I have two cats. I really hesitated before I wrote those words. First (cliche alert!), nobody ever owns a cat, however dependent on you the creature may be for food, water, shelter and medical care.
Second — oh god, here’s another crazy woman writer nattering about her cats! Get a life, honey! The world already has too many cats blogging, tweeting and being blogged/tweeted about. Don’t believe me? Go to Twitter and search #cats.
Nevertheless, I have two cats in my home. They are probably the biggest obstacle, after procrastination and fear of failure, to my fiction writing. Trouble and Mischief — not their real names — can happily play on the floor by my feet or dash madly about the house while I waste time watching a “House Hunters” marathon or an obscure Bette Davis movie I saved on the DVR. If I sit down to read, they curl up next to me. They ignore me entirely when I’m cooking (silent comment on my culinary skills?) But the minute I begin writing, they swat at the pen or drape themselves over the laptop.
This, too, is a cliche, I know. I read those tweets and blogs. (See “procrastination,” above. What do you suppose the always-on Internet would have done to Dickens’ or Trollope’s output?)
But good can come from this. I’d say I was a positivist, but I just looked that up on Wikipedia and that’s not the right word. So say I am a silver-lining-ist, a Positive Attitude specimen of humanity. The cats may madden at times, but they also inspire. For example: Have you ever considered why a strong, appealing heroine should be like a cat?
Cats are nimble and graceful. They are resourceful and inquisitive — and if you are writing suspense, you won’t get very far if your heroine isn’t poking her nose into everything she shouldn’t. She also won’t last past Chapter Four if she can’t land on her feet.
Cats dance on velvet feet but keep sharp claws in reserve.
Cats know what they want but embody mystery: Your heroine should be able to keep any man guessing for as long as she wants. But, like a cat, when the time and place are right, the love she reveals for “the one” will be deep, unmistakable and committed. She’ll fight to the death to protect her own.
Cats are resilient. If they don’t get what they want the first time, they keep trying. But they are realists. At some point, if success is out of reach, they move on. Cats don’t mope much. Neither should your heroine. Her efforts to win her heart’s desire should drive the plot. Her losses, even more.
Cats also come in infinite variety. Not all are lovable, many are wild, others shy. Some bear the physical and psychological scars of a hard life, but whether she’s an aristocrat or an alley cat, you can’t help but admire her for her inventiveness, her gumption, her sense of self. Her fur may be tattered, her paws sore, but even the ugliest cat harbors genuine beauty and will walk away with her tail held high.
As to those two scamps in my house? I made a deal a them. Let me write in peace and you can have your own blog. Find them here and only here — no cat photos on this blog, I promise!
Oh, and they tweet at @deccacats.