Michaeline: Pet Inspiration for NaNo and Other Writing

I’m writing short stories for National Novel Writing Month, and here’s the elevator pitch for my work in progress:

Tabby Kate, caterwauler at the Brawler’s Grate, is on the run from her boss and former lover, Tuxedo Jones. Stowing away on Captain Alphabet Greebo’s ship seems like an easy solution for getting off the planet without getting noticed, but this stickler for the rules notices right away that he’s got trouble on his hands.

–Weird and Wonderful Stories for Every Holiday (WIP)

It’s about cats in space.

Tom cat looking in the window with his tabby lady cat friend. Both cats have ears perked forward and interested whiskers. Tabby is ready to run, though.

The Dynamic Duo: Captain Alphabet Greebo and Tabby Kate. Unlike their fictional counterparts, they don’t fight crime: they commit it. (E.M. Duskova)

 

Now, let me backtrack a little bit. We have two housecats and two dogs who have been featured on these screens before. But staying home this summer, I came to realize we’ve got at least seven outdoor cats. One mostly stays in the barn, and I rarely see him (a Tuxedo boy who is white and black), but the others hang around our house and the house next door, waiting

for Auntie to give them some morning milk.

 

These are very well-fed kitties.

 

Cat crouching, tail up, left eye drooping. Ears and whiskers forward.

Captain Greebo is a lovable rogue of a black farmcat. A strong little chonk with a weakness for anyone with goodies. (E.M. Duskova)

I first met Greebo in the front yard. He is a black cat, and he had some weird orange lumps of fur on his back. He hissed at me as I approached, so I named him after Nanny Ogg’s cat. (Pratchett fans may recognize the reference.) He seemed to me a disreputable tomcat who might turn out to be a softie. It turned out that all I had to do to make friends was bring out the good soft food, full of meaty goodness. He IS an old softie, although he’ll swipe me (and draw blood) if I don’t pet him enough.

 

Black lady cat pressed against a front door. Another black cat next to a pillar, ears back. Neither are looking at each other.

Lady Black and Captain Greebo’s discussions often end in yowling and hissing. (E.M. Duskova)

There’s another black cat on the property, but a lady cat with a swinging belly and pointed chin. I was sure she was pregnant, so I named her “Mama” but it turns out she was not. So, she’s now Lady Black. She absolutely will have nothing to do with me, even if I’m carrying food.

 

Well, that’s a moral for you: sometimes you have to change the names of the characters.

 

Tabby is a beautiful gray and black striped cat. It turns out SHE is the real mother, with three clones. The clones are as yet unnamed, although “Small, Medium and Large” may be placeholders. She also makes friends if you bring out the good stuff, although her kittens will only come close if they see Mama eating, or if there’s a bit of ribbon. Large is bold, Medium will advance, and Small is very timid.

 

Cat watching has become important research for my story. I want to add little details that readers will recognize from their own encounters with kitties, and the Captain just has backstory written all over him. He’s affectionate with Tabby most of the time, and he’s a sweet father who will share his food bowl with the kittens (which is more than you can say for Tabby).

 

So, my NaNo advice for the week is that if your story is lagging, watch some animals, either in real life or YouTube. Do you know people who act the same way as the creatures you are watching? Does one of your characters do the same sort of things? Give it a try. If it doesn’t work, you can always try adding a dog, cat, boa constrictor or other animal to the story to give it a twist you never knew was in it. Happy writing, everyone!

 

(feeding frenzy, about one minute)

4 thoughts on “Michaeline: Pet Inspiration for NaNo and Other Writing

    • Lady Black is also developing (at least in my mind) to be quite a character. A strong, opinionated sister who doesn’t get along with her brother that well, but must share the family business with him. (The real Lady Black and Greebo had a small spat when I came out the front door this morning. You see, they thought I was Auntie with the milk, so Lady Black came rushing up, and Greebo did not appreciate it AT ALL. Auntie makes sure they share the milk properly.)

  1. As a cat lover, have to say I ooh-ed and ah-ed over your one minute! We have some magpies that visit us regularly and empty the bird tray of feed (we’ve brought some feeders with protective systems they can’t get through), but they’re just SO wily and intelligent. So yes, absolute gold for character studies.

    • Well, thank you! I’m afraid I’m boring my family to death, but I find it fascinating. Today, we had a hawk fly over! Mama Tabby was instantly on the alert, and I was trying to see what was wrong, but didn’t get it until the hawk circled around us. She growled at the babies and they zoomed under an azalea, and then w-a-t-c-h-e-d very carefully. They’d been playfighting for most of the morning, so as soon as they had to be still, the adrenaline rush kind of caught up to them, and they almost fell asleep at one point. So funny, and so useful for my story!

      Magpies and crows are so very smart. They seem to remember very well, too. It’s incredible to me . . . they have (literally) bird brains, but they can store so much information, act on it, and even figure out quite complex problems.

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