Monday, June 7, 2021

The Selfish Goal

 A powerful novel needs a main character with an important goal he must achieve by the end of the novel. At all costs, the main character must achieve that goal or fail utterly with devastating cost to him and those around him.

A recent novel I tried to read reminded me of when that goal won't work.


Here's the premise. The heroine is the standard urban fantasy woman-- incredible supernatural abilities, snappy leather outfit and dialogue, sharp weapons, and a supernatural boyfriend. So far, so good.


Even better, she is the prophesied warrior who can stop the supernatural baddies before they can start the Apocalypse by opening the gates to Hell.


The Big Bad holds her innocent kid sister hostage, and the ransom is the keys to open all of Hell's gates to Earth.


She must decide whether to save her kid sister by helping the demons of Hell wipe out human life or lose her sister and save everyone else.


A no-brainer, right? She'd choose to save humanity.


Instead, she chooses to help the demons end life on Earth with the very faint possibility she may be able to stop them.


At this point in the novel, I said some rude things about the stupidity and selfishness of the heroine and stopped reading because this wasn't a heroine I could root for.


When you are thinking about your main character's goal for the novel, remember that it must be a goal the reader can root for. Saving a sibling is a good thing but saving a sibling at the cost of everyone else's life is a bad thing.


A hero's goal is selfless, not selfish.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Your Character's Emotions During Action Scenes

To make an action scene work, you must not only detail what the characters are doing with their bodies and weapons, you must also include the viewpoint character's emotions and senses.

Adding emotion isn't an either/or situation. It's just as vital to add emotional layers to the physical action as it is to have brief moments of introspection when the battle isn't going on. 


Characterization isn't just introspection. It's characters interacting with each other and revealing themselves in bits and pieces. 


Your band of adventurers may not sit around "sharing their feelings" in touchie-feelie moments like a Dr. Phil show, but they've been around each other enough to know that one hates the bad guys because they murdered his wife and kids, and he's liable to attack without thought and ruin their surprise attack. 


He may be clutching the sword at his side, his other hand opening and closing in nervous energy, and another adventurer may warn him to relax and may mention the wife and kiddies. 


The image of his wife's raped and brutalized body could flash through his mind, and he fights his raw anger and lust to kill. That won't slow the action down like having a long interior flashback of him finding his family's bodies, and his vow of revenge. 


Instead, it adds to the excitement of the coming action because the reader now questions whether this guy will lose his cool and get everyone killed.


An even better way to present this information is to put it in an earlier scene that isn't action intensive so the reader will know the details and will only need a slight reminder of this character's motivation and tendency to attack without thought.


After some rewriting, if you still aren't happy with the emotional content of your story, you may want to look at the central story idea. Do your characters have a real emotional reason to be doing what they are doing? 


Their hunt for the lost treasure should be as much about their emotional reason for needing the treasure as it is about simple greed. That emotional reason should be important enough to make the reader want them to succeed as much as they do.


Maybe the main character is after a magical sword which is the only weapon that will kill the dragon currently ravaging his homeland, and he doesn't really care about other treasure and the life of drunken decadence and dancing girls it promises the other characters. 


Maybe the other characters have laughed at him, but they've admired him and gradually they have been drawn into his quest for the sword, and in the end, they'll choose to get the sword with him and lose the other treasure. 


Maybe the one who laughed the hardest and made the main character's life hell along the journey will be the one to sacrifice himself so that the hero can rescue a homeland the scoffer has never had, but now wishes to have with his whole heart.


If you make your character emotionally invested in each action scene, and make your reader emotionally invested in your story, you’ll have a novel no one will put down.


Monday, May 24, 2021

Reaction Versus Goal in Plot

 When I started plotting my romantic suspense novel, GUARDIAN ANGEL, I decided that my plot line would be the following--


(Back story) High-powered defense attorney Lauton O’Brien hires Gard Gardner to protect his adult daughter Desta if one of the organized crime lords or killers he defends decides to go after him or his family.


(Book plot) Lauton realizes one of his clients is out to kill him. He sends Desta and information about who is out to kill him to Gard, and he disappears. Desta comes by boat to Gard’s lake home. The boat blows up with the information, but Gard saves Desta. 


Desta and Gard go on the run with hired killers hot on their trail.


At first glance, the plot sounded great. Lots of action, adrenaline, scary bad guys, and a perfect situation for two people very suited to each other to find love and a happily-ever-after.


Then I realized the plot had a fatal flaw. The two main characters spend the whole novel reacting to what others are doing to them. Reaction is passive, and passive creates less than stellar main characters and a much weaker book. 


I needed to give the characters a goal which is active. 


