Die, puppy, die! (not)

Why is violence towards animals a deal breaker for so many readers? Miss Snark won’t represent writers who kill off animals in their books. More to the point she won’t even read such books. No matter how good. I’ve heard the same sentiments from many others.

Now, don’t get me wrong—despite the subject header—I don’t want any puppies to die. Big or small, I like dogs. And even if I didn’t, I am against people being horrible to any animals. Even really annoying ones. (Though, yeah, I do eat them from time to time. Not dogs. I have never knowingly eaten a dog.)

Back to my question: Why is violence against animals in books a deal breaker when violence against humans is not?

Someone told me recently (hi, Harriet) that it’s because animals have no choice. I pointed out that many people who are murdered in books have no choice either. But I do think the choice thing has something to do with it. Because it’s definitely not that people don’t care about other people being murdered, or otherwise having violence inflicted upon them. Perhaps it’s that we’ve read much more of that kind of violence. Crime is a whole genre where you can depend on violence being visited upon at least one person in the course of a book.

And it’s not like these same readers aren’t upset when a character they’ve bonded with gets offed or is harmed in some way, but it’s not a deal breaker. It’s not something that means they will put the book down and back away. Why is that?

Violence towards animals in books is not the only deal breaker. I know several parents who can no longer read books about missing children. I’m not sure I have any deal breakers. I’ve read books where the depiction of sexual violence really really upset me. But if it’s a necessary part of the plot and the book doesn’t suck, I’ll read it.

What are your deal breakers? What are the things in books that you find too upsetting to read?


  1. Little Willow on #

    I can’t deal with any animal violence / loss in books, even fiction. I can read murder mysteries and sci-fi/horror without any problems. Same rules apply for movies and TV.

    I just lost my cat Spooky last night, suddenly and horribly, so … if you have pets, please hug them for me.

  2. holly on #

    having killed a number of fictional cats (yes, I do have them at home), I know that it upsets people much more than depictions of human death.

    My dealbreaker is anything awful to the elderly. It makes me sick. I don’t know if I would stop reading something that was really wonderful, but it would be hard for me to keep going.

  3. Dan Goodman on #

    One fantasy novel started with a prologue in which some of the Good Guys kill and eat student protestors — this being something the author approves of (or at least, his authorial persona does). Didn’t finish the book, am very unlikely to read anything else by that writer.

  4. niki on #

    you like dogs… ?

  5. lili on #

    i don’t think i have any deal breakers… as long as it’s a good story, i’ll read it.

    so i spose my deal breaker is: crap writing.

  6. Harriet Jordan on #

    I’m not sure I’d quite say animal deaths are a “deal breaker” for me. They can play a crucial role in the book. And I can think of at least four books with animal deaths – Black Beauty, Mates at Billabong, and two others that I won’t name because they are a bit more recent and it might count as a spoiler – where I have read the books again and again and again. *But* on *every* re-read, I have skipped the page/chapter in which the death occurs. I would in no sense say it should be removed from the book, but I don’t feel up to going through it again.

    Actually, it’s not even the death that’s the problem for me – it’s the suffering. And I think that’s part of what I was trying to articulate when I said they have “no choice”. Not just that they have no choice, but there is no way to explain to them what is happening, and they look trustfully to humans to make it all right. Maybe it’s an innocence thing rather than a choice thing. So maybe I’d respond the same way to similar scenes with children/babies – but for some reason, I can’t think of any books like that.

    I think my main deal breaker is embarrasment or victim comedy – books (or movies or TV shows) where you are supposed to laugh at the main character when everything goes wrong for them. And this is something that tends to run through as a feature of the whole thing, tainting every moment of it. By contrast, an animal death is a one-off, excisable moment, and so not a complete deal-breaker (though it probably would be a deal-breaker if the book was one animal death after another).

    Related to embarrasment/victim comedy, there are three Lois McMaster Bujold books – Mirror Dance, Memory and Civil Campaign – that are among my favourites of the series but which, on re-reads, I normally skip the first few chapters, as I just can’t stand watching the main character slowly and surely dig a grave for himself. But I happily rejoin the books when he’s hit rock bottom, and can start climbing out again. However, I suspect it’s a good thing I was already familiar with Bujold before reading these books. If I had started with one of these three, then their opening chapters could well have been a deal-breaker, stopping me from going on with the book.

  7. Amanda on #

    Part of the problem with animal violence, I think, is that a lot of books use an animal’s death as a cheap way of establishing something.

