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05 July 2017

Simon The Time Traveling Cat Goes For A Walk | IWSG



The Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) is a place to share and encourage, where writers can express their doubts and concerns without appearing foolish or weak. It's a great place to mingle with like minded people each month during IWSG day.

Every month there's an optional question which may prompt folks to share advice, insights, a personal experience or story. Some folks answer the question in their IWSG blog post or let it inspire them if they're struggling with what to say.

This month's question is:

"What's one valuable lesson you've learned since you started writing?"

Check out how people have answered this month's question, as well as the other insecurities and writing topics they may have shared by visiting the IWSG sign-up list here. If you want to see how I answered the question, have a look below.


****


"Simon, look what I got you!" I set a bag covered with tiny paw prints on the table and looked around for the large, gray cat who somewhere along the way had taken up residence on my sailboat.

After checking his usual hiding spots, I resorted to a surefire trick to get Simon to come running - pouring milk into a saucer.

A gray blur of fur tore past me and landed on the table.

"Hand it over, lady," Simon growled. "And it better be that full-fat milk, not that skim crap you keep trying to pawn off on me."

After he lapped up the last drop of milk, Simon pushed the saucer off of the table. Fortunately, I'm used to this sort of thing and caught it before it landed on the floor.

"What's this?" Simon asked, sniffing at the bag on the table.

"It's a present for you." I opened up the bag and pulled out a red harness and leash. "Now we can go for walks around the marina."

Simon stared at me with those strange clock face eyes of his. It wasn't a pleasant stare either. It was the type of stare that's usually followed by a demonstration of how sharp Simon's claws are. Just ask my throw pillows.

"You think I would ever wear a harness and leash," he hissed as his tail started swishing back and forth angrily. "You're even dumber than you look, lady, if you believe that I would ever put that on."

"But it's the marina rules, Simon. All animals have to be on a leash if they want to go outside."

"I'm a cat. The rules don't apply to me. If you want to put something on a leash, go talk to that beagle on the boat next to us. Dogs are stupid. They love to follow rules. I'm sure he'd slobber all over you in excitement if you took him for a walk."

"But, Simon..."

"Enough, lady," he snapped. "Jeez. You'd think with all of these writing groups you're a part of and this stupid book you're working on, you'd at least have learned one simple thing by now."

"What's that?" I asked as I put the harness and leash back in the bag. Maybe I could exchange it for some catnip instead.

"A leopard can't change his spots," Simon said as he stretched out on the table.

"Huh?"

"I'm a cat. You can't go around changing things in these stupid stories of yours and have me start acting like a dog. No one is going to believe that a cat is going to jump for joy over wearing a leash."

He rolled over onto his back and added smugly, "Especially a cat as smart as me."

"Just because you can travel in time, doesn't mean you're smart," I said.

Simon glared at me. "I wouldn't be too sure about that, lady. After all, who got who to start buying full-fat milk. Now, rub my belly and then get back to rewriting this story so that the characters are believable."

****

One of the lessons I've learned while working on this book of mine is the need to keep characters true to themselves. There's nothing worse than reading through a draft and thinking, "Huh, why would so-and-so do that? It doesn't make any sense, especially after the last scene where he said he hates doing that."

While my main characters are pretty well fleshed out in terms of motivation, habits, traits etc., the secondary ones aren't. Which makes for some leopards who seem to have changed their spots halfway through the book.

I guess it's a good thing I have Simon around to point out the error of my ways. And insist on getting full-fat milk. It really does taste better.

Do you think a leopard can change his spots? Do you think a person's character can change? If you're a writer, what's one valuable lesson you've learned?

Internet connection has been really scarce lately while we've been cruising in the Bahamas, so apologies if it takes a while before I'm able to respond to your comments and/or visit your blog.
 
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46 comments:

  1. You had me at Cruising the Bahamas!! Have fun. I'm jealous:)

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    1. Thanks, Jennifer :-) We've been having a lot of fun.

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  2. Those secondary characters need to be as interesting and complex as the main ones. It's a lot of work but worth it!

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    1. Sometimes, I'm more interested in the secondary characters than the main ones when I read certain books. That probably says a lot about the work the author put into developing them.

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  3. I think all characters should be true to themselves, soooo I give the supporting cast private agendas that usually conflict with the hero at some point. I just love picking on people. Imaginary people that is. hehehe

    Anna from elements of emaginette

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    1. Good tip about the private agendas - thanks!

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  4. He does have a point. Also an attitude.
    A leopard can't change his spots but he can become a better leopard.

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    1. That's the problem with Simon - he has a real attitude, but sometimes he's spot on with his advice.

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  5. Simon is a very smart cat and he's right you know. He's not going to wear a harness attached to a leash. Don't even try.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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  6. I hear you there. Actually, I get stalled when my characters are suddenly not being themselves. Writers block. Then I have to go back and figure out what's off before they'll let me go forward. It works. =)

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    1. That's exactly what's been happening to me lately.