I wanted to keep the hired killers hot on their trail, but I decided that Gard and Desta weren’t running away, they were working toward their goal -- following clues to find Lauton so they can figure out who is trying to kill them then stopping that person so they can have a life together. 


When you are creating your main plot, you also need to be sure that your main character or characters have an active goal instead of being swept along by circumstances or by someone’s actions against them.


Make them heroes, not victims.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Choosing Your Character's Name

 Finding the right name for a character involves a number of variables.


*The period the story is set in.  Names must be authentic for the period.  A number of websites are available for different historical periods as well as recent years.  Do your research, and don't have a Medieval heroine named Tiffany. 


Here are a few sites to look at


First names: http://www.behindthename.com/

Surnames: http://surnames.behindthename.com/

Popular first names in recent years:  http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/index.html


*The location of the story and ethnic background of your characters.


*The current impression the name gives.  Years ago, for example, men were named Leslie, but it has become a woman's name.  Naming your hero Leslie might be authentic for the period, but it will give your reader the wrong impression.


*How hard the name is to type.  I avoid some names because I can't type them.   If you must use a name that's hard to type, pick a simple nonsense string of letters then do a universal search and replace.  Be absolutely sure the letters are nonsense so you don't insert the name in the middle of words that have that string within them.


THE MAIN CHARACTERS' NAMES


The right name for your hero or heroine is one of your most important decisions.  


For major characters, I don't just pick a name I like.  Instead, I wait until I see a name, and a frission goes through me to tell me I've hit the name for my character.  Most of my character names have been gifts of that sort.  Sometimes, the character will tell me his name at a certain point in the creation process.  


The name, in other words, is as much a part of making the character real for the writer as it is for the reader.  


SECONDARY CHARACTERS' NAMES


Try to avoid  a secondary character's name that is similar to your major characters' names.   That includes names that begin with the same letter or look similar (Al, Sal, and Sally).

  

Before I start writing and after I have my main characters' names, I make a list of other names I can use in the book which fit the period, etc., as well as being different from the major characters' names.  This allows me to pick a name for that waitress who has a few scenes without having to stop my writing while I think up a name.  


USING SIMILAR NAMES


I have used similar names deliberately in my writing.  In TIME AFTER TIME, my hero remembers all his past lives, and he's trying to convince the heroine they have been reincarnated lovers in each of those lives.  He restages and retells their past lives and their loves so I needed different names for them in each time period.  


I decided that I'd use the same first letter or letters of their current names for each past name so that the reader would recognize instantly when I mentioned a name even if they couldn't recall the period that name was from.  Each name would have to fit the historical period as well as the personality of the character.


Justin was earthy Jed in the Old West, and Alexa was Annie.  In the 1940s, Justin was sophisticated Jared and Alexa was Alicia.  Their other names also reflected character and period.


THE GOOGLE TEST


For main characters, particularly villains, it's a good idea to put the name into a search engine to see if someone out there shares the name.  Put the first and last name into quotation marks so you will only receive results with both those words close together.  If you find someone with that name, you may want to consider a different name.  If the name belongs to a serial killer, you definitely want a different name. 


Looking for the same name is also a good idea for book titles.


THE NAME GAME


As you develop characters and names, you'll discover a new fascination with names and their power, and you'll probably find yourself scanning obituaries and newspapers for that unusual name to add to your name list.  Enjoy this.  It's part of the fun of creating characters.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Cross-genre, What is the Main Genre

 If a novel is cross-genre, one of the genres must be the strongest and its genre tropes and plot must drive the novel throughout.

A sf romance is first and foremost a romance.  Linnea Sinclair's sf romance novels are driven forward by the romance. Catherine Asaro's novels are science fiction novels with a romantic element. The science fiction plot and worldbuilding drive the novel forward, not the romance.


A werewolf novel that is driven forward by the worldbuilding and various werewolf political/pack struggles is urban fantasy.  A werewolf novel where boy wolf meets girl vampire, and they fall in love during various werewolf political/pack struggles is a paranormal romance.


The important thing to pull out of this is that you must understand what the central genre of your novel is so your novel doesn't fail by genre standards which are really reader expectation standards.  


When you are writing your book, staying within genre or subgenre expectations also makes the book much easier to market to the correct readers. 

Monday, May 3, 2021

Cross-genre Worldbuilding

 Cross-genre books mix elements of two genre. The paranormal romance is really a romance with fantasy or horror worldbuilding.  The sf romance is science fiction worldbuilding in a romance, etc., etc.

I'm a firm believer that you have to understand, read, and respect the genres you are mixing, or you shouldn't write it.


