Writer’s Workshop #2 – The Quintessential Cat

Hi there, and welcome back to the Writer’s Workshop.

For today’s edition, I thought I’d depart from tasting things (my memory of roman nougat’s Pink 12 flavor from last week is still too fresh in my mind).

Instead, I’m going visual this week, focusing on reading emotions.

Now, full disclosure, I’d been intending to go to the MoMA and workshop a particular piece that heavily influenced my early fantasy work, but I didn’t get my days off last week and didn’t want to sacrifice a few writing hours to go downtown. Especially when today’s also laundry day.

So, instead, I decided to take the challenge of fully describing something that has a complex personality . . .

. . . but also doesn’t talk.

Why? Because I have a completely non-expressive familiar in my current WIP, so trying to describe my cat, Kendra, in a way that does her justice, feels like a relevant challenge.

Here we go.


She was a black and white ball of fur and contradictions. In that way, the exact kind of cat that made people dislike cats.

She loved to be pet, but only on her terms. She never bit, clawed, or snapped at anyone, too sweet for that. But if you tried to pet her more than she wanted at a given moment, she’d give up on you. It was the only way to put it; unwilling to give you a second chance, her green eyes would roll away, looking at nothing, following it out of the room, even if she’d run to you seconds before, eager for a petting.

She’d give you an oddly gentle death stare if you pressed your face against her, trying to emulate cat affection–potentially offensive, in her case.

And if you glomped her, she would jump to outraged confusion.

All of those emotions played out on a face of strong features that never moved, her feelings expressed only by a lifting and lowering of her eyelids. If they were wide open, it meant she was surprised, confused, or curious. At 75% open, she was comfortable, tired, or sleepily wondering why I just glomped her. 50% or lower, she was enjoying being pet, or already deep in a dream about ignoring someone who wanted to pet her.

But, naturally for such a cat, she loved having those dreams while cuddling with her human as they slept. As if she wanted to love, but only when no one was awake to see it.


I wound up posting this a later in the day than usual because I kept trying to get a picture of Kendra for a feature image. She wasn’t having it. Surprise, surprise.

Gotta be honest here . . . That wasn’t hard at all. I feel like I basically just ranted about my cat for a moment, although some of the descriptions were fun.

Regardless, it was okay practice for describing the personality of something that barely emotes–a reminder that you have to rely on such a thing’s actions to illustrate its personality. And that, regardless of how inaccurate they may be, guesses at such a thing’s intentions help illustrate how the viewer relates to said thing.

I’ll take it. Next week, however, it’s challenging workshop or bust. I will get to the MoMA.

But, for now, thanks for reading. And, as always, write well.

Published by

Louis Santiago

I'm a fantasy writer based in New York. One of my short stories, "Aixa the Hexcaster," was published at Mirror Dance Fantasy. You can read it here: http://www.mirrordancefantasy.com/2016/09/aixa-hexcaster.html.

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