Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Animal Appeal

Men and animals. Men who are animals. Animals who inspire men -- or male characters. Before I begin this, let me just say that I don't consider men animals. I like men. I married one male and I gave birth to another and I respect and admire both of them. I'm also not a reverse chauvinist. I don't require that I be treated like I am a man or like I'm better than a man. I'm not a man. I don't want to be a man. I like being a woman. Heaven help you if you suggest that I am inferior in any way solely because of my gender, but different? Sure. Go ahead.

That said . . . let me also say I love animals. Never would I demean my dog by suggesting he in any way resembles a human male--

Sorry. I just couldn't pass that one up*g*.

With regard to books and writing, like a lot of paranormal romance authors, I've linked human males and animals pretty closely in my upcoming release, PANDORA'S BOX (Dorchester, Feb. 2008). One of my main characters is a puca. A puca is a lesser-known shape-shifter with roots in nearly every culture's mythology. He's a trickster who can shift to human form but usually takes the shape of a dark stallion with yellow eyes. In my story, however, he assumes the more adaptable form of dog so he can more easily pass inspection as a normal part of my heroine's life -- in spite of his spooky eyes, irrepressible personality and inability to truly bark.

Now, I will admit that it's been fun to occasionally draw parallels between my puca Riordan in dog form and my human male character Teague. Hey, when you discuss food, sex, or getting a male "fixed," I'm thinking the reaction among males would be entertainingly universal, independent of species. But more than that, having this seemingly unappealing mutt in my heroine's life is an effective characterization tool. Think about it. You can tell a lot about people by the way they treat animals. Do they feed them? Baby them? Kick them? Steer clear of them? Treat them firmly, sternly, hatefully, fearfully or dotingly? Is the animal seen as a friend, a nuisance, a baby, a rival, a member of the family?

And then there's the entertainment value. I write humor and I find dogs vastly amusing. That's why my tail-chasing hound Max shows up so frequently in my own blogs. To him, every walk around the neighborhood is an adventure fit for a knight in shining armor, with dragons (i.e., automatic sprinklers, trash cans, rival animals) lurking around every corner.

Ah, but don't forget the goopy moments. Picture your hero sleeping on the couch, with fifty pounds' worth of sleeping hound sprawled across his chest, muzzle tucked under the man's chin. What does this say about the hero? See? So many opportunities for characterization.

Thanks for humoring me*g*.

Natale Stenzel

1 comment:

Rowena Cherry said...

Animal appeal is a wonderful title for the piece. Thank you so much for posting!