by Robin Spano
Question of the week: "Have you ever killed an animal in your stories? Would you?"
My answer: I haven't so far.
As Susan mentioned yesterday, it's considered career suicide for a writer to kill a cat or a dog in a crime fiction novel. Apparently it makes readers upset and they will stop reading your work from that point forward until the end of time.
I hate rules, especially arbitrary ones that don't make sense to me, so every time this topic comes up it makes me want to slaughter Fluffy or Rover in whatever book I write next.
But I probably won't. Though I love to play with friends' dogs and I adored the cat who was with my family from before I was born until I was thirteen, I don't own any pets as an adult, and animals just don't figure into any of the stories I've written so far.
So here's my position: If an animal ever does have to be murdered in a book I write in the future, I'll make sure it's not gratuitous, but has a clear purpose for character or plot development. I'll also make sure (if I can work it naturally into the plot) that the cat or dog or iguana or horse has been given a distinct character so it can be properly mourned--not just slaughtered and left on the side of the road like collateral damage.