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Author Robert Repino Explains Why Writing Animal Characters Is So Tricky

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Bringing any character to life on the page is a bit of a magic trick that requires some slight of hand to pull off. But how does that process change when your characters aren't human? Author Robert Repino explains, plus he shows a first look at his book's concept art.

Repino's new novel Mort(e) was io9's book club selection this month, and he stopped in to answer a few of our questions, including one on how to write from an animal's point of view. In his novel, cats and dogs develop human-level intelligence, but, explains Repino, that doesn't mean that their behaviors and desires will necessarily mirror our own:

For all of the "pre-Change" scenes, I really wanted to emphasize the impulses that developed in the animals through evolution and, in the case of the pets and livestock, breeding. Those who grew up around humans often feel a fierce devotion to them that they don't even understand. Moreover, they can't fully comprehend the humans' world, so that simultaneous sense of wonder and alienation had to be there at all times. Plus, writing from an animal POV really forced me to emphasize senses other than just sight. Having them react to smell, or to distant sounds that only they can hear, I hoped would allow us to get into that mindset more easily. There are quite a few books that discuss this—I recall reading Timbuktu by Paul Auster, in which a dog is the narrator.


You can read Repino's full interview right here, or check out the first look at the book's new concept art above.


Image: Poster art from Mort(e), by Jeff Wong