Thursday, August 5, 2010

More on side characters

Cri-kee (from Disney's Mulan)
Khan (from Disney's Mulan)
Abu (from Disney's Aladdin)
Fang (from Harry Potter)
Footstool (from Disney's Beauty and the Beast)
Lucifer (from Disney's Cinderella)

Okay, what two things do these characters all have in common?  (Besides the obvious, that they're fictional.)

They're animals and they don't speak.

But they're memorable.


Because they have a personality.  They may have more personality than would be typical for an animal.  They may even have atypical personality period.  (Horses don't really make all that noise.  They're fairly quiet animals.  Don't go into a stable expecting all the horses in there to start calling to you just because you walked in.)

Each of these animal sidekicks has a personality all their own.  If you think about each one, assuming you've seen these movies or (in the case of Fang) read the books, you'll be able to call to mind these characters.

It's because they're not just flat animals put in to fill the space and make it seem like you took the time to create a world.

I can think of far fewer examples from actual literature.  But the most prevalent one that comes to mind is  Faithful from Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness quartet.  Faithful is the main character, Alanna's, pet cat.  But there's more to Faithful than meets the eye.  (Aside from the strange eye color.)  Faithful has a lot of personality.  He's vain, loyal, and a real lifesaver.  And he's a cat.

Another example is Cloud from Tamora Pierce's The Immortals quartet.  Cloud is Daine's horse.  And that horse has some major personality.  She's obstinate, blunt, and loving.  She's Daine's best friend throughout and always faithful companion.  Even when Daine felt less than herself.


Have you ever put much thought into the animal companions of your characters (if they exist)?  Or do they just sit there like lumps on a log with the only purpose being to throw in some non-human life in hopes it rounds out the world around your characters?

Me?  I did in one of my previous projects.  It was a fantasy and there were animals all around, from the horses they rode to get from point A to B, to the dragons and mystic creatures whom my characters encountered.  (And lots in between.)  I love infusing personality into animals because I think a lot of people tend to underestimate just how much an animal can really contribute to our lives and to the lives of our characters.

Did I miss your favorite animal sidekick/secondary character?  Tell me who it is, why you love them, and why I should read the book/see the movie.  (No erotic, no R-rated movies, please.  Or if you recommend it, at least tell us that it's in that vein so I can avoid it.)


  1. I haven't actually written a pet into a wip to date. The reason? I'd never really had a pet (other than fish) before. And fish, let's face it, if I tried to write a fish like the ones in Pinocchio or Finding Nemo, my contemporaries would swiftly migrate into fantasies :)

  2. I love animal sidekicks. I'm thinking about having an animal sidekick in my book, but I have a hard time deciding what to do with him all through the book.
    I loved Mushu in Mulan and Flounder in the little mermaid. Also Toto in wizard of oz.

  3. I haven't put much thought into the animals in my WIPs. Maybe I should. Thanks for thought provoking post. Hmmm off to brainstorm.

  4. Yeah, I go back and forth with animals. But I totally just had an epiphany regarding my WIP, so thanks for that!

  5. I love animals in fiction, especially when the author takes the time to give them a personality. My favorite fictional animals are Bob the dog and Carl the monkey in Janet Evanovich’s Plum series. My parents have a golden retriever and Bob is just like my parents dog. Evanovich really captured a retriever’s personality with her writing. And Carl the monkey is simply funny. (The Plum series has some profanity, murder, and lots of sexual innuendoes but besides that it’s a rather clean and comical book series.)

    Also, I loved Marley in Marley and Me. By the end of that book Marley became so real to me that I cried at the end.

    I try to include animals in my own writing too, but I don’t always give them a personality. That’s something I should work on.

  6. I like Abu from Aladdin, but he kind of talks. He's just so darn cute!


All content copyright of the author. Please ask permission before re-printing.

Fair use quotations and links do no require prior consent of the author.