Of Cats and Characters

Crazy week here at Casa del Catie. it started with going back to the day job full-time to run a couple of teacher in services, wound its way through kids going to orchestra camp and buying a new couch, and is ending with another kid going camping and the kitten getting neutered.

Yes, Dexter got his attitude permanently adjusted, though he’s a sweet little fellow even fully equipped. But as a responsible pet parent, there was no question for me – Dex was going to get fixed. So he came home yesterday a little worse for the wear, and I wanted to keep an eye on him. He had other ideas, that included climbing on things, licking his stitches, and pretty much making me insane. I could not get the little guy to settle down and just take it easy after his surgery. Nope – he wanted to sit on the back of the couch, jump on the chair, and play with Ted, our older cat. And you know how cats are – can’t make them do a thing they don’t want to do.

So as I lay awake last night wishing he’d settle down where I knew he’d be okay, I thought about how much he and Ted are like the characters in a book. You can’t do a thing with them. Oh, you can fight with them and try to sculpt their world in the way you want it, but you’ll lose. I want Ted and Dexter to be snuggle buddies and lie together when they sleep. They won’t do it. I try to manipulate my characters to do what I tell them. Forget it. They do what they want to, anyway.

So some of you out there might be thinking that statement is just a little insane. To that I say, “Duh! Writer!” But some of you get it. Maybe you’ve tried to do it, too. You have a plot all set out in your head, or maybe even in a spreadsheet, but those darned characters take off in a whole new direction of their own. You can try to bring them back to your carefully crafted plot, but the book will suffer for it. In my experience it’s best to let them take control and see where it leads them.  After all, unlike cats, characters do give you edit rights.

As for Ted and Dexter, I need to take my own advice and let them find their own way. They’ll find their story, and as with my writing, I’ll be along for a wild ride.

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