Of Dog and Cat

So I wrote a dog (Stripe) and cat (Joyce) into the first act of the Nita book and then lost them.  They never appear again.  Well, Stripe dies, but then there was supposed to be a puppy.  So I’m torn.  Do I write the animals into the later acts or cut them in Act One?

On the one hand, I think animals humanize characters; the way book people respond to animals tells you a lot about who they are.  Also animals are great characters on their own.  Also, readers tend to want animals in my books, although that is not a reason to put them in there.  Also, if I start looking for places to write them in, it’s entirely possible that it will become evident that the Girls in the Basement sent them up for a reason, and they’re essential.

On the other hand, I have no idea what to do with them, and the book is too long as it is.  

It’s a dilemma.  

The good news is, the truck draft is almost finished, as in has very few missing scenes.  It still requires mega-editing and some beta reads and then a paper edit and . . . but not before Dec. 3 when I have to show it to people.  I just have to write a couple more scenes and deal with the dog and cat.

So much progress.  ARGH.

68 thoughts on “Of Dog and Cat

  1. I suspect I’m going to be swimming against the tide here, but unless you find another reason to keep the pets (aside from pets being generally cool), then Nita doesn’t need Joyce to humanise her? She has socks and a brother, and lots of others she cares for, perhaps that’s enough?

    The demons might need humanised though via pets – so we can relate to them more as ‘like us’.

    20+
  2. At this stage, I think what matters is does it feel like fun to add them in? Does it make the story seem more alive? (And I completely agree on not adding them because readers have loved the animals in your other books.)

    16+
  3. Ditch ‘em. As you say, it’s too long already.

    And I’ve never been without a pet in my life, so it’s not because I don’t like animals.

    11+
  4. I don’t find Joyce–or Nita’s interactions with her–particularly humanizing. For me she served more to emphasize that Nita isn’t fully human–and you have plenty of that already.

    9+
  5. I’m going to disagree. I think the fact that Nita has a hellcat is significant and the way she behaves with Joyce is different than how she interacts with anyone else, so I feel Joyce is important to the story. Whether she is a critical element only you can say. Could you look for places to include her and if you find nothing, then you can cut?

    About Stripe I have less of an opinion, but since he dies, maybe he is not important? Or does his death mean something later?

    8+
        1. Stripe is a hellhound, and they usually die at about ten thousand years, and he’s twelve thousand, so his sell-by date is pretty much past. It’s not sentiment so much as it is anger; Nita’s going to get the guy who killed her dog.

          5+
          1. I’m sorry I wasn’t clear. You said “don’t kill dogs” and I agree. My point is it’s wrong to kill dogs for cheap sentimental value. Like people who want to show the bad guy as a bad guy because he stomps on random kittens.

            You kill anything you need to because we all know you’re not doing it to troll for an easy emotion.

            0
          2. If he’s a hellhound, does he ever really die? Won’t he be romping around in that section of hell with the Stoner Demon? That could take the sting out of that death, if we see him rejuvenating and having a great time in hell.

            I know you feel the book is too long, but it seems like you need to wedge these animals in sooner rather than later — if you need to cut them, so be it, but if they need to be in there, they shouldn’t be last-minute frosting on the cake.

            And I forgot about Joyce until someone mentioned her, then I remembered Joyce in all the reflected glory of my imagination. I hope you find a way to keep Joyce!

            If you asked me, which would I rather lose as a reader: Joyce, or the diner food, I’d choose the diner food with a whimper — because as much as I love those eggs and toast you serve up, Joyce is more important.

            0
          3. He basically ends up Paradise. He doesn’t appear in the book again, but people we trust report that he’s there.

            2+
      1. Stripe dies valiantly doesn’t he? That’s different than being killed on purpose just to show that the big bad is BAD.

        also, if most of the scenes are not at Nita’s house, 1-2 mentions of Joyce are fine.

        5+
        1. Yes, he goes out in a flash of glory.
          Well, Joyce moves with Nita into the apartment above the bar, so she’s still present.

          3+
      2. I am against dogs dying, particularly if they’ve been fridged. Solid nope over here. Nita has a whole island to take care of and protect. She’s got motivation aplenty.

        I thought I was pretty caught up on drafts, but I don’t remember Joyce. I dunno, there’s so much going on, I’m not sure you need a hellcat. Nita’s poodle pj’s work for humanization for me.

        There are hellgoats and demons and other denizensknocking about. Leave the animals out of this one.