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  7. hahaha Simon. My daughter has tried to pull that leash and harness thing with her cat. Pearl wasn't having it either. Other than the leash thing, Simon is also correct about the leopards and spot thing. Some degree of growth is needed and expected of characters over the course of a book, but a complete 180 not so much. It's a fine line for sure to keep it all in balance.

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    1. We have some friends who managed to train their cat to use a leash and harness and it works reasonably well. But they did start off when she was a kitten and did it regularly. Maybe that made the difference or she's just one compliant kitty.

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  8. Ooh, I just had an idea! I have a shape-shifting leopard in my story. Maybe every time she changes form, her spots change! It'll be our own inside joke. :D

    Glad you're able to recognize when a character is acting outside their normal range. Sometimes, that stuff is hard to spot.

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  9. Hilarious! I love Simon and his tricks. I am also right there with you about letting the character be who he or she needs to be. We all experience stress and it does change who we are at heart, but we also handle strsss differently.

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  10. Just as the characters should be true to themselves, the writer should do the same with her/his voice. It sounds like you are making some decent progress with your book, even being surrounded by Bahamian distractions! Can you send Simon my way one of these days, I can use some advice - but, he will have to drop the attitude!!

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    1. I'm afraid Simon comes with plenty of attitude. No way is he going to drop it :-)

      It's been really hard trying to write while cruising. Too many distractions.

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  11. I've always done character profiles, even on minor ones, trying to flesh them out into real characters.

    We might get a dog and a cat next so I'm hoping we can train the cat to walk on a leash. Maybe she'll think she's a dog?

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    1. I started off doing character profiles, but kind of let them fall by the wayside. That may be where I went wrong. Good luck with the cat leash training. Some kitties go for it.

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  12. Have fun in the Bahamas! Love Simon :)

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  13. One thing I've learned is writing without a cat on my keyboard is easier, but not at much fun. Perhaps I could borrow Simon for a bit. He's got the attitude I admire.

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    1. So much easier when they don't sit on your keyboard :-) I'll happily loan Simon out anytime.

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  14. All characters need to be true to their spots. My cat agrees with Simon about the leash. Yet I did have a cat years ago that would allow me to take him for walks. Oh the looks I got! :)

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    1. It always does look funny to see a cat happily walk on a leash. You'd definitely get looks :-)

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  15. I would love it if I could put my cats on a leash and go for a walk, but they would not love it. hahs

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    1. Most cats agree with Simon that it's a really silly idea.

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  16. Love your Simon. Great story.
    I don't think people truly change, but I can't even calculate how many times I encountered a situation where people say, "I hate doing this," before turning around and doing it. Sometimes because their words were just for show or to demonstrate a point. Sometimes because they didn't have a choice. Such a situation is very realistic, and I would believe it in fiction too. Don't rush to fix it.

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    1. Thanks Olga and good point about not rushing to fix the situation. It might just work for the characters.

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  17. This is such a great story! Thanks for sharing.


    www.ficklemillennial.com

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  18. Charming story!!!

    Yes, I do believe a leopard can change his/her spots...IF...he/she REALLY WANTS TO. Same with people. I have seen it both ways where wonderful and sweet people turned into awful human beings and vise versa. Sadly life and its experiences does this to us. It takes a very strong and passionate yearning in our character to want to change.

    I've learned many things as a writer, but to me the most important is to never lose the love affair with your writing. Discouragement can play havoc with our affair so the love of writing must always come first no matter where our journey takes you....

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    1. Motivation to change your spots is really the key. Lots of people don't really want to change or find it too hard to change. Thanks so much for stopping by, Michael.

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  19. I think people can change, but that change would then be the crux of any good story. Otherwise, just switching off without reason doesn't seem to work.
    Love that Simon and his wisdom!

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    1. Good point - change can be a part of the plot, but in this case my characters were changing for no reason.

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  20. Hey, I'm with Simon...cut the skim milk and give me the full-fat.
    I didn't come all this way for nothing - now pass that cuppa coffee!

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  21. One of my favorite and most frustrating writing experiences occurred when I was composing a scene where one character was going to meet his end, and another was going to be the one committing the heinous act. I was writing, cruising along, when suddenly I heard the voice of my character saying, "I wouldn't do this." Followed by the other saying, "And really I don't think I want to die in this book." I stopped, thinking I'd finally gone insane, but it did give me pause. I stopped writing that day and in the end decided both characters were right. Fun times.

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    1. Wow - that would be interesting to have your characters revolt. Sounds like they knew what they were talking about. :-)

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  22. I think characters can and should change over the course of a book, especially the protagonists, but there has to be things that happen over the arc of the story that bring about this change. Characters are meant to grow and evolve...that's what makes books so interesting.

    But I'm with Simon on the leash thing. Not gonna happen.

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    1. Simon wholeheartedly agrees with you :-)

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  23. hmm, ok so leopards don't usually change their spots, but that's not to say he couldn't slip on a nice velveteen smoking jacket occasionally, or a pvc catsuit. ;)
    Cats (I've noticed), prefer to think INSIDE the box, but it's the box of their choice (even if it doesn't actually belong to them).

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