If you’re ever having a bad day at work, you may indulge in scrolling through some kind of social media app to get your mind off your problems.
As you scroll, something catches your eye, so you stop. It’s a video of cat with no front legs, learning how to jump, run, and play while still managing to be cute and adorable.
You can’t help yourself; you smile.
Not only is the kitty’s antics a little funny, but the story is also inspiring. Despite its disability, the cat forges on as if it had four legs instead of only two. Well, if that sweet little kitty can overcome its obstacle, you can get through your bad day at work.
This is the power of pet stories.
Along with making us laugh, pets and animals have a way of tugging at our heartstrings. Even though they’re animals, their tails—I mean, tales—humanize us every day.
Pets and animals—big or small, hairy, feathered, covered with scales, paws, wings, or hooves—have a way of impacting our lives, whether it’s with humor or heroism.
Either way, there’s a big market for pet stories and they give you a strong reason to write a book about them.
Besides, anybody who has ever had pets always has a few stories to tell.
So, do you think your pet/s have a unique story to share? I’ve got some tips to help you share it.
#1 – Journaling or freewriting about your pets
Set aside a few minutes each day—let’s say, 20 minutes or more—to write about your pets. Developing this writing habit is crucial to actually finish your project.
Try to focus on one memorable event and write it down. This doesn’t need to be perfect; you can always revise later.
If you are still feeling a bit stuck, try these ideas for writing about pets:
Write about the time you met your pet for the first time. Were they given to you as a present? Did you adopt them from the shelter? Or did you find each other through some sort of happenstance?
Write down something funny your pet did. Did they fail at training? Did they have an odd habit? Why was this memory significant to you? Was anyone else there with you and were they also amused or no?
Write about a time you lost your pet. How did this affect you? How was their loss significant? What brought you two back together again? If your pet passed away, how did you handle your grief after?
If you are still feeling stuck, try using these pet writing prompts to help you get some ideas to write down.
#2 – Research and notes
Just like any other form of writing, you will need to backup your brainstorming with sound book research.
This research will provide background information to your pet’s story to give it a fuller narrative and may help you to develop a theme (we’ll talk about themes next).
Here are some research topics for pets and animals:
Species/breeds: Research your pet’s species and breed. Does your pet fit these characteristics? Make notes of your pet’s behaviors and habits and see if they are common. How do they communicate (think sounds and body language)? Do other pet owners experience the same behaviors with their pets? This kind of research is especially important for exotic pets, like tarantulas, snakes, and turtles. It is unlikely that many readers of your story will have any kind of experience exotic species and/or breeds, so be sure to share more information with them
Service animals: If your pet was a service animal of some kind—therapy, police, military, leading the blind, search-and-rescue—research about those services provided and the organizations out there that provide them. These animals have benefited people tremendously and have very moving stories. If you have done any kind of professional and/or volunteer work with service animals, readers will find your insights and experiences invaluable.
Adopted/rescue pets: Perhaps you adopted your pet from an animal shelter. Research the specific shelter you adopted your pet from, as well as how shelters functions in general. How high is the need to adopt animals? If your pet’s species or breed is one that has a high rate of ending up in shelters, it’s imperative to conduct research on this issue and provide readers information on it and how to prevent it. For example, pit bull terriers and huskies are two dog breeds that are known to often be sent to shelter; pit bull terriers are sent in because people use them for dog fighting and believed to be an aggressive breed, while huskies have extremely high energy and are very clever, both of which make them difficult to handle. This will encourage readers to think carefully about pets they adopt into their family and prepare for the responsibility they require. Perhaps you volunteered with a pet or animal sanctuary. Research the history and the purpose and mission of the organization.
Pet care advice: Taking care of pets requires a great deal of responsibility. Each pet has its own set of care instructions, and some even require special care. What is the best way to care for this particular pet? What kind of expenses has your pet incurred? For example, let’s say you bottle-fed a kitten because it was an orphan. In your story, detail where you bought supplies for bottle-feeding, how often you fed them and how much for each feeding, how long you had to bottle-feed them, and at what age is best to finally transition from milk to solid food. Readers may find this information handy in the future.
It may be wise to research and share some advice on how to encourage kids to be responsible for their pets.
