When I sat down to write a ninja detective mystery, I knew I had a couple of fairly substantial hurdles to clear. High on the list: unrepentant assassins don’t rank very high on the “winsome protagonist scale.”If I wanted to write a mystery series starring a highly trained killer, I needed to round off some of his edges a bit.
an app a writing trick for that. Most people like animals, you see, and animals are fantastic judges of character (especially in books). If I wanted to round off my ninja’s edges, I needed to give him a pet. Pets weren’t that common in medieval Japan, however, so I needed to find a historically accurate animal that could accent the novel without taking over the plot.
Enter the kitten. (Oobie – the cat in the photo – is the inspiration for Hiro’s feline friend.)
In early drafts, the kitten was a plot device that entered and left fairly quickly – especially since Hiro’s Jesuit companion, Father Mateo, has allergies to cats (tension builder, anyone?). Yet as I wrote on, the kitten insinuated herself into the novel’s structure – and Hiro’s household – with startling speed. She doesn’t appear in many scenes, and isn’t a focus of the book, but her “friendship” with Hiro, Father Mateo, and Ana (the Jesuit’s crotchety maid) was one of the nicest surprises I had in writing CLAWS OF THE CAT.
One of my peer editors – a self-avowed feline-hater both in fiction and in life – threatened to cut the kitten from the novel.
“A cat has no place in a ninja book,” he declared.
When he finished reading, he handed over my edits with a slightly sheepish look and said, “I have to admit … I actually like the kitten. She needed to be there.”
A very surprising little friendship indeed.
What do you think about animals in fiction? Does a well-placed, minor appearance by an animal help you relate to a character? Do you have any favorite fictional animal friends?