Thursday, February 21, 2013

What My Cat Has Taught Me About Writing

By Jordan Dane
@JordanDane




I'm convinced cats are noble beings reincarnated into a beautiful and graceful creature with four legs and plenty of attitude. No one owns a cat. They allow you to live with them. They tolerate you. Their fierce independence is one of my favorite qualities of theirs. At the mere drop of a string, they are ready to play. And when they are happy, their purr sounds like a fine-tuned engine.
 
Here are TEN things I learned from my cat(s) about writing:

 

    1.) Be suspicious of every character you meet, even the ones you live with. That keeps the tension going and readers won’t know who they can trust either.       

    2.) Suspense is all about anticipation of something bad about to happen, like when my cat stares behind me and makes me turn around. Without even a word, my cat can make me think a serial killer is creeping up on me. How do they do that? I’m still working on adapting that technique for my writing.

    3.) If a scene gags you, think what it will do to the next guy. Cough it up and get rid of it. Some things are meant for the trash. When it’s a pile in front of you, you’ll know it when you see it. Then just walk away. This works in the litter box too.

    4.) A cat knows pace. If there is a back story path that meanders across the top of a sofa or winds around legs in a prodding fashion, that is all well and good, but why not walk OVER people to get where you need to go and take the most direct route?

    5.) Take naps. If you’re prone to writer’s block, a nap can’t hurt. There is nothing like a nap or basking in the sun to rejuvenate your perspective. Cats are specialists in looking out for numero uno. Learn from a master and take heed. Getting stressed out over things you can’t control is a waste of time and a distraction from your writing.

    6.) Be a good observer of your surroundings. Narrow your eyes and really take a look around. Don’t take anything for granted. Everything is interesting when you narrow your eyes. Try it. (People who Botox should avoid this.)

    7.) Look before you leap. If you pay attention, you’ll land on your feet with style and grace.

    8.) Be flexible. It feels good to S-T-R-E-T-C-H yourself.

    9.) Curiosity never killed anything.

    10.) Climb your way to the top. Be fearless and maybe even cop an attitude. You can’t reach your dream if you think small and stay safe. Dare to take risks and have an adventure.  


    I’d love to hear your cat stories. I have two rescue cats – Pinot Grigio (yes, we named him when we were looking at a wine menu) and Foochie Focker (don’t ask).

    What has your cat taught you?

    Indigo Awakening by Jordan Dane voted the winner of "Best of 2012" Paranormal Category by BookTwirps 

44 comments:

  1. My roommates and I had a cat in college. Every now and then, for seemingly no reason at all, he would JUMP, straight up, back arched. He had seen something, I guess, and that was how he manifested the observation. Or maybe he was just experiencing some inside revelation. Whatever it was, it was a random, surprising event that would catch us off guard, sometimes startles us, sometimes make us laugh. Which are good things to put in our writing. I like to let something happen, shocking, twisting...and then try to justify it later.

    That was one thing our cat never let us in on, however. He kept the reasons to himself.

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    1. So funny. They are weird creatures who constantly seem to startle themselves. They are so entertaining.

      Loved your cat story, Jim. Cracked me up.

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  2. Right now my 20 lbs fat kitty is lying on my right foot, keeping me in place at my laptop.

    I must write or bear his wrath of claws in my bare skin.

    'nuff said.

    :)

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    1. When my cat goes into boulder form, I call him my "meatloaf." He can sprawl on his back and stare at nothing for a very long time. I think he's trying for a record.

      Getting yours to anchor you to the laptop is genius.

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  3. Toast the cat loves to crouch over my computer mouse. I've tried to explain to her that it's not a real mouse, but she hovers nonetheless.

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    1. I would love to see through their eyes for a day, just to see the world as they do. Everything is a toy. HA!

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  4. When our cat finds a bug on the carpet, she doesn't just kill it immediately. She bats it around, follows it, pounces on it, watches it, bats it around some more, then eats it. From this I've learned to let bad things happen to my characters slowly, let the suspense build up, ease up, sneak up on them, then let the other shoe fall.

    Wonder how the bug feels in all this?

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    1. OMG, this is purrrr-fect, Dave. having patience in laying out the mystery is a great thing to learn from your cat. Tease the reader. Great example. Thanks for the chuckle.

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    2. Think of the bug as a critic. It'll help.

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  6. My cats taught me that when you are dropped from a great height, you can still land on your feet.

    (been dropped by two publishers)

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    1. You are remarkable, Kris. YOu and your sister are such talented writers. Keep the faith, baby. You are an inspiration to us all.

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  7. My cats taught me that yapping terriers are much like the naysayers in the world. Stare them down long enough and they'll shut up, then I can get back to my napping...I mean writing.

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    1. HA! This is great, Ron. That narrow-eyed stare works for a lot of things. I'm trying it now. When I do it, my draft needs fewer edits.

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  8. I just remain grateful that I don't have any cats in my life, only dogs:)

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    1. Now, now. We must be fair to our feline friends. Our cat, Xena the Warrior Kitty, had a wonderful relationship with our dog, Feliz. They'd sleep together with her curled up next to my dog's belly. So cute. Both of them are dead now, but I sure miss seeing them together. Our dog taught her how to wag her tail like a dog and come to the door when we got home. Very endearing.

