Animals as Writing Inspiration
Guest post by Michael Hemmingson
Pets have always gone hand-in-hand with writing; they act as inspiration and companions in those lonely hours behind the keyboard. This is why every good used bookstore has a cat living there—there’s something about cats and old used books that is a literary tradition. Just as the cat goes with the books, the pet goes with the writer.
If you don’t already have a pet to help you write, which one is best for you? Just as pets match certain people’s personalities, I am going to suggest that some pets are good matches for specific genres that writers work in.
Large dogs are perfect for male crime and thriller writers, and the subgenres of noir, police procedural, and action adventure. You often see Robert Parker, Joe Lansdale, Andrew Vachss, and James Ellroy posing their mastiffs, Dobermans, and Labradors in their dust jacket author photos (they are actually trying to out-do each other in these photos, but that’s in “in” and clique thing bets left to them). Smaller dogs are suitable for male and female “cozy” and traditional mystery authors, children’s books authors, and poets who write confessional poetry.
Cats. Cats and kittens are best suited to writers of “cozy” mysteries ” and literary fiction, just as the cat belongs in the comfortable old used bookstore. The esoteric, lyrical novel, the character study novel, and the realism writer will find a cat to be the ideal companion. Likewise, nonviolent, cozy mystery writers (think Agatha Christie) are a match for the laid back, calm, purring cat. This is why Lillian Braun’s The Cat Who… mystery series are bestsellers—Braun knew cats and cozy mysteries go hand in paw, and profited from it. Having a cat sitting in your nap and purring calms the nerves and makes you feel less alone as you write.
Ferrets. Ferrets are perfect for performance and slam poets. There is something about the frenetic energy of a ferret that matches with energy needed for performance poetry.
Snakes/lizards. Reptiles are best suited for screenwriters, who are surrounded by people who are often describes as reptiles in their business practices (agents, producers, moguls). There is something about having an iguana sitting on the shoulder or a snake slithering around in the hair that gets the “movie mind” working to create vivid scenes on paper that will translate onto the screen.
Birds. Birds are suitable to writers of creative nonfiction, critical essays, and rhymed poetry. The parakeet, the finch, and the cockatiel are the ideal birds for the non-fiction writer; the critic is matched with the parrot and the rhymed poet is best suited for a lovebirds.
Insects. Bugs! Yes. Ever see those beetles with a jewel and small chain on their backs, and can be worn as an adornment. I used to have one when I produced theater. And that’s what an insect is perfect for—playwrights.
Arachnids. Spiders are best suited to book reviewers, because there is that uncertainty if they are going to turn on you and bite you. And spiders creep and crawl.
Horses. Horses are good for technical manual and classroom textbook writers. Let’s face it, the pay may be good but it’s a boring. Sometimes you need to get on your ninny and ride away from all those boring statistics and schematics. Needless to say, if one writes westerns, one is required to have a horse.
Fish. The fish is the right match for writers of romances. The fish doesn’t require too much maintenance, it only needs to be fed once a day and have its water changed now and then. Most romance writers are away in their imaginations, creating impossible and lofty adventure yarns full of amorous action. The romance writer doesn’t have time to deal with a pet that needs attention; the romance writer can simply look at the fish tank and admire the pet in between writing hot steamy passages, or tender words between two loving characters.
Remember, all pets require various degrees of attention. Choose your pet wisely based on my recommendations, but mostly on what you feel comfortable with and is compatible to your environment.