I watch a few Harry Potter movies this weekend while editing since I’ve seen them enough that they’re background noise. Something caught my attention this time. The familiars are there, but rarely come into play outside of a few events. I had the same problem with Stiletto in Beginning of a Hero because it was so difficult to include him in a lot of the action. As much as Luke Callindor said Stiletto wasn’t a pet, he was an animal that followed a ‘master’ around. I’m starting to wonder what the true purpose of a pet or animal companion is in a story.
I think many times pets are in there for flavor and a mascot type of thing. Maybe even marketing various merchandise to animal lovers. It’s that I see most pets get left behind halfway through stories and forgotten until they are suddenly involved in a grand event. I see this is typically their death or a brave rescue of their master. Pets might be more of a ‘out of nowhere’ character because readers tend to forget about them unless they are involved in several scenes or brought up a lot. Once forgotten, the pet can fade away or make a miraculous return to the reader’s mind.
Personally, I never pay attention to pets without personality. I use them at times in my stories, but I truly don’t think of them when I’m a reader. The exception I can think of is Tug the horse from Ranger’s Apprentice. A reason he stands out is that he has personality, attitude, and is involved in a lot of the events. He is treated like a main cast character instead of a secondary, which is not common among pet characters. Still, it’s rather difficult to make a pet a main character. This is something I’m going to think about and write up for Wednesday’s thought post. Maybe a fun list of ‘how to use and misuse pet characters’ and throw some humor into it.
So, what do you look for in the pets of characters? Do you even think of them?