    Dark and spooky night, cute fuzzy animal, suddenly a monster shows up and eats the animal. Oh noes! Ancient evil has awakened!

    Or we meet a character and he promptly kicks a puppy or throws rocks at a stray cat. Oh noes, he’s the villain!

    Nearly anything that reeks of a cheap plot/characterization device will turn me off.

  8. Lisa Bouchard on #

    i think the problem is animals can’t see violence coming, at least not in the way a person can. a person should be able to pick out the clues and either run or defend themselves. harming the defenseless is beyond the pale for many people.

    when I was pregnant i absolutely could not read or watch anything where a kid was even threatened – it set me off in a huge hormonal crying jag and would give me several nights of nightmares before the fear would wear off. Whatever I saw or read I would be certain would happen to my own kids. Now, I can deal with harm to children in ficitonal accounts.

    i don’t read true crime novels because I can’t say “it’s just pretend” – that terrible stuff happened and it’s too much for me. there’s enough cruelty in the world without having to go searching more out.

  9. Ben Payne on #

    I don’t know it it’s a deal breaker but my pet hate is poorly treated extras…. books where incidental characters, either “good” (miscellaneous members of the party who are obviously less important than our heroes) or “bad” (enemy guards, people who just happen to get in our heroes’ way and are dispatched with no qualms)… that lack of compassion and that enforcing of the hollywood ideals of self as all important and of non-“known” members of society (those to whom we have no personal attachment) as unimportant and disposable is one of my key hates… the fact that it’s often committed (apparently) unthinkingly annoys me more…

  10. G. Jules on #

    I’m not particularly *fond* of books which open with violence to animals, or children, or the elderly, because as someone said upthread they can’t defend themselves, and it can feel like the author’s using that as an easy way to say “Look! The person doing this is clearly evil!” But it’s not a deal-breaker.

    My real deal-breaker is the (female) protagonist getting raped in the first two chapters. I usually try to keep reading, actually — it’s not a throw-the-book-against-a-wall dealbreaker — but I have a very hard time getting past that to read the rest of the book and usually wind up giving up, not matter how good the author is. I think because I don’t really know the character before the rape happens, and I often wind up feeling like the rape was in there to give the character a motivation for something. Rape used to give someone character motivation turns me right off on the book.

  11. Hannah Wolf Bowen on #

    I agree with Harriet’s

    >Not just that they have no choice, but there is no way to explain to them what is happening…

    And think it also ties into–when people die in books, there’s often a certain rationality to it. There’s a reason that they die, even if they don’t deserve it (insofar as anyone can ‘deserve’ to die, which, y’know, not so much). They usually either brought it on themselves (I’d include the noble sacrifices in this catagory) or they’re dying for plot reasons and we didn’t get to know them very well (as in mysteries).

    When neither of these is in play–as in, say, [Spoiler]’s death in the Firefly movie, the first death in Moon Called, and at various points in G.R.R. Martin’s big series, I react to human (or close approximation thereof) death in much the same way that I do animal death. It’s not a do no pass go do not collect $200 deal-breaker for me, but more of a gut-shot, yes.

    (I’m very sorry about your cat, Little Willow.)

  12. jonathan on #

    the big one for me is kids. got two of ’em. everything in a book i read happens to them, somewhere in the back of my head. it’s why i couldn’t read a kevin brockmeier novel kelly sent me. it’s why i now have nightmares about thomas harris’s red dragon, even though i didn’t have them at the time. that, and i’m with harriet on victim comedy.

  13. Andrew Wheeler on #

    it’s not really a “deal breaker,” but what annoys me the most are stories that kill me.

    (perhaps i’d better explain)

    there are a fair number of post-apocalypse stories, with viruses, zombies, nukes, alien space bats, or what have you decimating the population, generally to leave a nice, tidy bare stage for the author’s chosen heroes to prance about and act all heroic. the assumption is that the reader will identify with the living hero, and not all of the dead bodies strewn around.

    But, you see, i live within airburst range of new york city, and i work there every day. i’m also “tied down” with a wife and two small kids. if there was some kind of nasty event, i’m dead, and they’re dead.

    So, there you have it: I have an unreasoning prejudice against writers who kill me and my family.

