Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Cat Came Back (part 3): The Cat Reader (and the Dog Writer)

I wish I had a picture of the cat with a book for this post, but the cat has proven to be very troublesome

when it comes to pictures. Anytime he hears the camera turn on, he immediately stops what he's doing. Just before the above picture, he was "hugging" the arm of the couch, but, as soon as the camera made a noise, he sat up like, "What? I wasn't doing anything."

Which brings me to my point. Readers are like cats.

Seriously, ask someone what they're reading, which is likely to be something "trashy," and they'll start making excuses as to why they're reading it. "It's for my reading group." "Someone gave it to me." "My best friend said I had to read it." "I don't really like this, but it's so popular I had to read it." Whatever. It's like people have to make excuses because they're not reading something "better." Sort of like the cat when I try to take a picture of it doing something insane. "What? No. That wasn't me. You have the wrong cat. That cat just ran out of the room."

But it's more than that. As I said in my last cat post, science believes that cats adopt their owners, not the other way around. That is certainly true of readers. As a reader, I've done this myself. When I was in middle school, I adopted Piers Anthony as "my writer" and kept him around for six or seven years at least. Right now, I have two that I've adopted: Neil Gaiman and Mary Doria Russel.Gaiman is good in a way that Anthony never was in that he doesn't always write the same old stuff over and over again. Russel is good in another way in that her writing is just so magnificent. And deeply human. As a writer, the best thing we can hope for is get adopted by a reader and, hopefully, a lot of readers.

But the thing is, cats are finicky. It might be a cliche, but it's a cliche because it's true. You can feed a cat something one day, something the cat barely stops to breathe for while choking it down, but give that same thing to the cat the next day, and it's "blech! Why are giving me that crap? I hate that!" Actually, that sounds kind of like my daughter, too. At any rate, it's hard to know what a reader will want at any given time. Yesterday, it was vampires, today it might be zombies, and who knows what it might be tomorrow: anthropomorphic frogs, maybe.

To make it worse, they're demanding. "We don't know what we want, but we want it right now!" Okay, sometimes readers do know what they want, but it often goes like this:
The cat demands food. The cat demands food again. The cat demands food very loudly. The cat demands food loudly and constantly. You finally get up and give the cat some food, which may or may not be what you gave the cat the day before. The cat looks at the food, takes a bite, and turns his tail on it while giving you that look. If you've never been given that look by a cat, you won't know what I'm talking about, but it loosely translates into "You suck. I hope you choke on a hairball. How could you give me this crap?"

I haven't read The Casual Vacancy yet, but I kind of think Rowling is going through this right now from what I've read of reader reaction to the book. Finicky.

On the other hand, I think young readers tend to be more like dogs; they'll eat anything you throw at them.

Cats also want to get all up in your personal space, but not in a friendly way like a dog does. I mean, a dog just wants to cuddle and be with you, but a cat... well, the cat wants the space. You are no longer you, you are just a pillow. They pop out those claws and start kneading you and molding you and trying to get you to move around into a shape they want. Who cares about whether that's comfortable for you or not, right? And, even when a reader likes what you've written, many of them will tell you how you could have changed it to make it better for them. With those little claws, working you over. Of course, the reader next to that one has completely different suggestions, and that one is working you over with his claws, too.

But writers are much more like dogs. Have you ever been to the animal shelter and seen the little doggies just waiting for someone to love them? Really, they'll take anyone. They're back there like Donkey (from Shrek), jumping up and down and yelling, "Me! Me! Pick me! Pick me!" And, even though readers are cats, writers are still back there saying, "Read me! Read me! Like me! Like me!" There may be less jumping up and down, but, then again, there may not be. And, really, writers will just take anyone. The only thought in a writer's head at that moment is, "Someone to love me!"

Of course, then, you don't want to make writers mad or mistreat them on an ongoing basis, because, then, they become that grumpy, old dog down the street that doesn't like anyone and just growls at anyone that gets near, "I don't care if you like my stuff! Get away from me before I bite your hand off!" I'm not sure if that's any less literal with a writer than with that dog.

But, mostly, dogs are just lovable and want to be loved. They want someone to play catch with and to scratch them behind the ears. They want someone to tell them "good dog." Yeah, that's writer equivalent of buying your book and leaving a positive review.

And, honestly, dogs are so much easier to feed than cats. They'll eat almost anything.
Except my dog, of course; she's picky. Unless the cat is around, then she'll eat anything.

And don't forget: Go sign up for the Oh, How I Miss You blogfest! It's this Friday; that's just two days away. Go now! Don't miss out!


  1. Hey you've met my cat then! Enjoyed reading this post

  2. There are some grumpy dogs out there.
    Readers and writers, cats and dogs - now it makes sense.

  3. This was actually brilliant! Truly! I found myself chuckling as i read along and agreeing with it all. Especially the writerly desire to be loved ... and to have that space behind our ears scratched, that would be nice, too.

  4. Bulldogs don't jump and down for stuff. They just sit there and stare at you until you give them something.

    I think the better metaphor is readers are morons. A lot of them anyway. If they give me money first then I guess I shouldn't complain too loudly.

  5. I'm a reader and do not consider myself a moron. I sure wouldn't buy any of your books PT Dilloway

    That distracted from your post, sorry, amusing concept.

