Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Think like a cat
If you ever watch a cat in action, you can learn how to write suspense. Cats are notorious for lurking about, missing in action, or just hiding for hours on end.
I have a black cat named Cujo. Yes, Cujo. She is thirteen years old this year. Cujo got her name because she has never liked humans very much so she buddies up to them then hisses and scratches at them--a bit rabid at times! But we love her anyway (and we named her that because my daughter is a Stephen King fan.) But being around Cujo
has taught me a lot about plotting.
She loves to chase me up the stairs, attacking my feet and legs much in the same way a panther might be chasing me through the jungle. So I know what it feels like to know a bad guy or vicious animal is after me. She likes to hide behind the chair and
jump out and scare me, so I know what it might be like to think a prowler was in my house. She also likes to wake me up in the middle of the night with a mournful wail, because she wants water out of the bathroom sink. So I know the feeling of hearing something sinister howling in the dark. She also knows how to alert when she hears a noise, so I can understand being alert in a tense situation. I've learned a lot from my cat. She will chase anything, whether she can catch it or not. And she will run really fast when she is being chased.
Now that summer is here and we have May flowers, Cujo likes to lounge out on the patio and sneak drinks of water from the pool. She stalks birds, squirrels and even the rabbit that comes to visit each spring. She has taught me patience, how to be stealth and silent and how to attack without notice--all things I can use in my writing. But she's also taught me to laugh, to cry, to run in the wind and to snuggle up in a cozy chair when it's stormy outside. She's shown me the coolness of a hero and the sassiness of a heroine. I never know what to expect with Cujo. And that's the way I want my readers to feel--as if they can't wait to find out what's around the corner. If you want to learn about suspense, just watch a cat. And think like a cat, too. That should do the trick.