Sunday, April 17, 2011

I Want to Write You Like an Animal

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N: Nonhuman Narrators

320Last summer after I’d finally finished my first MS and after I thought I had finished revisions (note for those just starting out: you’re never done with revisions*) I did what logic and the 19,000 writing books I had told me was the next step. I researched the hell out of literary agents. Everywhere I could find info on an agent, I went. Eventually I developed a fairly efficient system and had come across probably several hundred agent sites. I bookmarked the ones that showed an interest in adult SF from an unpublished author and began researching them in detail.

Along with the usual detritus: proper query format, no attachments, don’t ever, ever, EVER call us, I noticed on several agent sites a very unusual and specific caveat: no animal narrators.

Why? Has there been a glut in animal narrator submissions, or is there just something anathema about Fido (or Fluffy, or Trigger) telling a story? If there can be 700 million** vampire novels, and a clamor for more, then what is it that causes agents and publishers to slap a “no dogs allowed” sign on the proverbial storefront window?

I happen to like stories told from an unusual POV. I also like characters I can root for, characters struggling to survive (literally or figuratively) against overwhelming odds.  Who doesn’t love the underdog, and who’s more of a underdog than animals, who are at the mercy of their environment?  Pets get abused or abandoned (or worse) everyday; wild animals suffer not only from the harsh realities of nature, but also from human encroachment. 

I find stories of survival against impossible odds and perseverance through terrible events fascinating and fulfilling.  Your character doesn’t have to be human to epitomize the triumph of the human spirit, whether it’s a group of homeless rabbits, a pampered pet who suddenly finds himself a sled dog in Alaska, or Robert E. Lee’s trusted horse, an entire kingdom (literally) awaits the intrepid writer (and reader) willing to ignore convention. 

Although I’ve read plenty of books with animal narrators, I never considered writing a book from an animal’s POV.  At least not until I’d read those decrees forbidding me from even thinking about it.  Since then, several furry-themed notions have been dancing around my head.  If they coalesce into a solid MS, I guess I’ll have to go it without an agent.

Unless, of course, I made them vampires, too, then I’m home free.  Because, you know, there’s never enough of those, apparently.


**just the ones I’ve seen; there may be more.


  1. Vampire rabbits? You could be onto something.

  2. There is actually a book out there narrated by a vampire cat. It's called The Vampire Kitty-Cat Chronicles, and it's written by Ray Rhamey, who runs the Flogging the Quill blog. It's got lots of action.

  3. I have written a story from the perspective of an iPhone. Doesn't have a home yet. Did get a lot of comments from editors, that it lacked feeling. Of course it lacks feeling, it's an iPhone :)

  4. This is hilarious :) I haven't done much agent research (yet), but its surprising to me that so many of them don't want animal narrators. Now you've got me wanting to try it too...

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  5. I never meant to write a story from an animal's point of view. But then one day at work, I made a squeaking sound, then my colleague said, "What were you a mouse in a former life??" and my Squeaky series was born ;)

  6. I've done a few from a man-eating canary's viewpoint but never tried to do anything with it. Great idea, though!

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  7. There can never be enough Vampires, don't you know!? I have only read about two books from an animal's point of view, and I don't see what the big deal is. Like you, I actually like it! It gives a different point of view, is interesting and keeps my attention. I wonder what they have against puppies? Don't let PETA know; there could be an uproar!