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  9. I wish I could put pictures on comments...cuz this one shows my thoughts on what cats are actually up to.

    they think they have us with their cat nip and can openers...oh feeble humans...our rise is soon.

    Planets of Apes? Think again.....purrrrrrrr

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    1. This is why cats scare me...

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    2. Oh man, that looks like my cat, Foochie Focker. I knew she was up to something.

      She's a skittish rescue cat. She hides all day from one of our dogs, under a piece of furniture. We nicknamed her - Anne Frank.

      Thanks, Basil. That picture is purrrfect.

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  10. Loved this post and shared a link from my blog. I've never done that before, thought the post too cute not to.

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    1. Thanks, Zakgirl. My cats would thank you if they had even an ounce of of gratitude.

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  11. Good afternoon, Jordan. Great post. My cat has taught me to play with my ideas before I eat them.

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    1. I know you are a guy in touch with your inner child. I can totally see you doing this. HA!

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  12. My cat Smokie has taught me to claim my moment in the sun. Whenever our 80 pound Lab plops onto a spot that Smokie considers to be his, Smokie focuses a baleful stare in his direction. The dog always gets the message and yields to the power of the feline!

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    1. Cats with attitude are hilarious with dogs. Love it.

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  13. We had a condo with rafters when I was a kid, and our cat would climb up there when I friends over and we were partying. He had no interest in mingling with those people, but would just hunker down and observe. I think as a writer it's a skill to avoid the middle of the crowd and just observe for a while. You can spot a lot of character and story ideas if you people-watch.

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    1. Yes, definitely, Jake. The observation thing is very important for a writer. It raises the bar on your personal quality of life too. Makes you appreciate EVERYTHING.

      Cats always look intelligent doing it. I'm still working on that.

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  14. Love these insights, Jordan! Cats always have a reason for what they do--even if deficient "hoominz" can't figure it out. That informs both both my cat nonfiction work and the animal and human characters in my fiction. Characters always have a motivation, sometimes apparent but often hidden (sometimes from themselves!). Great post! FWIW you caught the attention of the cat writers group *s*

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    1. Hey my Okie buddy. Great to hear from you. I'll be in OK for the OWFI conference. Hope to see you.

      I did a post on my rescue dogs not ago, but this cat post has scored some hits. Pets are always fun to write about. I know that YOU know this.

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  15. I love your perspective. : )
    I found your link through another CWA member...I write my blog exclusively in the voice of my cat. To get her words just right, I look at everything with suspicion, sarcasm and humor. It fits her personality and expression. I just have to be careful to turn OFF that filter for myself! haha!
    ~Glogirly

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    1. I have a skittish rescue cat who darts around the house like we're all the enemy. She only appears when she wants a belly rub. She cracks us up. Thanks for visiting.

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  16. Every day, our 4 cats teach me something. Last night Snow taught me to laugh and play. Holden reminded me of the importance of warm milk. Lucky taught me to take it easy and lay down. Yuma reminded me to add up my Weight Watcher points or I was going to add unwanted pounds. How did she do that? She's tad overweight and jumped on my computer keyboard last night. :) Thanks for the post, Jordon. Love it!

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    1. My yellow tabby is a constant new years resolution. That boy NEVER loses weight, no matter what we do. He came to us like that. His previous owners over fed him people food. He's our meatloaf.

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  17. My cats teach me about love, joy, humor and wisdom. And my agent is pitching a book narrated by them.

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    1. So cool. Good luck with your new project. Fingers crossed for you.

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  18. I like to go out into the woods behind my house to think, or sometimes to turn my brain off completely. My cat follows me out there and we explore together. When I sit down for some introspective moments, he sits on my lap until I'm ready to get up and move on. He loves our adventures together and so do I.

    When we're inside the house, our favorite game involves me running down the hall past a bookcase he's hiding behind, at which point he leaps out at me and grabs at my legs. It always makes me laugh and I can tell he seems pleased by this, which makes him want to keep doing it. I make sure I'm wearing jeans, of course.

    I don't know what this teaches me about writing, but I sure do love my little guy.

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  19. Cats are amazing. My little yellow tabby goes crazy over the strangest things. He likes me gently poking his nose over and over while he's licking me. We can do this for a long time. When I try to stop, he grabs by hand to keep me going. I have no idea what this does for him, but it seems to give me such joy.

    ONe of our kittens used to dart out from under the bed and grab our feet. Not so funny when you're older and my parents sure wouldn't see the humor, but everything is a toy to them. Love that.

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  20. My cat has taught me that his empty belly is much more important than the story I'm trying to write. If he wasn't so adorable, I'd probably disagree with him. But I suppose it does remind me to step away from the fake worlds in my head and live in the real one. I guess that's important, too. ;)

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    1. Hey Linds. Great to hear from you. My yellow rabby is such a whiner when he's hungry.

      He who must be obeyed...

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  21. When your cat is staring at the ceiling intensely it sees angels. So take time as a writer to seek a little heavenly help for inspiration throughtout the writing journey. LOVE LOVE your article!!!

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    1. Okay, I'm willing to believe the angels thing. It's better than what I WAS thinking--that whenever my cat lays on his back and narrows his eyes with an intense look on his face, it's because he's got gas.

      Thanks for the change of heart, Sheri.

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