I don’t know what to write this week, so have a picture of Elmo as he considers edits to my latest story.
I haven’t done an Elmo post in ages, so here he is, watching a truck from the office window. I haven’t seen much of him recently, as he’s usually out enjoying the summer weather. It always feels weird to wish for cooler weather when you live in England, but I’m looking forward to him being at home more. The writer’s life can be a lonely one (plays smallest violin, gets back to decadent life of sitting around working at home).
When we’re writing stories, we often expect the characters’ motives and decision making to be all about the big stuff. Their doomed romance, their grand ambitions, their quest to save the world. But sometimes little things are just as important.
Take me. My cat Elmo recently had an injury. Nothing serious, but it got infected and he was grooming it too much, which stopped it healing. There wasn’t much I could do about it except take him to the vet and then feed him his medicine, but for two weeks it affected everything I did. I arranged my schedule around vet visits. I was extra cautious leaving the house so he couldn’t get out. I lost sleep because he was waking me in the night instead of going out hunting. Even when I wasn’t directly dealing with him, his health was constantly in the back of my mind, shaving away a fraction of my emotional processing power.
When you ask “why did someone act that way?”, you can always provide a big issue answer. But the reality is that there are often little things too, and they can make the difference.
Of course, writing isn’t just about presenting reality. We want our characters to mostly be concerned with the grand issues and big emotions. But it’s worth putting in those petty little factors from time to time, the things that distract us from the big cause or put a little extra strain on our brains. They can make characters more convincing and give you an excuse to vary their behaviour.
After all, even evil overlords must worry about their cats.
Merry Christmas from Chez Knighton! I hope you’re having at least as much fun as Elmo is having with his Christmas collar.
Having reviewed my own achievements this year, I feel that my writing assistant, Elmo the cat, deserves the same treatment. So, his achievements this year…
He’s learnt to catch mice, which is good, as it turned out some were living in the kitchen.
He’s made friends with other cats in the street, which is a relief after the fights and face-offs at our last house.
He’s calmed the f**k down, which makes my life easier. Now he can entertain himself by running around the allotments, he hardly ever ambushes me on the stairs or wakes me up to play at three in the morning. I almost miss those crazy days.
So well done Elmo. Treats all round. And maybe next year you can learn that the sink and the toilet aren’t good places for you to drink from.
It’s his notebook now.
It seems I’m not the only artist in the house…