Cats have been called aloof, persnickety, even self-centered. But anyone who has ever loved a cat knows they are entertaining, comforting, and joyful fluff balls. As story fodder, cats are unique studies in character. Each cat has its own personality, its own unique habits and idiosyncrasies. The challenge in writing about cats is to illustrate those traits with words.
Getting to Know Cats
So how does a writer put a cat’s nature down on paper? First, spend time with these fuzzy friends. Play with them at their level. Toss a toy mouse around and then lay down on the floor and watch your cat’s body movements, ear rotations, and tail twitches. Don’t forget to watch your cat’s eyes. Are they wide and excited or narrow and scheming?
Next, watch your cat at rest. Does he sleep with his eyes half open to watch the world around him? Does he have a favorite napping spot? Does he snore? A cat at rest has as much character as a cat at play. This will be important to include in any story about cats, since cats spend most of their days sleeping. A story about a cat wouldn’t be realistic without a mention of nap time.
Finally, see how the cat respond to people. Some cats are skittish around people while others love attention. Some cats run from children while others run alongside them while they play. It’s important to record this dynamic since books about cats often include people too. These interactions can create wonderful opportunities for storytelling.
Creating the Character
When building a cat character into a story, plan it out as you would a human character. Think about it’s physical appearance. Is the cat orange and scruffy or white and sleek? Does it have golden eyes or blue? The more detail included about the cat’s appearance, the more realistic it will seem.
Explore that cat’s character traits. These can come from observations of one cat or many. They should also fit that cat’s role in the story. If they cat is the hero, it might be curious and a wanderer. If the cat is a villain, it might be temperamental and quick to hiss. The cat might merely be a napping companion to the main character, but even napping cats add character to a story.
Bringing the Character to Life
Once you’ve created a portrait of your cat character, place him in settings and situations that bring out the best (or worst) in him. Write about his interactions with the world and people around him. Since cats don’t use words, pay special attention to how his body language tells the story. His meows can be his voice. His tail and ear motions can illustrate his emotions. It’s okay to take a leap out of reality and voice your cat character through his thoughts. Giving him the ability to read, type on a computer, or sing a sonnet are other options for building communication channels into the story.
Cats provide wonderful opportunities for creative character building and can be an asset to any story.