  14. marrije on #

    Kissing. obviously it’s not a dealbreaker as such, since i can hardly toss every novel where there’s kissing, but still, ew, have to close my eyes for a few pages. goes double for anything going further than kissing.

    long descriptive battle scenes/ fight scenes. tremendously boring, and if it looks like they will figure heavily in a book i will bail. (though i loved temeraire. hm. odd)

    long, non-fun infodumps. tossable offense.

    and i don’t think i’ll ever get into a first person told by a dead girl/guy again.

    children in dangerous circumstances is getting harder to read. or at least more affecting, but not so as i can’t finish a book. i notice i will avoid movies that have them, though. i love love love disaster movies, but i saw the trailer for ‘poseidon’ (which looks fantastic) and it has a boy about the age of my eldest son, and it looks like he might drown right next to his mother, so i think i’ll give that one a miss, with regret.

    but dead animals? no, that’s definitely not a dealbreaker for me. i guess enough sans famille at an impressionable age has hardened me beyond repair.

  15. May on #

    it’s not a dealbreaker for me. killing children isn’t a dealbreaker for me either.

    granted, i don’t have kids and i’m not what you’d call animal lover either.

    justine, this typing without capitals thing is messing with my head. lol.

  16. Sir Tessa on #

    I can think of two series in the last several years that I didn’t finish, and that was because the characters were naught-dimensional, the story full of captial C Coincidences, and the writing just plain crap.

    Everything else, I will read.

    That said, when it comes to doing reports at work, I have a hard time with cruelty to animals, as said, they can’t see it coming, and won’t ever understand why, and don’t have the same capacity to defend themselves.

    I’m also having an increasingly hard time (and this is something that is beginning to creep into my reading of fiction) with male bullies who do honestly believe that they have the right to hit/rape any woman, as it is the natural order of things.


  17. marrije on #

    i see i haven’t actually answered the question. those things above are mild annoyances, or things that indicate not-very-good writing (infodumps).

    but no, there aren’t actually any subjects i find too upsetting to read about. as you say, justine, if it’s a necessary part of the plot and it doesn’t suck, i’ll read it.

    on the other hand, i can also imagine where miss snark is coming from. she probably reads lots of dreck, and one of the tropes of dreckery may well be a particularly nasty attitude to animals. and amanda’s right, too, about the cheap way of establishing something. for ms snark, this rule may serve as an effective way of weeding submissions down to a manageable pile.

    i must admit i’d be much more likely to read a book with dead animals (or kids in concentration camps) by someone i know and trust, say, philip roth, who is probably not a nice man, but i trust him as a writer. if it’s a book by joe nobody (or god forbid someone from some sludgepile), i’d probably pass.

  18. Don on #

    Personally I don’t have any deal-breakers, provided they’re necessary and advance the plot. Someone unwilling to be made uncomfortable by aspects of a story is significantly limiting themselves in what they can experience in life.

  19. Diana on #

    put me down in the ‘won’t read dead animals’ camp. probably left over trauma from bambi.

    when i saw ‘independence day’ in the theater (which by the way, post-9/11 i cannot watch anymore) and all those people were blowing up, the audience cheered like the dickens when that labrador jumped out of harm’s way at the last second.

    no dead puppies for me. it’s a dealbreaker. cats are probably okay, as long as I wasn’t attached to them first.

    i actually refused to read most of “those” books growing up — old yeller, red pony, the yearling, black beauty, stuff like that. animal farm assigned in school was pure torture.

    after killing/torturing animals, there’s killing/torturing children, then the elderly. but if done well, i’ll go with the other two. animals always seem like a cheap shot.

    my hatred for steinbeck is virulent.

  20. Justine on #

    Wow! That’s a whole lot of comments to wake up to. Thank you. All very interesting and illuminating.

    Little Willow: I’m so sorry about your cat. You take care of yourself now.

    Holly: Hmmm, I’m a very bad human being. I’ve read all your books and I didn’t even notice.

    Dan: That sounds like a crap book indeed. Would you have been able to have read it, though, if the writing were better and more subtle?

    Niki: Stop projecting.

    Lili: But even then I’ll sometimes keep reading if I need to know what happens or I think the plot is particularly ingenious or if it’s so bad I can’t quite believe it. Stuff like that.

    Harriet: I hate, hate, hate comedy of embarrassment, but it affects me more in movies than books. For example I can’t watch Peter Sellers movies. Hate them.

    Lisa: I went through a phase of reading lots of true crime books. And not just the well written stuff like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. For me it’s about trying to figure out why stuff like that happens and how evil works. But yeah. Nightmares.