In recent paranormals romances I've read, the author didn't have a clue about fantasy or that you shouldn’t steal a prominent writer’s worldbuilding because it is blatantly obvious and annoying.  One had a magic system that was a generic mishmash as well as a complete HIGHLANDER rip-off with swords, decapitations, and magic being transferred.


Another took the Harry Potter universe with its magic system and world, then tossed in her characters.


I've read futuristics that were really Klingons in love with the alien and STAR TREK names changed, or the science was so bad a third grader could have spotted the errors.


The danger of not understanding one of the genres is writers lose parts of their audience. Cross-genre is not only supposed to mix the two genre, they are supposed to mix the two audiences. Insult half that audience by not knowing your stuff, and there goes sales.


By ignoring the basics of the other genre, these writers are destroying “the dream" of the books, and that bothers me a great deal as a writer and a reader.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Make-a-Monster 101

When you write a story about monsters, legends, and myths, you have to decide whether you’ll use the traditional information or not.

Part of your decision will be determined by the choice of magic or reality.  Are your creatures real in the sense they make scientific sense and follow the rules of the real world, or are they magic based so they can break all the laws of science and the real world?


Another part of your decision is whether you embrace all the “facts” about your creature or not.


Take vampires.  Some of the common folklore traits are


  • They are undead humans.
  • Bright sunlight kills them.
  • A stake made of a specific wood will kill them if it goes through their heart.
  • They prey on humans by drinking their blood.
  • They have fangs.
  • They turn into bats or some other creature.
  • Their reflection can’t be seen in a mirror because they have no soul.


In a reality-based story, some of these facts can be worked with.  Vampirism could be a type of blood virus, for example.


Other facts like shape changing won’t work without some serious fudging of science, and the matter of changing mass must be considered.  If a vampire can change into a bat, the bat must weigh the same as the vampire so the bat would need wings as big as a small plane’s to get off the ground.  


And then there are facts that make no sense whatsoever in the real world or a world with magic.  


If a vampire can’t be seen in a mirror because it doesn’t have a soul, does that mean that your clothes, toothbrush, and the wall behind you in the bathroom mirror have souls?  


I don’t think so, either.  


In defense of those who came up with this silly vampire notion, until the last two centuries, most people didn’t have a mirror, and the mirrors that were around were tiny and blurry.  


If you decide to change any of the important facts about your vampire or other creature, you need to give the reader some reason for your decision.  Your vampire can tell his new ladylove that he’s perfectly capable of walking in the sunlight, and the belief that he can’t has been a standard misinformation campaign by vampires for thousands of years so they can walk among humans without discovery and can take prey during the day without the prey being aware of the danger.


Whether you use the traditional traits or not, be sure to think very carefully about them so they make sense within the world you have created for your creatures.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Across a Crowded Room

 QUESTION: I have a scene in a restaurant where staff is coming and going. How do I describe that? Do I mention all the movement?


This is really about viewpoint. You are describing the scene from your viewpoint character's perspective. What will she see?


Imagine this. You are in your favorite romantic restaurant. Across from you is your special someone or your favorite sexy actor. You are eating your meal, flirting, and talking. Would you be aware of who is coming in and out of the room?


Your character in a similar situation would do the same thing.


Imagine this. You are in that restaurant with that sexy lover, but someone wants to kill you.


You would be very aware of who is coming and going in the room, and so would your viewpoint character.


If it's a situation that's emotionally neutral like a banquet meal with servants coming and going to bring food, you can say something like "A steady stream of servants, each with a large tray of food or an empty bowl, moved through the room tending the tables.”


Then, unless there's a reason to mention the servants again, or a servant again, you don't mention them. The reader will fill in the visual blanks.


Monday, April 12, 2021

Description and a Character's Profession

 I've written several blogs on how viewpoint affects what you description in a scene. For example, a character who is analytical will view a room differently from a creative person.

The profession of a viewpoint character also affects how you describe what the character sees. In one of my novels, the main character is a landscape artist. I kept a list of paint colors beside me as I wrote her viewpoint because she'd be precise about color variations. She'd see another character's eyes as cerulean blue, not blue. 


If that viewpoint character had been an expert on antiques, the other person's eyes might be the color of Delft blue china. 


Using this kind of description also makes writing love scene description, particularly evoking the intense emotions of sexual pleasure, a bit easier and less cliche-ridden. I've used space imagery for a heroine who was an astrophysicist, shapes and forms for an architect, and colors and textures for that landscape painter. 


An expert will also see something differently than the rest of us. Imagine a mechanic looking at a car engine, now imagine someone who knows nothing about engines looking at it. The terms used to describe the engine in viewpoint will be as precise or imprecise as the character's knowledge.  