  6. Definitely enjoyed the posting and reading the comparisons/readers was quite funny and sounds true. Glancing through the comments I found one referring to readers as moron's I agree with Jo and will definitely not search out anymore of that writers books, but would like to thank him for being honest. Great posting and definitely enjoyed reading it

  7. Suzanne: Cats are so weird!

    Alex: I just need to find more cats. Not real ones.

    Cathy: Yeah, I feel like we're all behind glass in that pet store window.

    PT: um...

    Jo: Sorry about that. I just thought the cat thing was amusing after dealing with the new cat in our life.

    G_G: Glad you enjoyed reading the post! Sorry about the rogue comment.

  8. No problem Andrew I seriously see me as the Cat reader though! Picky and finicky :)

  9. G_G: I'm picky, but I do -try- not to be too finicky.

  10. Hey, I qualified what I said as "a lot of them anyway." And a lot of them are. Just read reviews on Amazon sometime. All the poorly-written, grammatically awful 1-star reviews, often for books where people couldn't be bothered to read the description ahead of time to know what they were buying. In other cases, they review it without even reading the book. What are those people other than morons? I remember one I got where the reader didn't like the ending so she gave it 1-star. The rest of the book was great, but I don't like the ending so 1-star. Really? If I had any hair left I'd pull it out from that sort of thing.

  11. I am not going start a fight or have a throw down on Andrew's blog, that's not cool at all, so will leave it at Code Word, Firefox has encountered a problem with windows.

  12. See, here's how bulldogs beg for stuff: http://www.flickr.com/photos/butlerblue2/8147915995/in/photostream/

  13. You know, your cat could have been talking about my cat. He wanders a lot, and he's insane. So... (deductive reasoning).

    It's so nice to meet another weird cat/dog owner, Andrew. And yes, I'll most certainly be back on Friday to read your I MISS YOU post.

    New follower who is critically attached to her animals too.

  14. Readers are finicky and writers just want to be loved. What a sad, sad match up.

    And, now, back to the kennel to write some more drivel for the cat class to turn its nose up at later. ha!

  15. I read the Casual Vacancy. I didn't hate it and that is about all I will say. I think your reader as the cat is spot on! I have adopted Stephen King as my writer and I read whatever he puts out....good or bad. I loved this post. very funny.

  16. PT: Well, I certainly don't agree with reviewing a book you haven't read, which is why I don't do it.
    And that's a great picture of the dogs.

    G_G: Wait, is that why my computer died this morning?

    Joylene: Welcome aboard and glad to have you! :)
    I (not so) secretly think that "insane cat" is redundant.

    L.G.: It is sad, especially when you see how it is that dogs and cats relate to each other. Because mine really can't figure out how to play together. You can see that they want to, but neither one can figure out what the heck the other is doing.

    Jennifer: I intend to get around to it. My reading stack is SO large right now, though.

  17. I haven't heard anything about Rowling's book, which I find surprising. Just...meh. No excitement, but I haven't heard it ripped apart. I haven't looked to see what people's reactions were, though.

    I am so sad to be a dog, LOL, but it's true. As a reader I'm a bit of a dog, too. Unless it's horrific. I like everything. Okay, other than romance for the sake of romance and no story. I'm trying to be more open, though.

  18. Shannon: The Rowling book is mostly getting trashed. It's one of those I'll have to read just to find out why.

  19. Astounding psychological observation. I love the comparison, and I agree with you. Especially since I'm a leo! I'm a CAT!

  20. haha! You described my cat too! I know what you mean about making excuses for what you're reading...we're afraid of what people will think of us if we're caught reading a Harlequin romance or something like it. I've never been attracted to reading stuff like that..and if I hear that a book is just plain poorly written, I will avoid it forever. I've never read a Twilight book, and I don't know what any of the 50 Shades of Grey are because of hearing that the writing is substandard. I don't know if that's good or bad. I probably miss out on good reads because I think the title and description on the flap sounds stupid, so I put it down immediately. On the other hand, I've found some great books because I liked the title...like the Dave Eggers book A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius...and Augusten Burroughs, Running With Scissors.

  21. Michael: Well, you know me, always drawing comparisons between unrelated things.

    Eve: Titles can suck me in, too. Unfortunately, I've usually found that the title was the best thing about the book when I've bought a book for that reason.

    And while I appreciate those people that will read the "hot" books to see what's up, when I hear from so many people that the book is bad, I'm just not gonna read it. So, yeah, I'm not reading Twilight, or 50 Shades, or, even, Hunger Games. Just not gonna do it. I have better things for my time.

  22. This is a great analogy...and I'm a total cat person.

    But re: Rowling's latest, I read it and appreciated her character development, the writing, etc. What got me was the fact I didn't like ANY of her characters. They made me feel squicky. If the characters aren't consistently relatable, you've lost me.
    If that makes me finicky, meow. ;)

  23. Melodie: Well, I'm not saying I'm gonna like it, either, but so many people, ahead of time, were all about how they would read -anything- she ever did, etc, etc, which is more the idea I'm talking about when I say the next day they say "blech!"

  24. This analogy is absurdly accurate. You win.

  25. Jericha: Oh, cool! I love winning! But, um, what do I win?