    Ben: Oh, yes, cruelty to the spear carriers. One of the things I loved about Clerks (Was it Clerks?) was the long rant about what happened to the workers building the Death Star in Star Wars. Brilliantly funny because it was so true.

    G. Jules: Erk! Like I said reading descriptions of sexual violence is one of my least favourite things. I’m trying to think if I’ve read a book you describe or not.

    Hannah: Now that’s an interesting point. Also people just get killed a whole lot more fictionally than animals do. Hence the shock value like Whedon’s killing off [spoiler].

    Jonathan: I’ve heard that from a lot of parents now. Apparently by the time they’re all grown up you’ll be fine.

    Amanda: I agree with you, but for me the problem there is cheap, lazy writing, which is something that frequently (though not always) gets in the way of my finishing a book.

    Andrew: That’s really interesting. I’ve spent a lot of time in NYC, living in Manhattan mostly and those movies don’t worry me in the least. Their NYCs never seem like the real NYC. Too shiny. So it’s clearly an alternative NYC that’s being blown up, not the real one.

    May: Tee hee! Yes I have stolen your capital letters from you.

    Marrije: Kissing? You mad thing!

    Sir Tessa: Yeah, but those reports are of real-life things that really and truly happened. They must be horrible to deal with.

    And yeah on male bullies.

    Don: Really? Many people read for comfort and not to be confronted (obviously there are many people who do both). I don’t think that’s a moral failing. Everytime I’m sick I read Georgette Heyer because I want to be soothed. Reading something that made me uncomfortable while I’m sick or miz would wind up being thrown across the room.

    Diana: But why do you have this reaction? Some of the books you’re refusing to read are really good!

  21. Chris S. on #

    I’m with Harriet on truly disliking victim-humour. I loathe movies like THERE’s SOMETHING ABOUT MARY*

    Child abuse never fun to read, but what makes me nuts is when abuse is presented justified. I used to be a social worker; it’s not a position I accept (Then again, Keri Hulme’s BONE PEOPLE was magnificent, so there’s obviously some wiggle room).

    *In part, I hated the movie because it made me feel humourless. I was sitting amidst an audience convulsed with laughter thinking ‘what? This is supposed to be funny? You’ve got to be kidding!’

  22. Colleen on #

    I have continued books with dead animals but I don’t like it that much. It’s leftover trauma from “Old Yeller” I’m sure. (I might never forgive Disney for making that movie. I swear to God I had no idea what was going to happen to that dog.) Here’s a weird dealbreaker that just happened though. I’m reading this perfectly fine YA novel about a newly adopted kid and her integration into the family over a summer vacation at Grandma’s with all the cousins. And then I learn that Grandma spanks. Ok – but Grandma spanks to show that she loves you. And then Grandma commences to spank for lying, for not cleaning up, for making a mess, for not listening – even the 4 year old gets a spanking for going to see a cousin who is in trouble after he’s been told to leave her alone.

    The big moment in the book was when the adopted kid gets her first spanking. It means now she’s one of the family.

    I’m so done with this book you can’t imagine. I’m doing the author a favor by not reviewing it, believe me. It was insulting on so many levels, I just hated it.

    Spanking means you belong to us. Can you imagine?

  23. Diana on #

    I dunno, left over trauma from bambi? and no, i *don’t* think they’re good. not at all. i was forced to read some in school (the red pony, animal farm, etc.) and I thought they were horrible and uncalled-for and worthless. I hated them. haven’t really spent the cash on the therapist to tell me why. maybe it’s because killing irrational creatures is such a cheap shot. maybe because in this world, so many people do it for a living even and most don’t think there’s anything wrong with it and in most places, it’s legal.

    (It might also explain why I had such amazingly strong reactions to The Golden Compass and am Dragging my feet about Subtle Knife. Daemons are practically animals)

    All I know is that when a writer starts torturing and killing animals, the trust is gone and the relationship is over. This of course, variers depending on how much trust I had been putting in the writer before.

    though things often die in books I read, I don’t read horror novels, I don’t read books where one lingers and luxuriates in the gore. so I’m a lightweight when it comes to violence anyway.

  24. Hannah Wolf Bowen on #

    >i actually refused to read most of “those” books growing up — old yeller, red pony, the yearling, black beauty, stuff like that. animal farm assigned in school was pure torture.

    oh, man. i was deeply traumatized by where the red fern grows, the movie version, when i was just wee. and then for my next several birthdays, people kept trying to give me copies of the book. noooooooo!

