I am writing a short story which includes a farm animal whose legs were not thoroughly tied escaping the farm. The animal should be anthropomorphic, so that it would have its own emotions and thoughts which would be described in the scene.

What literary devices and techniques should be used in this kind of scene? Please include examples from existing fiction literature (I want to examine them more closely so as to gain a better idea of how to do this well).

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    I think this community would benefit from a 'reference-request' tag or something similar. I would use such a tag in this question. Can moderators create it?
    – user111
    Oct 3, 2018 at 16:07
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    Reference requests have multiple problems in the Stack Exchange question and answers format. Please note that I'm not saying they can't ever work; it's just that our format is a poor fit for that type of question. Perhaps the biggest issue is that they don't actually solve a problem, but rather only point people elsewhere, which is something we try very hard to avoid in answers.
    – user
    Oct 3, 2018 at 17:14
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    Take this question as a good example; you are asking for existing works where such a scene is used, so that you can learn which literary devices to use in constructing your own. (It's also worth noting that asking about existing literary works is very often off topic on Writing.) Instead of asking for people to point you toward works where it's been used so that you can learn how it's been used there, our preferred approach is to simply ask the question that you really want answered. In this case, that would mean that you ask which literary devices, or techniques, to use to reach your goal.
    – user
    Oct 3, 2018 at 17:14
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    In other words, on Stack Exchange, do not ask "where can I learn how to do X?", but rather just ask "how do I do X?". If the question is sufficiently detailed and narrowly scoped, the latter type of question is fairly likely to be well received; the former is highly likely to be poorly received. In the case of this question, you can likely accomplish that by little more than deleting the first sentence of your second paragraph, and adding a sentence or two on which aspects you want to highlight.
    – user
    Oct 3, 2018 at 17:16
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    There are many well known stories from an animal's point of view: Black Beauty, Watership Down, and Call of the Wild are a few of the best known, and are quite different from one another. Oct 3, 2018 at 17:34

3 Answers 3


Describing a scene from an animal's point of view "What literary devices and techniques should be used in this kind of scene?"

I should say, the same devices that you might use to write from any character's point of view. Humans are familiar, we broadly know their biases in terms of vulnerabilities, desires, abilities and the sensorium they inhabit. That being said, ever tried writing from the point of view of someone completely in the dark, or a blind person? How about a deaf-blind person? An internally generated narrative from such a point of view is radically different from a sighted, hearing one, yes?

Pigs. Although their brains follow the same general plan as all mammals there are certain quantifiable differences. More of their brain is used for processing smells than that of humans - sure they may want freedom, food, a mate, social contact, shelter from harm - all the same stuff we want au fond, but the way they perceive the world is radically coloured by an acute awareness of the smell of fear, death, waste, food, sex etc.. Also how would a lack of hands change the way that you might deal with a gate? Your snout is sensitive and versatile, can you use it to push the latch? (Can you reach?) Or is posessing sharp teeth better for biting through the rope? How does the rope taste? Mouthfeel? What in a pig's experience could it compare it with? Snouts and trotters are built for digging under gates though. But first, ask yourself whether a pig would go through the gate; maybe it's been lead that way before by the farm-hand, maybe the farm-hand was cruel and his smell provokes fear, and is that direction most natural for a pig? What about darting for cover, maybe snuffling about in the ditch for a better way out? - ever vigilant for sounds of pursuit or something to eat.

Horses. If a horse stamps its front hooves at you you should take it as a warning. If one rakes the ground with its front hooves, it may be bored/frustrated and want to run free. There are many detailed examples of equine body language you can plunder here: https://thehorse.com/14965/translating-equine-body-language/ The odd little detail specific to your animal may help to lend realism.

Likewise other animals have their biases of sensory acuity and behavioural habits that you'll be able to figure out with a little thought and research.

For example, I give you "The Hole in the Zero" By M.K. Joseph. A character at one point becomes a plant - completley immobile and terrified at the destruction of all its siblings and Mother. The sound of the destructive machines is emphasized in this case, with the screaming of the dendrites as they're destroyed, and some description of the burning smell - this may not be a realistic reflection of the way plants react, but it works well for the scene, I'd suggest because it viscerally and emotionally appeals to the audience such that disbelief is suspended effortlessley.

Next example, same book - a character becomes an insect. The description of its entire sensorium becomes about tasting its surrroundings for traces of salts, food. As it suffers a death by fire, intriguingly, the last thing it tastes is its own juices. Throughout the scene the creature's narrative is tinged with longing and regret of loss for a past mating partner. This from an objective point of view is perhaps realistic regarding the insect's world-view through chemical signaling, but less so regarding its memory and cognition - yet again it works as a self contained scene perhaps because the audience is hooked by the regret scenario.

For ultimate anthropomorphism, Fluke by James Herbert. It's been a while since I read it, but it is written entirely from the point of view of a man who's been reincarnated as a dog and knows it. From what I remember, he's driven by very human urges and a desire to resolve conflicts from his previous life - worth a read.

I'd say it depends how deep you want to go, or to take your readers into the world of the animal. Getting the reader engaged in the scene requires the same things as getting them interested in a human character, unless your readership is not human of course.


I would offer the book, Fear Nothing by Dean Koontz as an example of anthropomorphism at its finest. For the price of a little horror, you get an introductory definition of anthropomorphism in the banter between the lead character, Christopher Snow and his best friend, Bobby Halloway. Later, you meet Roosevelt Frost, an eccentric supporting character who believes that he can talk to animals, and there the narrator "imagines" what a conversation between himself, Frost, his dog Orson, and a cat might play out. A few pages later, you get a full chapter written in the dog's voice.

What elevates this work above many others is the amazing voice and not-human logic which Koontz gives to the dog. If you ignore the rest of the book entirely, you should read that one chapter which starts with Orson studying squirrels in "Life's Shit" park.

Many of Koontz's other books have wonderful canine characters, but Orson in Fear Nothing is by far my favorite.


You should find the Animorphs series a great source of inspiration. Pretty much every book has the narrator describe his or her sensual changes after they turn into an animal. One of the rules of the process also holds that upon the first time one morphs into a new animal, the animal's instincts can be overwhelming and can overpower the mind of the human briefly... once the human mind gains control of the animal mind, they can still tap into it for normal reactions to situations, as to help their cover. All books are First Person Narratives and the animal's emotions are part of the humans emotions when they are morphed into the animals.

It also has at least two alien depictions on the strangeness of the human animal. The first, an alien best described as a mouth-less centaur, describes the overwhelming sense of taste that he had no frame of reference for and vocal communications. The other alien, which is a parasitic brain slug, has one entry on describing the overwhelming sensation of sight that he and his peers were not prepaired for when they first infested a creature, and the second one gets a special description of a human mind which is unique to her, even though she has infested other creature before (specifically, self-doubt is as alien to her as sight is to the earlier narrator. She sees it as a benefit and a curse.). The latter one is hinted at in earlier books as several different members of this species note that among all infested aliens, humans are the only ones that persistently fight them during the course of the infestation... they can't do much physical harm, but try maintaining your cool when you have someone who throws insults at you, won't shut up, and can't be blocked. In a very early instance, one even throws off the parasite's control for a moment, which is apparently a first for these aliens, given their reactions.

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