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Children and anthropomorphic animals

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Thanks Rena.  31 of my handwritten babies are lieing in a folder next to me.  I am going to print off a few more tomorrow morning and scan through them on the train to see how bad they are.
As for my own cat, well, he has been perched on top of my wardrobe all day.  I think he is still there.  Heaven knows how I will get him down.
By the way, that story was called The Alleycat Quartet.  Too cheesy?
#31 - September 17, 2009, 01:01 PM

thunderingelephants -

Just a thought, since you're hesitant about sending them out -
Is it possible that in some of your stories, you could simply name the characters, and leave it up to an editor to decide if they should be children or dogs or armadillos...?

If the stories are to be illustrated, it might not be necessary to mention what the characters are - that will be apparent from the pictures. For instance, in stories like Bedtime for Frances, Toot and Puddle, and Owen, there's no mention in the text as to what sort of creatures they are. In fact, I  read one description that referred to Frances as a skunk, and I've always known her as a badger! I guess that's an example where it doesn't really matter.


On the other hand, I heard an editor give a talk and someone asked her if she considered talking animal stories. Her response: Of course! This is children's books!
#32 - September 18, 2009, 12:05 PM
« Last Edit: September 18, 2009, 12:12 PM by jlinsky »

jlinsky,
that is very possible, but some of the stories are based around the fact that the animal they are in a certain situation.  I could change if I need to.
Two things: is it true that elephants can't jump?  or that sheep should not be dipped after they have been sheared?  If that is true (especially the first) then my best work has been scuppered.  A fellow critique pointed that out and I am a little saddened. She said it wouldn't work.  But I thought fiction was meant to be surreal anyway. It has completely messed up the plot and I may have to write it again. :drumfingers
Sorry for grumbling.  I am probably tired and cranky.
Talk to you with hopefully one of these  :smile on my face. :grouphug2 :grouphug2
#33 - September 20, 2009, 05:14 AM

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Would the story work if you used a different animal? For me personally, I think it's important to be as accurate to the real world as possible, even with fantasy stories. If the elephant can jump, there would have to be a reason for it...for example, if he ate a bunch of jumping beans.
#34 - September 21, 2009, 05:32 PM

Two things: is it true that elephants can't jump?  or that sheep should not be dipped after they have been sheared?  If that is true (especially the first) then my best work has been scuppered. 

I think whether or not it's a problem depends on what type of story it is. Mice can't draw pictures, but that wasn't an obstacle in If You Give A Mouse a Cookie!

There's such a range of anthropomorphism, from stories where the characters keep animal traits but interact like humans, to stories with animals that live in houses and act as stand-ins for humans. Here's an article I found with tips on writing talking animal stories - maybe there's something here that applies to the questions you're having:

                                        http://www.institutechildrenslit.com/rx/wt02/tkganimals.shtml
#35 - September 21, 2009, 07:11 PM

Wonky,
I don't think it could work with another animal because I based it on the fact that elephants are large creatures and the entire plot emphasises that.  I have changed a lot of traits about my stories because of the genre it fits but this one is different.  As cliched as it sounds, the children liked the fact the character was an elephant and got into that situation because she had that obstacle to overcome.  Using another animal would not quite have the same effect.
#36 - September 22, 2009, 04:56 AM

Mauri

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Who makes these rules anyway?
I think you should write the story exactly the way you want to and unleash yourself from market expectations, rules and analysis.  If the character draws us in- and it's a fun, engaging story- it will work.
Last time I checked spiders couldn't spell ...but Charlotte seemed to manage. :smile
Enjoy your stories! And good luck :hearts
#37 - September 22, 2009, 05:10 AM

I don't suppose centipedes can dance either.  Co-ordinating all those feet must be a nightmare.  That happened in another story of mine too.  Maybe it was because I am writing in a different genre and for a completely different age group.  Perhaps she just couldn't get it.

