Cat tales arrive as Puss in Boots or Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat, along with a presence in romance, mystery, fantasy, and mainstream. This collection purrs, speaks, intimidates, and remains aloof. But do the cats teach? As they themselves might say, this depends on how you look at it.
Cats either represent or illustrate attributes useful to every novelist:
If there’s a box—they’ll test it; a drape—they’ll climb it; a noisy thing that moves—they’ll chase. While their owners prefer to have the drapes left alone, as a novelist, it’s a fine idea to contemplate everything. And then? Catlike, you decide it isn’t actually all that interesting and move on to the next possibility. What better way to uncover the ultimate entertainment? What better way to discover what’s worth pursuing?
Part of feline wisdom is awareness that everything’s rich with possibility, potential hiding places, and relentless struggle between predator and prey. Have you left enough to your reader’s impressive imagination? Do your characters reveal what you never consciously imagined? Does your plot surprise? As the great mystery master confessed, “I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat.” - Edgar Allan Poe
Critique groups and writing partners are great: they provide the objective feedback every novelist needs. In the end, though, it’s just you and a blank sheet or screen. Cats understand that many magical moments occur alone, in covert crannies where no distraction can touch you. It’s just you and your own world, whether that’s beside the fireplace, under a blanket, or inside the one your own mind created.
The scent of a mouse, however long-gone, can keep a crouched cat eyeing the tempting territory for hours, returning to check over and over. After all, anything there once could return! Tenacity helps you continue revising until the page does what you intend—no matter how long this takes. Tenacity fortifies through the long process of completing a novel that meets very high standards. The kind cats would impose if they chose to read.
When fiction works, it’s as luxurious as a cat stretched full-length, purring softly because its this moment offers the perfection every cat expects as an inherent birthright. If novels aren’t sensual, what are they for?
Cats charm not only as companions, but as symbols. Inscrutable and self-contained, yet within reach. As Ray Bradbury observed, “That’s the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats: you make them follow you.”
Tip: Not every novelist needs a cat. But every novelist needs the best qualities of cats.