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Humans and animals talking in the same MS?

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My MS requires that both the human MC and the animals can talk... but I feel uncomfortable with that, like it's such an utter no-no that no matter whether it's a good story or not, it'll be an automatic rejection based on the talking aspect alone!

I've never written anything with talking animals in it before, mainly because I know that eds/agents get tonnes of talking-animal submissions but somehow having animals and humans talking seems even worse!

Is this one of those 'If the writing is good enough it's okay,' situations, or is it just an outright 'No, don't even bother, Franzilla, you doughnut brain,'  thing?

Thanks!
#1 - April 25, 2013, 07:28 PM

Read Malcolm at Midnight. Great example of this.
#2 - April 25, 2013, 07:47 PM
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This is an old example, but doesn't the picture book DANNY AND THE DINOSAUR have both the boy and the dino talking?
#3 - April 25, 2013, 07:49 PM
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Execution is everything ... think Desperaux. Mercy Pig. Yeah!
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#4 - April 25, 2013, 08:12 PM
BOUND (Bodach Books, 2018)
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CS Lewis and I say go for it. ;)
#5 - April 25, 2013, 09:02 PM
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I have both humans and animals talking in my pb The Truth About Penguins. I never gave it a moment's thought and it never came up as an issue either pre- or post-publication. I would just go for it!
#6 - April 25, 2013, 10:19 PM

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Great! Funny, I looked through my MS and realised I have actually written one animals talking MS! But I've never sent it out... Hopefully I can be a bit more confident with this one!

Will look up those PB examples now too. I should've mentioned it was a PB...
#7 - April 26, 2013, 05:07 AM

No reason why it can't work.
But if you feel uncomfortable with it, ask yourself why.
Why not play around with the idea of all the characters as humans or all the characters as animals?
Rethink every aspect of it before you begin writing.
This might help you ferret out (excuse the pun) the story you really want to tell.
Good luck and have fun!
#8 - April 26, 2013, 06:45 AM

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In my Supernatural Rubber Chicken chapter book series, I had talking people and a talking rubber chicken. It was fun.
#9 - April 26, 2013, 08:07 AM
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No reason why it can't work.
But if you feel uncomfortable with it, ask yourself why.
Why not play around with the idea of all the characters as humans or all the characters as animals?
Rethink every aspect of it before you begin writing.
This might help you ferret out (excuse the pun) the story you really want to tell.
Good luck and have fun!

That's exactly what I was thinking... why is it making me so uncomfortable? And I think it's partly because the PB starts with just the human talking, then she's moved to a different setting (with animals). So somehow I have to either get animals talking from the beginning, or completely redo the plot.

Or maybe I'll turn the human into an animal! Oh the possibilities...
#10 - April 26, 2013, 10:07 AM

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In the PB, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, both the bus driver and the pigeon talk. I know there are other ones, but that came to mind right away. Good luck with your PB! You can do it!
#11 - April 26, 2013, 10:57 AM
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CS Lewis and I say go for it. ;)
Robin beat me to it. Best wishes!
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#12 - April 26, 2013, 12:15 PM
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I think it depends on the overall tone of the story - needs to be a bit fantastical for animals and humans to talk to each other.

Children Make Terrible Pets is a funny example where the animals talk, but the people don't (at least that's how I remember it).

I've also seen stories that work well where the animals talk and the humans talk, but the humans and animals don't talk to each other (in words). I think Charlotte's Web might be like that?
#13 - April 26, 2013, 01:19 PM
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I agree with the other responses!

Some other examples:
Beatrix Potter books (although as in Carrie's examples, the animals only talk to animals and the people only talk to people.)
A Sick Day for Amos McGee -- I think there is talking. There are certainly animals and people communicating.
Mo Willem's Pigeon books -- the bus driver, drawn as a human, tells the pigeon not to drive the bus
#14 - April 26, 2013, 02:02 PM

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In the Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa books, the two titular characters talk. I love those books!
#15 - April 26, 2013, 02:45 PM
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In my opinion, I think there will always be room on the shelf for this kind of book. I still enjoy the classic, always delightful, Winnie-the-Pooh, Christopher Robin, and all of their friends.
#16 - April 27, 2013, 05:27 AM

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TMarie beat me to it. I was going to suggest Winnie-the-Pooh, which has a little boy talking with animals who are actually stuffed animals which is even one more layer removed from reality. I think children handle this sort of thing very well. It's all good to them.
#17 - April 28, 2013, 09:39 AM

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There really are no rules. If you make your story work, someone will love it. Some editors don't like any talking animals at all. Some are O.K. with talking animals, but don't like them yakking it up with humans.

But that's true of anything you write--someone won't like it, not matter what it is. That's no reason not to do it.
#18 - May 03, 2013, 07:55 PM
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I can understand your discomfort but it depends a lot on what the story is about and how it's told.
There are thousands of stories with both humans and talking animals, "Alice in Wonderland" being one of them. Setting your story in an unreal (or extraordinary) world could help your job.

A real world setting could be more tricky. IN BBC production "64 zoo lane" a girl lives next door to a zoo. Every night she visits the animals of the zoo that tell her stories of their past wild life. This is a good example of talking animals and talking humans in a "real" world setting.
 
In Aesop's Fables real humans talk with real animals. It's an evergreen masterpiece, but the style can be comprehensibly outdated. Nonetheless it offers an example of interaction between men and animals in a ordinary world setting. The different animals indeed refers to stereotyped characters that related to specific profile/behaviors.

The most important thing is to try to understand why humans and animals have to share some talks. Why they are both in the story? why they need to interact? What is the conflict that push animal and human to share the same adventure? Of course you're still considering animals as human-like characters. But you can also decide that some kind of spell is mixing to different realities in which humans are still humans and animals still lives, think and behave like animals. In this case animals can be able to talk, but they still act like animals, without any possible humanization of their profile (In "The chamber o sectets", Harry Potter speaks with a boa constrictor. The snake is still a snake, but Harry is able to understand what is saying)
#19 - May 04, 2013, 02:52 AM

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Actually I fixed it! I realised it was because in the first few spreads there would only be humans then the talking animals would appear later. I hadn't set the reader up with enough info to let them know what kind of story it was. I remembered reading this post, from kidlit.com (http://kidlit.com/2010/08/04/grounding-the-reader/) and figured out that I wasn't setting the scene clearly. That post is mainly about novels but I think it makes sense with PBs too.

Thanks all!
#20 - May 04, 2013, 05:08 AM

FARMER DUCK has talking animals in an interesting way.

The animals literally say "Quack", "Moo" and "Cluck" but then the story continues as if they had talked English. For example, I think a line goes like this: QUACK, MOO, CLUCK and the plan was settled.

The audience doesn't actually have the animal talk 'translated' but we know what they were talking about via context.
#21 - June 23, 2014, 03:14 PM

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