Thanks Mauri. :grouphug2
#38 - September 22, 2009, 05:19 AM

Rena

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Who makes these rules anyway?
I think you should write the story exactly the way you want to and unleash yourself from market expectations, rules and analysis.  If the character draws us in- and it's a fun, engaging story- it will work.
Last time I checked spiders couldn't spell ...but Charlotte seemed to manage. :smile
Enjoy your stories! And good luck :hearts

 :applause
#39 - September 22, 2009, 11:38 AM

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Wonky,
I don't think it could work with another animal because I based it on the fact that elephants are large creatures and the entire plot emphasises that.  I have changed a lot of traits about my stories because of the genre it fits but this one is different.  As cliched as it sounds, the children liked the fact the character was an elephant and got into that situation because she had that obstacle to overcome.  Using another animal would not quite have the same effect.

Hmm. Interesting. But hey, as others have pointed out, it's probably ok. Heck, maybe you can work "elephants can't jump" into the story, and it can be part of the obstacle your character has to overcome.
#40 - September 22, 2009, 04:12 PM

I've been talking lately with a lot of children and their parents. Without exception, every child seven or under I know likes talking animals, and all of their parents do, too. When I tell them that there are people at some of the book companies who don't like talking animals, they are perplexed, their only comment being, "Why?"
I am with the kids you talked to. I don't write them, but I have always loved anthropomorphic animal stories, from Peter Rabbit to Watership Down.
#41 - September 22, 2009, 04:38 PM
Bazooka Joe says, I have the ability to become outstanding in literature.
http://samhranac.blogspot.com/

Yes, but when it comes to publishing, we are not dealing with children, are we?  It's said over and over that they hate hearing the words "I've read this to children, and they loved it".  That's why I veered away from writing anthropomorphic stories.  People concentrate too much on realism.  Especially some in my critique group!
On a lighter note:  I love Wonky's idea that my elephant could eat those beans.  Kinda reminds of the BFG by Roald Dahl, in a peculiar way.  Just finished reading.  Maybe that's why.

Has anyone ever dealt with skunks?  I'd love to write a story with one. I meant to say about one. :stuckup  I had a crazy plot for a story pop into my head and now it wants to down on paper.  Sometimes these crazy notions are hazardous. :stars
#42 - September 27, 2009, 05:55 AM
« Last Edit: September 27, 2009, 10:08 AM by thunderingelephants »

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Yes, but when it comes to publishing, we are not dealing with children, are we?  It's said over and over that they hate hearing the words "I've read this to children, and they loved it".  That's why I veered away from writing anthropomorphic stories.  People concentrate too much on realism.  Especially some in my critique group!
On a lighter note:  I love Wonky's idea that my elephant could eat those beans.  Kinda reminds of the BFG by Roald Dahl, in a peculiar way.  Just finished reading.  Maybe that's why.

Has anyone ever dealt with skunks?  I'd love to write a story with one. I meant to say about one. :stuckup  I had a crazy plot for a story pop into my head and now it wants to down on paper.  Sometimes these crazy notions are hazardous. :stars


Go ahead and use the bean idea.

As for skunks, hmm. Well when I was a kid our cat got sprayed by one. The vet recommended we get rid of the smell with vinegar...that made it smell even worse!

I do agree that there's too much emphasis on realism...though I think stories at the very least need a grounding in reality, or what you'll end up with is a phantasmagorical acid trip. Before I put something I'm unfamiliar with in a book, I always at the very least google around a bit to make sure I don't get it too far off the mark.
#43 - September 27, 2009, 11:46 PM

Wonky,
I lugged my folder of long-hand stories in for a coffee today and decided to give them a little fresh air.  My elephant fell out and glared at me, so I decided to read it.  I found myself laughing at and now I can't decide whether it is funny or I am a twit.
Anyway, after reading it, I really love your suggestion of the jumping beans and will revise it accordingly.  Thank you. :love
#44 - October 01, 2009, 10:22 AM

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Wonky,
I lugged my folder of long-hand stories in for a coffee today and decided to give them a little fresh air.  My elephant fell out and glared at me, so I decided to read it.  I found myself laughing at and now I can't decide whether it is funny or I am a twit.
Anyway, after reading it, I really love your suggestion of the jumping beans and will revise it accordingly.  Thank you. :love

Glad I could be of help! Good luck with it.
#45 - October 01, 2009, 05:03 PM

I love what Tammi said,

Quote
..With my pbs anyway...if some anthro stuff appears, those characters HAVE TO be those particular animals. A bonus: their 'animal-ness' allows for more flexibility. Animal characters can get away with doing stuff typical kid characters wouldn't be able to do.

