On teaching a cat patience: cause + effect = conflict

My big, handsome, fuzzy boy cat Scooter is not happy with me.  He’s had a bad stomach this morning so I hid his food.  He’s sure that it he meows and prances ahead of me to the food place in my study, I’ll feed him because, after all, that’s what I’m for.  That’s what I do—whatever Mr. Scooter wants.

Have you ever TRIED to explain to a pet WHY you’re doing something?  Cause (bad tummy) and effect (no food bowl) aren’t their strong points.

As a writer, I know too well about problems with cause and effect.   A writer has to use very careful motivation.  If a cat is sick and wants food but the owner gives him none, there is conflict.  If a man is sick and the heroine gives him ice chips instead of the steak he wants, there is conflict.   If a villain wants whatever the heroine has and she refuses to give it to him, conflict. 

In the very first book I attempted, I loved my characters so much that I didn’t want to make them unhappy.  Hence, no conflict.   The book was short and dull.   A writer lives on cause and effect which leads to conflict.   We may not like it in our “real” lives, but we love to put our characters through agony, to give them every conceivable—and inconceivable—hardship and twist we can.    We torture our characters to make the book interesting, to draw the reader in because a book without conflict is a short book.

And it’s so much fun to make or characters suffer!  Writers have great power over life and death and happiness—at least in our books.

Excuse me.  Scooter wants my attention again.  He meows and I leap to my feet:  cause and effect.   I’ll pet him but he’s not getting food: conflict. 

Oh, and about that “teaching a cat patience”?  Can’t be done.

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