A writer’s observations of the world around them undoubtably enhance their fiction. Quintessential writerly advice is to know your characters: what they eat after a night out, what songs they hate to hear in the car on the way to work, why are they scared of the frozen food isle at the store? Here we have an author fully immersed in the world of her character: a cat. In this excerpt, Ashley Nicholson zeros-in on the subtle shoulder movements her cat-character makes during a hunt, the way the he thinks as he stalks his prey, and how his belly settles in the sun after a successful kill.
The grass parts with a quiet rustle as he stalks the mouse, low and quiet. The smell of it– musty, earthy, with an overlay of warm-blooded musk– is a tantalizing treat. Fat and not too bright, the mouse is far from its hole and too close to a hungry predator. A noise from the treetop startles the creature and it freezes, whiskers trembling a moment before resuming the search for food.
Silent, he waits for the mouse to move, black-and-white fur blending into the shadows underneath the tree. He crouches down a little more, shoulders sawing back and forth, the tip of his tail twitching. Sharp claws dig into the rain-soaked earth just before he springs, front paws raking the small creature, pinning it to the ground so he can tear out the soft underbelly. Its tiny whiskers stop moving and the high-pitched squeaking comes to an abrupt end.
He rips into the mouse with delight, warm mouthfuls that satiate the rumble in his belly. After the crunch-crunch of tiny bones snapping is over, he moves into the sunshine to clean his nose and claws, tongue a pink streak as he grooms the mouse out of white fur. He stretches, belly turned to catch the warmth of the sun, rumbling as it digests. It was a good snack, he thinks.
Eyes closed, he soaks in the sunshine until the tree’s shadow covers him again. Listens as other hunters wander through the brush searching out a last meal. It’s now close enough to dark that he should head back to the house where it’s warm and the woman will put dinner on a plate for him tonight. No more cold nights or empty belly he yowls to the world, smug and happy.
Writing from the perspective of a cat, or any other animal has not only challenged Ashley’s point of view skills but also given her the opportunity to live out reincarnation fantasies. Do you know of any famous works, both classic and modern that are told from an unusual, non-human narrator? Share those with us in the comment space below and give the Words, Pauses, Noises audience some interesting reading suggestions this summer.