SO, to get the discussion back on track, let's discuss favorite anthropomorphic books the way Sam did earlier in this thread, why the MC has to be a particular animal, and what made the character appeal to children. For instance, I still remember the first time I read "Charlotte's Web." Charlotte had to be a spider for many reasons - living in the barn, a way to write the messages, and of course, the saddest element - the short life span. I think the appeal for me was the magical communication with animals.

Next?

#46 - October 03, 2009, 08:28 AM

Daft situation today.  I met a little girl yesterday in my usual writing haunt who was very nosy and asked what I was doing.  I told her I was writing about an elephant and we got into a huge conversation about animals.  She then proceeded to attempt to draw me an elephant, but couldn't manage, so her mother obliged.  The girl then told me what she thinks elephants do and what my should wear.  Before she left, she presented me two pictures and told me get my elephant some dancing lessons.
It made my day. 
#47 - October 09, 2009, 10:24 AM

(1) talking animals usually live in a world different from our own,
(2) talking animals never talk to humans and rarely encounter them in the stories,
(3) talking animals do not have alliterative names,
(4) talking animals are never violent.
(5) talking animals retain their physical form and some animal characteristics.

Just looked at these points.  In almost every story I have written, at least one of these points has arisen.  I would be interested to know if any of you would have "issues" related to the points made above.
#48 - October 11, 2009, 05:31 AM

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(1) talking animals usually live in a world different from our own,
(2) talking animals never talk to humans and rarely encounter them in the stories,
(3) talking animals do not have alliterative names,
(4) talking animals are never violent.
(5) talking animals retain their physical form and some animal characteristics.

Just looked at these points.  In almost every story I have written, at least one of these points has arisen.  I would be interested to know if any of you would have "issues" related to the points made above.


Well, what's your take on these points? I think we can be safe to lump "talking toy" stories in with "talking animal" stories. For #1, think of Winnie the Pooh. #2, I guess that depends on the world you set up. I think the point is, you shouldn't just use animals as substiture humans. It's ok for Chirstopher Robin to talke to Pooh and Rabbit, but I think if you have a story in which your next door neighbor is a baboon, and he acts just like a normal human (with little or no animal characterestics) that's something of a strain to suspension of disbelief, since that character had might as well be a human. #3 I agree with 100%, names like Billy Baboon, Timmy Turtle, Olly Octopus, etc just sound plain lame to me. #4, don't agree. Not sure where this comes from. What about the Big Bad Wolf? #5, I agree here too. Like I said, if the characters are just substitute humans, why bother using animals at all?
#49 - October 12, 2009, 04:57 PM

is kooky.
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(1) talking animals usually live in a world different from our own,
Yeah, Pooh and the gang live in the woods, and talk to Christopher Robin,

(2) talking animals never talk to humans and rarely encounter them in the stories,
Little Bear Finds a Friend...in Emily, a human.

(3) talking animals do not have alliterative names,
Now that's just Barry Bull.

(4) talking animals are never violent.
Never break a plate or something? I dunno, if they're in the age range as young kids, I'm sure there are tantrums involved.

(5) talking animals retain their physical form and some animal characteristics.
This is the only one that really makes sense to me. But I'm sure there are exceptions to every rule.
#50 - October 12, 2009, 06:30 PM
"The mind is everything. What you think, you become." ~Buddha   

Blog - http://yarghing.com

All good points which has caused me to rethink my current story revision.  Originally, I had the animal talking to the human mc.  In the revised edition, there are still humans around, but they only communicate with the animals through their actions.  Now the dilemma is that I have to rethink the title because it doesn't fit the plot.