  25. Sherwood Smith on #

    I am out of there in stories with protracted violence against the helpless–children, puppies, kittens, whatever. There’s enough pain in the world, I don’t need to feel their pain.

    I like a good fight in a story IF the person can fight back.

  26. Ted Lemon on #

    Hm. Dealbreakers for me include:

    – Extremely ignorant statements about a topic I know pretty well. I’m very fond of Mary Gentle’s writing, for example, but only made it a chapter in to _Trouble_and_Her_Friends_. It was probably a good book too, if only the setup hadn’t been so completely implausible.

    – Getting into the heads of psychopaths. Sorry, I just don’t want to hear about someone’s completely perverse sexual dysfunction that makes them want to torture people to death. Can’t read Patricia Cornwell because of this.

    – Ludicrously unpronounceable names, while not actually a dealbreaker, really detract from my enjoyment of a book. Unless it’s Larry Niven writing – I can forgive him a lot.

    – Politics. I read books to escape. I do _not_ need to know about the goings on at the council of werewolf elders, thank you very much. I can tolerate some politics, but if it’s the main thrust of the book, there’s virtually no chance that I’m going to be able to make myself finish.

    – Relentless dystopia. I hated Brazil. Sorry. On the other hand, I really liked Beauty (Sheri Tepper), for reasons I can’t discuss without giving away the ending, which would be a shame, because if you haven’t read it, maybe you should.

    I don’t really get the thing about animals. The best theory I heard was Amanda’s, that it’s a cheap plot device, and indicative of bad writing. But that doesn’t make it a deal-breaker, because it doesn’t always have to do with bad writing. Given the violence we do to animals every day, including husbandry techniques that amount to torture, it seems a bit hypocritical to object to similar violence in books. Hm, maybe that’s it – it’s a vast conspiracy on the part of the meat industry to help us to avoid developing compassion for our food.

    Those guys are sneaky!


  27. Ted Lemon on #

    Oh, one more thing. People who don’t know how to use capitalization.

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist! :’)

  28. John H on #

    Without the threat of death and abuse to the puppies, 101 Dalmations would be rather boring…

    As for eating dog, I hear it’s kind of like stringy beef. I managed to avoid kagogi when I was in Korea, but saw plenty of dogs penned up in back yards. When you stop to really examine the issue it’s not that different from how we treat cows, pigs, chickens, etc.

  29. lori on #

    My answer is going to sound out of left field, but it comes from discussing animal rights on a fashion list. People will buy sweatshop clothes but not fur. Why? Class. I’m beginning to think the whole arena of animal rights/humane societies/squick at the fictional murder of animals/etc. is b/c animals have no socioeconomic class, and therefore sympathy for their plight is blissfully untinged by even a hint of class guilt.

    I am *not* positing a direct causal connection, mind you. And I recognize that this connection is more tenuous than the fashion one. But I’m throwing it out there for consideration nonetheless.

  30. 3³ on #

    I think the only deal breaker for me is the done for effect stuff. I hate seeing things done with no real motivation. Over at DC comics right now they’ve cancelled Batgirl (Cassandra Cain), and are putting out these hints in other books that she’s become an assassin, like she was raised to be. But it goes completely, completely, completely against everything the character herself has ever stood for. Now I have a little faith that it’s all a red herring and it’ll all be okay and I’m worrying about nothing, but I can’t bring myself to read any more of their books until I find out it’s safe and it was a big fake out all along.

    Yes I know that sounds ridiculous, but the very thought of someone being that fast and loose with a character for the sake of fitting them to their big idea story rather than having actual motivations or internal integrity… it’s about the only thing I give up on anything for. Inconsistencies of character let’s call it.

    I’m not a fan of animal violence because they don’t understand. You have more chance in a fight with a lion than a dog does, but we all know they’ll be the brave one and go in first… which is how they die in stories a lot of the time, unnecesarily trying to be a good dog, when if they’d just ran away when the human did they’d be fine. (If you don’t like animals having a bad day don’t read “WE3” by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely but if you can handle it, wow, packs a punch.) I’m not keen on it in books and certainly not reality. (They’re not my food.) But I’ll take it in a story if it’s needed there.

    I cringe and turn away at embarrassment comedies when I know it’s coming and they’re dragging it out.

    The same goes for when people go snooping in other people’s houses to try to find some evidence of something, when there’s that whole set-up of them almost about to be found out. (No idea why that bothers me so much.)

