Monday, 16 February 2015

Animal Voices

I'm reading War Horse by Michael Morpurgo at the moment. It's one of those books described as a crossover book because of its appeal to younger readers as well as adult readers. I'm enjoying the book and find it full of emotional detail as well as factual and historical information. Every once in a while I have to brush aside the little question mark that, for me, hangs over stories told in animal voices.
There are other famous examples of animal voices such as in Watership Down, which is also an emotionally vivid story, and also a crossover book. A look in the bookshop or library would reveal dozens of books written for children, using an animal protagonist. And there's the film Babe, whose pig protagonist has put some people off bacon butties forever.
If you look at the writing requirements for various women's magazines they don't want stories told in the voice of an animal. Perhaps they believe that finding out the protagonist was Snowy the owl all along weakens the potential and the integrity of the ending. Perhaps for them animal endings have been overdone.
Where do you stand on animals as protagonists? Animals who recognise makes of car and military uniforms? Animals with opinions?

As an exercise, write two or three opening paragraphs of a novel about a family from a rural community in the voice of an animal that they own.

Write the same piece again from the point of view of a human being that is close to the animal and can judge the motives for its behaviour.

Is it something you could get used to?