Sometimes kids are eager for a new pet, but once they realize how much work it is to take care of them, they quickly lose interest and neglect the pet they so badly wanted before.
This is an issue that many parents face and often end up taking care of the pet themselves. It’s important to hold children accountable to their choices, but there are ways to do that without making them begin to dislike their pet.
#3 – Developing your pet’s character
If your pet is still in your life, observe them and take notes. What are their habits? How do they interact with people and other animals? Do they do anything unique or peculiar? This research will enable you to develop your pet’s character and endear them to your reader.
Don’t assume that just because you love your pet, your readers automatically will as well. This may be hard to believe, but it’s true. What makes your pet any different from others? You have to develop their character just as deeply and richly as you would a human character.
Your pet’s story won’t stand out to readers unless their character stands out to them as well.
The following excerpt from Marley by John Grogan is a great example of developing a pet’s character by using the rule of “show, don’t tell”:
“Just as we were reaching the car, we heard a commotion coming from the woods. Something was crashing through the brush—and breathing heavily. It sounded like what you might hear in a slasher film. And it was coming our way. We froze, staring into the darkness. The sound grew louder and closer. Then in a flash the thing burst into the clearing and came charging in our direction, a yellow blur. A very big yellow blur. As it galloped past, not stopping, not even seeming to notice us, we could see it was a large Labrador retriever. But it was nothing like the sweet Lily we had just cuddled inside. This one was soaking wet and covered up to its belly in mud and burrs. Its tongue hung out wildly to one side, and froth flew off its jowls as it barreled past. In the split-second glimpse I got, I detected an odd, slightly crazed, yet somehow joyous gaze in its eyes. It was as though this animal had just seen a ghost—and couldn’t possibly be more tickled about it.
“Then, with the roar of a stampeding herd of buffalo, it was gone, around the back of the house and out of sight. Jenny let out a little gasp.
“‘I think,’ I said, a slight queasiness rising in my gut, ‘we just met Dad.’”
Even though we only see the daddy dog for a just brief moment—literally—we’ve learned something about John’s new puppy, Marley; he is going to be a big, wild, hard-to-handle, and happy dog.
Now that you have some done some substantial brainstorming and research, think of a theme your pet’s story could fall into. Themes in pet stories help connect ideas and issues with stories. Often our experiences with our pets coincide with life-changing events. If this is true for you, consider how your pet’s presence helped you through that time in your life.
Examples of themes include coming-of-age, new relationships/romances, new parents, twenty-something years, thirty-something years, historical events, etc. You could even write a pet-themed cookbook with recipes for fun pet treats!
#5 – Read books about pets
To better understand the niche market of pet and animal stories, read books about pets.
Here are some examples of books about pets you can learn from:
Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog by John Grogan
Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Lauren Hillenbrand
Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron
Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Discovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence—and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process by Irene M. Pepperberg
What kind of impact did this animal have on the writer?
What’s the theme of the story?
What kind of research about this animal did the writer have to do?
What does the writer do with this story that you like?
What would you do differently in your pet’s story?
#6 – Build the pet’s online platform
Yes, you did read that right. While many pets have an online platform, it’s necessary for yours to have one if you’re writing about them.
As you complete your pet’s story, begin building an online platform…for your pet. Having an established online platform will help market your story once you publish it, so come up with a plan on how to promote your story, and your pet.
Here are some creative ways to create “buzz” about your upcoming book about your pet:
Create an Instagram account for them
Blog on your author website about them
Have a bunch of videos of your pet? Make an online video series
Their online platform can be about anything—funny things they do, the two of you traveling together, throwing birthday parties for them, and so on. You can even write posts and captions from their point-of-view.
In fact, this will even help you with building their character to make them more relatable to your audience.
If you’re still feeling at a loss on how to do this, read some pet blogs and search social media for examples.
They may give you an idea of what you need to do to get followers for your pet.
Rebecca Fischer is a writer and graphic designer who is obsessed with books. She loves writing creative nonfiction and is in the process of writing a memoir/biography about her great-grandparents. When she isn’t reading, writing, or drawing, she’s probably hanging out with her cats. You can follow her at: Facebook | Instagram