy Trout. Grandma insists on calling the dog Pepe while Jimmy favours Dougal.
It makes for a couple of funny exchanges between Grandma and Jimmy, and gives an insight into these characters’ quirky personality traits.
My two dogs were lots of fun to write, especially Pepe with his big bobbly eyes, huge ears and tiny shaking body.
I have a writing/critique friend who is tying up the loose ends on her novel. At my suggestion (thanks Ms Tartt), she wrote a dog into the story.
It has made a world of difference – I reckon she owes me a mention in the acknowledgements. 🙂
I completely agree. And my current ms the protag doesn’t have a dog, but her friend does. The protag ends up with a cat (it was supposed to be a dog, but it turned out to be a cat, lol).
And I am well aware that you are also a dog person – but maybe there’s a little bit of cat in there too!
Sandra Groom Author
Kuku says you’ll get a mention in the acknowledgments 🙂
I expect nothing less!