        0
    1. I’m with Carolc; see what the Girls in the Basement have to say about adding more in later acts, and go with their input. I trust their (your!) judgement. If they show you more places where the pets pulls their own weight/serve two functions (forwards plot AND character) keep them, even if she makes the book longer. (What, I’ll get to enjoy MORE of your story? Darn.)

      3+
  6. I had forgotten both of them, and since I remember most of the other animals in your and others’ books, it feels like they are insufficiently integrated. I agree with Jane though – are they fun? That has been the defining feature of this whole story – increase the fun quotient – so you could do worse than decide on whether or not they are entertaining for you to write, and follow your instincts.

    8+
  7. Joyce matters because she is a hellcat and Nita loves her. It softens her up after we hear about her response to dating. Joyce serves to hint at Nita’s link to hell to the regular hell inhabitants.

    Does a fridged Stripe go to whichever limbo exists and find Joey? Because that means he’s just Earth-dead, but he’s hella alive!! 😀

    7+
  8. I don’t remember any pets in any of the books with Bob Meyer, although you had Moot. Nor were there any in Maybe This Time. And they really weren’t needed. But in at least some of them there were children and maybe that interaction did the same thing for showing vulnerability that pets show?

    4+
    1. Oh, that’s interesting. There were kids in those books, but no pets.
      I think that may have been a function of the characters’ lives. Andie travelled around a lot,so she couldn’t have a pet. I don’t see that awful housekeeper getting the kids a pet. And the Mayer collabs usually had the same thing, heroines who travelled and had no real home, except for Agnes, and she had Rhett. I loved Rhett.

      7+
        1. I don’t know if the alligator was called Moot in the book but I think so. That is what Jenny and Bob were calling her on “She Wrote, He Wrote”.

          1+
    2. Just loaned out Agnes and the Hitman, but the bloodhound was a big deal. Right after I lost this I will remember the name.

      2+
  9. There was the terrific dog in Agnes & the Hitman. He starts the story rolling because he is wearing the ugly jewel necklace in the newspaper report. He makes Shane attractive because he inadvertently saves Shane’s life. Also, he is there to show how small town this place is — the undertaker is also the veterinarian. Actually, he was vital to the book.

    6+
    1. I just loved Rhett. He was a plot point because of the necklace but every time he moseyed on to the scene, he was a hoot. Just a lovely bit of color and fun — maybe not necessary except for the necklace bit, but he was the dusting of powdered sugar to a story which with all of its (let’s be frank) blood and violence. It was leavening.

      Re: the cat in Nita, I have forgotten that she was there. Not that that’s a reason to leave her out.

      The problem for me with dead dogs (unless they are old and it was their time) is that it always throws me out of the story/book for a bit. I have quite literally stopped reading some books when something bad has happened to an animal (same with movies, I must admit). Sometimes I never return (although I probably would with Nita, because, well. Crusie).

      8+
      1. Yeah, the dead puppy ruined John Wick for me.
        This is an extremely old dog, and it’s made plain that once he’s dead, he’s running around Paradise in Hell, so there’s that.

        7+
        1. I should read all the comments before posting. The hellhound is running around the Elysian Fields; it’s fine. It could even be healing for some pet owners.

          2+
  10. My two cents — following up on Jessie — I prefer Maybe This Time without pets because the children provide all the connections in the story. (Real world to ghost world; Andi to North; Andi to commitment)

    I feel the same way about Nita and Nick’s story: any introduction of another level of life would overcomplicate the world of the story. Also, the absence of pets would strike any Crusie reader, and wondering about what takes their place is a good thing.

    I think the relationships between humans, demons, demon/humans, the dead guy, and the hierarchies of demons are enough.

    5+
  11. A world without pets seems un- unfinished to me. It’s like romances where all the parents are conveniently dead and there are no siblings or cousins.

    4+
    1. Yeah, but it makes it so much easier to get married when your relatives aren’t around to object to it! (In my experience, Persephone had the right idea: keep ’em separated.)

      Same kind of logic behind “all the moms are dead.” If mom is alive, those kids ain’t having adventures in most fiction.

      3+
    1. Yeah, probably this. You can cut them later if you never end up doing anything with them, but since you like animals I assume you/the Girls will figure out something.

      0
  12. Keep ’em. This is the truck draft. I’d rather have too much than too little, and I love animals, especially the way you write them.

    You can always cut them later.

    Of course, it’s your decision. Congrats on near-finishing!