    Of course I watch that stuff because I’m never going to do any of that in real life so I have to experience it somewhere.

    I therefore wouldn’t call those deal-breakers, so now I wonder why I mentioned them at all. Oh, so this is what embarrassment feels like.

  31. Maus on #

    my one and only deal breaker in books is the mention of god or any of the equivalents and christian babble that’s supposed to make me feel good or guilty or whatnot. i’ve been known to literally d r o p books to the floor hitting those sequences. whatever floats your boat, but don’t expect me to waste my time reading one selected minority religious outpouring, there are better ones 😉

  32. harriet on #

    I know this thread has basically wound up, but I came across an rather different deal-breaker on the weekend. I was at the Jane Austen Society Conference, and someone mentioned that their teenage daughter refused to read Mansfield Park because it involves cousins getting married. For the same reason, she had been completely unable to enjoy Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy.

    Now, I can see that for some Mansfield Park might have a bit of an “ick” factor because Fanny and Edmund have been brought up as siblings (though only from the ages of 10 and 16), but this clearly doesn’t apply to The Grand Sophy, where the two characters meet as adults. So it seems that this girl is affected more by the biological than the emotional issues.

    I thought this was an interesting example of something that is clearly an absolute deal breaker for this particular reader.

  33. jennifer, aka literaticat on #

    ah but john, the puppies in 101 Dalmations (ahem, spoiler) survive. Protecting them gives the audience something to root for.

    Kids or pets in danger I can deal with – that’s drama! (examples: the kid was on a quest to save the gemerald and fell off a cliff; the villain bests him in a swordfight; the kid and her pup are kidnapped by pirates in the hopes of a ransom and kept in a dank cell; there is a tornado and everyone in the village is killed including all the pets)

    I have a problem with psychotic killings of anyone. that is to say, people chosen at random (or for reasons that they cannot help) by some madman and who are tortured or killed gruesomely.

    It isn’t a ‘dealbreaker’ – I guess if it was a brilliantly written book about concentration camps or charles manson and I had already started it, i might not stop – but if i knew about the content before, i would have never picked it up.

    (ritual killings, on the other hand, such as the sacrfice of an animal, is presumably for a reason, to placate gods or something, so that is ok by me.)

  34. Little Willow on #

    No! No goat sacrifices! Never!

  35. Diana on #

    harriet, that’s so interesting about the cousins! She won’t read Gone with the wind then, either, i guess.

    i suppose i have loved some books with animals being killed — valiant and that kitten worked wellf or me. it was a sign of how screwed up that girl was, and there wasn’t any lingering on the death.

    however, i read this other bookw here this mad scientist had some kind of rage drug and it he gave it to these too cute golden retrievers who had been littermates — follows a five page description of the two dogs *tearing each other apart*. literally. then the surviving dog, as it’s running around, intestines trailing. still ripping the pieces apart of the one it had killed, until it too expires.

    and i think stuff like red pony and old yeller and stuff really *lingered* on the emotional trauma of the deaths. really wallowed in it. blah blah.

    so maybe that’s the difference, for me. you throw a cat off a trainplatform and it disappears, it’s one thing, five pages of depiction of golden retrievers being torn to pieces, or a whole book devoted to makign a character love an animal and then taking it away, or even just a really moving scene of a little boy holding onto a piece of dead fish and crying “ratter” and I’m done for.

  36. jal on #

    I just found this thread while back-searching the effect of the Bauer bomb, and realized I had the true answer to the original question of Miss Snark’s injunction against animal violence. I wrote ‘her’ and asked.

    My original question was about scope; Nick Adams kills a lot of trout, for example, and has yet to be removed from the canon. And Breece Pancake killed the odd turtle, because where he came from that sort of thing was a necessary starvation avoidance tactic.

    From MS’s email to me, which she must have thought was not relevant enough to put on the blog: An unscientific survey of mystery readers conducted by the DorothyL group found that over one third of regular mystery book buyers would stop reading if an animal was killed. Miss Snark said, “It is not a hard and fast rule. It is a preference. Mine.”

    Because (my conclusion) ultimately she is a salesperson. Who would cut their commission by a third on purpose? That’s the true core of all of her advice. Be saleable.

  37. jenn on #

    my dealbreaker? writing accents like they sound. like the moles in the redwall books.
    also, lazy, rambling exposition in the first few pages.

    but animal deaths? i don’t mind.

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