Sunday, 13 December 2009

How Writing a Short Story is like Meeting a Cat for the First Time

Nik Perring has been asking us to draw story shapes of our Works In Progress.

Well, I had this in mind when I was writing a recent short story set in a motorway service station in Northern England. It seemed quite linear, with little drops into the past and some arches to the future, which would have made quite a nice scribble, had I tried to put it onto paper.

The afternoon was wearing on so I went for a run before the light went completely. It was unbelievably cold; the little lake was still frozen solid and my lungs were beginning to hurt from the icy air. Then I met a cat.

I was a little surprised as cats aren't allowed out of the house in this freakily-controlled Stepford-Wife-Perfect area I live in. Most are de-clawed so they don't shred the furniture. Yes, that is illegal in Britain. So I hadn't seen any cats around before.

I like cats so I wanted to say hello and make friends with it. I crouched down and held out my hand. It looked interested. I said, "Hello, Cat," in my most cat-friendly voice. It trotted over and bumped its nose against my hand. I stroked its head and it started to purr. It rubbed around my legs and let me tickle its chin. We had a nice chat about how cold it was and how snow is no good for kitty feet.

Then I said goodbye and trotted off. The cat watched me leave.

So... the point being: as I ran off up the Big Hill I thought about short stories and how they are like meeting a cat for the first time. The story is already there, that is what you have to remember. You just have to coax it out, make friends with it, and then it will start purring and roll over to have its tummy tickled.

So here is my picture of me meeting a Short Story Cat for the first time:


Stacy Post said...

What a great story! I once had a cat scamper across my path when I was tooling around a corn maze. It was a pleasant surprise, indeed! I'll have to think about drawing a picture for my WIP. Thanks for giving me something new to consider. Best wishes!

Nik Perring said...

Ooh I love this, Jen! Big time. (And I love cats too. Hope you meet him/her again and that you're still friends!)


Fehmida said...

Very interesting Jen. I really liked the part about the story being within us, we just need to sit down and record it.

That cat must've have recorded the meeting under the 'good deed done for the day' tag :)

Emma said...

Oh how lovely! I love to say hello to cats as well, what a gorgeous analogy.

Sarah Hilary said...

That is lovely, Jen. Brought a big smile to my face. I hope the cat has many kittens.

Jenzarina said...

Thanks, guys! This is all adding weight to my theory that literary types are cat people.
(I mean they like cats, not that they are furry with pointy ears).

I may have to do a poll soon to prove this scientifically.