So this will be a funny post. But since my brain likes to draw parallels between seemingly unrelated things, we’re going to go with it.
The other day I was playing with Solstice Kitty, otherwise known as Solara, the adopted furry-white monstrosity that I ended up taking on in a sort of rescue situation. She’s pretty amazing but also a terror that likes to wake people up at 2 in the morning demanding attention, but I digress.
We’ve been getting new toys for her (as we both work full time at the moment and she ends up bored and alone a lot of the day), and we found one that has really seemed to stick. It’s basically just a furry thing attached to a string attached to a stick that I hold and flick around/race across the room with.
My coming-home-from-work routine has become: get home, throw off annoying clothes and put on comfy ones, start a fire, starting playing with cat. Keep playing with cat, in between bouts of writing and making dinner and whatever else.
A few days in to this new routine, I was struck by an odd comparison: writing fiction is like using a toy to play with a cat.
And here’s why.
Writing professionally is a partnership. It’s an interaction between writer and reader.
So you dangle something in front of them. The reader (or the cat) has to be interested in whatever it looks like, first off. But if they are interested… that’s when the fun begins.
You can use this cat toy (book), and do the same movement, over and over. You can flick it around in the same pattern, the same way. But at some point you’re going to lose kitty-cat interest.
So you have to change it up. Move in circles, and then diagonal, and then figure-eights, whatever. Toss the toy in their lap, and then tease it away. Stand still for a second — and then jerk it away.
Maybe even run across the room. Make them chase you. Make them work for it. But if you do that all the time (constant, face-paced, always work), kitty cat loses interest because they can’t keep up, or no longer want to because it’s the same (and becomes boring). You might need to slow down at parts.
At the same time, letting them have the toy [answers] all the time just becomes… meh. Why bother? You’ll need to keep the toy [answers] away from said kitty (reader). At the same time, if that’s all you do, it’s frustrating and they’ll probably walk away.
It’s a balance, this kitty-playing and writing thing. Let them chew on it a bit. Maybe stop moving all together. Let them think they’ve won. Before racing away again!
Obstacles are also a great way to spice things up. In fact, it’s highly recommended to use the actual environment of the book to create said obstacles. As for your feline friend, making them jump over couches, boxes, and chairs, or dive under couches, can be fantastically fun. It’s very exciting that way, you know.
BUT, this is where the comparison falls apart a little. While you’re writing, you don’t actually directly have a reader to play with as the words flow (Well, I suppose you could…) It’s a solitary activity really.
So maybe the better comparison is more along the lines of programming a robot to go through a set of actions with a cat toy. And then watching as the cat plays to see if they continue to be entertained.
And then continually revising the programming. Because there are always a few moments that could be better…
Okay, so, I realize there are a lot of reasons why this parallel doesn’t actually work, starting with things like writing style (well, which could be the type of toy…), character development, and world building (though that could be the physical obstacles in the room…), but this is all just for fun anyway.
I hope you enjoyed my silly analogy session. Feel free to comment with your thoughts below!
I would like to note that I wrote this post while Solstice Kitty herself stared at me and attempted to intervene in all matters requiring fingers to be away from playing with her.