Of course animals have inspired some of the most beloved characters in literature — Charlotte, Mr. Toad, the Cat in the Hat. I’ve never tried to create an animal character and have no plants to writet a mystery series where talking animals help their owners in their investigations. But I still find animals inspiring human characters and their descriptions.
If it fits the mindset of my point-of-view (POV) character, I can have her describe characters in terms of animals. She may be an animal lover or someone who grew up on a farm, or someone who wants to be a vet. Any of those interests would give her a convincing backstory for her to see animal traits in people. Such as:
- “He opened his bullfrog mouth.”
- “Her snake eyes darted to the door.”
- “The only thing that distinguished Mr. Carlton from Dad’s prize boar was Mr. Carlton’s disheveled clothes and atrocious manners.”
An animal name is also a good way to give minor characters a “handle”, a summation of their appearance, so the readers get a quick image and move on with the story.
- “The rat-faced man slunk along the bar.”
- “Mouse Lady slipped up to me, apologized, and told me her boss was ready to see me.”
Revive Old Similies
Another way to let animals inspire your writing is to freshen worn out smilies. No one can use “as quiet as a mouse” without being considered a poor writer. But I can use something like “He wasn’t just as quiet as a mouse. He moved as silently as a mouse with ninja training.”
My oldest loves nature documentaries. Watching animal behavior has inspired me to want to incorporate that behavior in my stories
For example, we watched a show in which a polar bear began to tear through a colony of birds that nest on the ground. He was ripping into nests and eating hatchlings. Polar bears can weigh over 1,000 pounds. The body of the birds wasn’t bigger than his head, if that. They couldn’t even begin to fight him.
So they annoyed him. The parents divebombed the bear’s head, flapping past his face., sometime delivering a glancing blow with their beaks. There were hundreds of birds. I don’t know how many participated in the defense of the nests, but they annoyed the bear so much that he left.
I can use that behavior in a variety of ways, like younger siblings getting on the nerves of their oldest brother, or elementary kids banding together to drive the junior high bully crazy.
Read more about animals as writing inspiration here.
How can animals inspire human characters in your writing? What animals have you known that have inspired stories?