    7+
    1. I would rather have too much than too little perfectly sums up my reaction to almost any well-written book or beloved character. It would definitely apply to a Crusie book!

      6+
  13. I’m torn. I really like Joyce. I land in the spot where I suspect the girls had a reason for you to include the pets.

    However, I don’t want to create more work for you. I’m looking forward to reading the book, so if cutting them makes things easier, I can support that.

    So, uselessly, I’ll simply agree that if you’re having fun writing them, include them but if not, then choose to cut them as you wish.

    4+
    1. You know, once I’ve got the story down on paper, I kind of enjoy the rewriting, figuring out what it is that I’ve written and how to make it better. So I’m looking forward to December for that. It’ll be fun. This book is nuts, which gives me a lot of scope.

      11+
  14. Nita already has so much going on that I don’t think Stripe is necessary unless you need a puppy somewhere. Its an extra resolve. On the other hand I am always willing to read about a dog or cat. Most importanly I am thrilled to hear the truck draft is almost finished. I want to read this book!!!

    7+
  15. Doggies!

    If a dog’s gonna die because *plot point* – really?

    And I like the way the cat was introduced.

    1+
  16. To me, there’s value in the way we are always positing opposite perspectives between dogs and cats as well as between dog people and cat people. I would like the echo of the infernal vs. human planes of existence if you were to introduce both the dog and the cat into a scene or two, and I think it would be interesting to see either species sauntering around the hellscape as if it just visited there from time to time. Just my 20 cents. [inflation]

    3+
  17. My concern is of the cast size. Your animals in previous books were characters in their own right. Is it good to add to the cast that keeps growing? It very well could be, just concern over all the characters to be remembered.

    3+
  18. I would leave them out. Particularly the dog! I don’t want to see animals killed. I would have prefered seeing Hedwig(Harry’s owl) die of old age. Rowling was unnecessarily violent imo having Hedwig be murdered.
    I don’t remember these animals, and I read Act 1. Were they in a draft I missed?
    Anyway for logistics point if you kill dog and leave out the cat out of the rest of the book, cat readers will anxious about the fate of the cat. They will write and say is the cat ok? Trust me, I read at least one book where this was an issue for other readers. I think you would need a later scene with the cat.
    I also agree there’s a lot going on already without the animals, and it will be a lot for readers to keep track of.
    It’s your book so you can decide to keep them. I don’t think every book needs animals or children so I wouldn’t worry about leaving them out.
    I love dogs, too so just know I’m not an animal hater. I used to have a very sweet dog, and hopefully some day I will have a dog again.

    1+
    1. The cat was in the first act when Nita and Button go to her house. Dog and cat were in second act, most of which I did not post here.

      3+
    1. I myself see no downside to having a hellcat and a hellhound in this story, but I’d be happy if it were 200,000 words long, so … pretty sure the publisher doesn’t want to hear from me on this one. Maybe not the writer either. 😉

      4+
  19. I distinctly remember Joyce. For one – what a great name for any kind of cat, but specifically a hell cat. It makes be think of 50’s housewife for some reason, so totally opposite to Joyce the Cat’s personality.

    But I especially love that Nita loves her. Everyone else is petrified, but Nita sees the best in her. It’s my favourite romance plot line – the so-called unlovable find their soul mates. 🙂

    9+
  20. I can’t stand animal suffering anymore, it pulls me out. But if the helldog goes in a blaze of glory and doesn’t suffer, and it is know he has moved on and is happy I think it will work.

    2+
  21. I liked them, especially Button’s reaction to Joyce. I liked that Nita sees something that’s scary to someone else and she thinks it’s cuddly.

    2+
  22. It seems a bit repetitive to keep putting the exact same things in books, especially if you’re using it to demonstrate the same thing over and over. I’ve kind of had it with the heroine having a dog to show she’s nice. Then the hero is won over by the dog so you know he’s nice. Then the antagonist is mean to the dog so you know he’s mean. Perhaps because I don’t really care for dogs and by the Crusie dog scale of moral measurement I must be a bad person and come to a bad end.

    0
    1. LOL. I never thought about it but that is true of all pets in books. I don’t have a dog even though in general I like dogs. There have been specific dogs I have not liked, e.g., ones that chase or bother my cats. And while this will be found to be an offensive thing to some people, I feel the same about some children (see e.g. for dogs) But mean dogs and mean children are rarely found attached to the hero or heroine in books so your plot line holds true.

      0

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