So I've seen a few reviews lately that seem to be pretty upset about a certain cat in a certain book that I may, or may not have written. Okay, I did write it. It was Anna Dressed in Blood and the cat was Tybalt. And, SPOILER ALERT!
He doesn't make it.
I'm very, very glad that this pisses people off. Believe me, if he could read reviews, he'd be really glad too. Because Tybalt is actually my cat. Come on, I couldn't kill some poor random cat, but I figured my own could take it. At first he was flattered. He was all, "Oh, you're putting me in a book." Then I told him what happened to the character and he drew back his paw and smacked me.
Not really. He didn't wrap his little cat-fingers around my throat and scream, "Bring me back, bitch! I'm the heart of this book!" If you read the acknowledgements you'll see I thank him for being a good sport about the whole thing. Although now he keeps pitching me ideas about a cat who flies a helicopter that runs on pineapple juice. Don't judge him. He's a cat. He doesn't understand how the world works.
But this post isn't really about a cat. I just wanted to address how glad I am that people are pissed off when bad things happen to animals. Enough said.
This post is about characters! Characters make stories. It's our job as writers to write characters truly. Truly. They don't have to be sympathetic. They don't have to be people you would care about. Some of the best characters aren't. (See Patrick Bateman, in the American Psycho title quote) But they do need to be true, as true as an imaginary person can be, and if they're not, that's on us.
The character I'm working on now, oh, I'd like to kill her. I love her, but I'd like to kill her. I have tried to write her story five times now. She's in a book that was written over a year ago. And it's just this past week that I finally found her voice. It still slips away, sometimes, because she is flaky and I want to throttle her, (I'm kidding. She's not flaky.) and I look down at paragraphs and realize she's not talking to me anymore and I have to delete huge chunks.
I heard a writer I admire say that characters are just different facets of ourselves. But they can't always be, can they? Or is George RR Martin super, super schizophrenic?