Friday, November 13, 2009

He's a Manx

by Sarah Albrecht

Until a few weeks ago we ascribed our tubby gray tabby Marley’s many oddities to quirks in physiology and personality. The half-length, fat tail that spins like a propeller we thought must have been due to an accident during his kitten days as a stray. The growl that precedes pouncing on our other cat we thought…strange. The fascination with water we thought must be due to either stupidity for not knowing cats hate water or to sheer contrariness.

Then our kindergartener brought home a small science reader about manx cats. Manx cats? Never heard of ‘em, I thought, and opened the book. Manx cats, it turned out, have no tail or sometimes short tails. They growl. They like water. They…sounded like Marley.

Marley is a manx.

I like him better now that I understand his quirks better. I’ve experienced that with people, too—an aha moment about culture or family or religion that broadens the perspective on why someone does what they do.

How about in writing? I like my characters better, know them better, if I know why they act the way they do instead of just that they do act certain ways. And I think we as readers relate to characters better, too, if we learn at some point—figuratively--that Marley is Marley in part because he is a manx.

5 comments:

  1. Truer words were never spoken Sarah. Once we understand, we get it. I always think of George Lucas who said he wrote the story of Luke first, then realized he had to explain why Anakin becomes Vadar. And we all know how that turned out.

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  2. Great analogy, Sarah! I love those aha moments, too. We had a cat who was half Manx, half Persian. She was pure white, stubby tail, extra toes, one blue eye, one green...and the best mouser ever. She taught me a lot about life too!

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  3. You're right. I know some people shy away from "labels" but often those are the very things that helps us understand people better, and make it easier for us to feel compassion. It does work great for characters, too!
    When I was writing The Stranger She Married, once I realized Cole was a wounded hero alpha male, his personality really "clicked" for me.
    Great post!

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