Never break a plate or something? I dunno, if they're in the age range as young kids, I'm sure there are tantrums involved.

I do agree with this point because if characters can't at least show some human characteristics then children would be able to identify with them.  That is surely why we all write.

If the characters are just substitute humans, why bother using animals at all?
To answer that, I use animals to allow them to use their natural behaviour to compliment my stories.  If I used humans it wouldn't work and the plot is lifeless.
#51 - October 13, 2009, 03:43 AM

Wonky,
"If the elephant can jump, there would have to be a reason for it...for example, if he ate a bunch of jumping beans."
I am so glad you gave me this idea.  My elephant is delighted with herself.  So, thanks again.  
#52 - October 15, 2009, 01:25 PM
« Last Edit: October 15, 2009, 01:34 PM by Donna J. »

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Wonky,
"If the elephant can jump, there would have to be a reason for it...for example, if he ate a bunch of jumping beans."
I am so glad you gave me this idea.  My elephant is delighted with herself.  So, thanks again.  

I'm glad it worked out. I like to add as many funny, crazy things to my stories as I can think of!
#53 - October 15, 2009, 04:54 PM

Well,
I finished writing that story, which ended up a lot longer than I thought it would, but I am not too concerned.
My next project is about a badger sett but I haven't completely finalised my plans.  However, this story is different.  No humans, no clothing and no clue what the conclusion will be.  I am interested though, anyone else written about them?
#54 - November 05, 2009, 07:25 AM

KenH

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A bit late into the conversation, but there's one point that hasn't been made regarding why you might see the "No talking animals/no anthropomorphic animals" restriction.  While I do think it's true that some agents/editors have just had enough with seeing them in the slush pile (where the overall quality is, naturally, going to be poor) and would prefer to work with established writers on such projects, no one can deny that talking animals have been, are, and will always be one effective device (out of many) to tell a children's story.  Beyond that, it's been my impression trolling the backpages of publishing houses that animal stories don't fit the catalogues of certain book publishers.  It's a matter of choice: how they choose to present themselves, what niche they choose to occupy in the market.  Not every publisher can succeed at selling everything.
#55 - November 05, 2009, 09:00 AM

No-one's dropped by here lately.  Has anyone ever written about badgers?  I can't remember a young badger is called.
#56 - November 24, 2009, 06:16 AM

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Some of my favorite picture books are about badgers -- the Frances books by Russell Hoban.
#57 - November 24, 2009, 06:42 AM
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Some of my favorite picture books are about badgers -- the Frances books by Russell Hoban.
That's a problem I have...but it's my insecurity as a anthropomorphic writer.  Almost every time I have an idea for a story, I find some-one has already written about that creature.  I have two stories in the pipeline.  One about badgers and the other with ants.  They've both been written about before.
Is there any animal out there that people haven't written about? :eh2
#58 - November 25, 2009, 05:03 AM

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That's a problem I have...but it's my insecurity as a anthropomorphic writer.  Almost every time I have an idea for a story, I find some-one has already written about that creature.  I have two stories in the pipeline.  One about badgers and the other with ants.  They've both been written about before.
Is there any animal out there that people haven't written about? :eh2

I don't see why you can't write a story about an animal that hasn't been written about before. People have written about humans tons of times, for example.
#59 - December 08, 2009, 03:27 PM

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In my non-writing life, I do developmental psychology research, and one of my fellow grad students was interested in the question of why kids would like anthropomorphized animal characters so much- she had all of these interesting theories as to why, and then she set up an experiment to establish the effect and found... that if you control for all of the other variables (what the story is about, gender of the character, etc.), kids actually don't have any preference between human characters and animal ones.  This was with four and five year olds, but really, they just didn't care- and she tested large enough numbers to reveal statistically significant preferences on all kinds of other variables.  All of which I think says that it all depends on the EXECUTION of anthropomorphization, because the mere act itself doesn't actually seem to convey an advantage, if all other things are equal.
#60 - December 08, 2009, 04:45 PM

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