Don’t be ridiculously precise, however, by naming too many parts or scientific elements because most readers’ eyes will glaze over.


Always remember that description is as much about the viewpoint character as it is about creating a picture in the reader's head.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Description: From Specific to General

To give the reader the right image of what is happening, you should always be specific.  This is particularly important in the first description of a person, place, or thing.  


Look at the sentences below, and the introduction of the heroine’s dog, Digby.



Eager for their run, Digby whined and tugged on her leash.  


Jane laughed and began to jog down the greenway that ran behind her apartment.  


The dog kept pace until they reached the wooden bridge across the creek, then the golden retriever jerked to a halt and growled.  


Sentence one is fine.  “Whined” and “leash” tell the reader that Digby is a dog; however, the reader has no sense of what the dog looks like.  It could be a poodle or a Great Dane.


Sentence two is okay if bland.


Sentence three, however, starts with the general term “dog” which still doesn’t give the reader a clue about the dog.  Not until the end of this sentence does the reader learn that the dog is a golden retriever.  By this time, the specific jars the reader who may have already visualized the dog or has decided the dog isn’t important because of the vague description.


How could these sentence be improved?


Eager for their run, Jane’s golden retriever Digby whined and tugged on her leash.


She laughed and began to jog down the greenway that ran behind her apartment.  


The dog kept pace until they reached the wooden bridge across the creek then jerked to a halt and growled.  



The reader instantly knows Jane’s dog is a golden retriever so the writer can now use more general terms like dog. 


Just a few words used at the right time makes a difference between pulling the reader into your story or throwing them out.  

Monday, March 29, 2021

What Do You Describe?

How do you decide what to include in your description of a scene?

Remember that you're in a character's viewpoint. Ask yourself what is important to that character. 


A cop entering a room where a gunman may be hidden is seeing different things than an interior designer who enters a room a rival has just decorated. The cop doesn't give a damn about the charming shade of blue in the wallpaper, but he'll notice the large pieces of furniture someone could be behind, the amount of light and shade in the room that makes seeing movement tricky, and the possible exits.


At the same time, the character will be aware of the sounds and smells in the room-- the faint smell of gun oil, the Chanel No. 5 of the wealthy woman who owns the home, the tap of the nails as a toy poodle moves across the oak floor, and the slight rustle of something moving behind a curtain. 


With just the right specific touches, the room will come alive for the reader and at the same time you're building tension and giving character details, and you're not stopping the action with too much description.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Using Dialogue to Explain Worldbuilding

 QUESTION:  How do I use dialogue to explain worldbuilding?


If you want to use dialogue, you can sprinkle the information through a series of scenes so the reader gradually gets the information.


The method most writers use is what I call "inform the outsider.”  The outsider can be a newly turned vampire, the human love interest or ally, etc., and one of the vampires tells him/her about their history. 


Or one character can disagree with another one's version of the story so they argue about it while informing the reader. 


Another excellent trick is to give the information emotional value to the character receiving it.  If the info matters to that character, it should matter to the reader.  


Or you could have one of the characters find a written history or story that's inserted into the story via dialogue.  That's the most awkward method.  


Or you can sprinkle in tiny bits of information in relation to what the characters are talking about so that the reader can add together the information to get the bigger picture.  Having the reader figure it out himself is far more enjoyable to him than having an info dump.  


One thing you need to consider is how important that element of worldbuilding is to the reader.  You may have a clever new form of vampire, but unless the reader absolutely must know how that came about or the story won't make sense, the reader needn't be told all that information.

Monday, March 15, 2021

How DIfferent Should Your World Be?

 QUESTION:  Here’s what I'm wondering as I'm setting up my “alternate earth.” If the reader’s suspension of disbelief is necessary to enjoy your writing, how do you know what kinds of things might be too much for your readers? Might pull them out of the story as they puzzle over why someplace that’s earth-yet-not-earth has *that*?



If your world has internal consistency and follows its own logic, most readers will accept that world.  Readers want to believe your world.  That's why they buy your story.


Things like dogs, cats, and pine trees are just simple shorthand to make that world comfortable for the reader as well as make it easier for him to connect with it.  


If the reader has to learn everything from the names of the trees to the five different kinds of six-legged beasts of burden, and they really have nothing important to do with the story, he will be seriously put off.  Readers like comfortable, shorthand things like pine trees and horses.


Touches of the strange will liven up a scene to give it a sense of elsewhere, but there need only be touches.  In a scene where the hero and his friends stop at a staging inn to rest their horses and get a meal, you can have the usual things like the tavern, the stablehands, and the horses, but you can also mention a corral filled with hippogriffs who are fluttering their wings and snapping their beaks as one of the servants tosses them dead rabbits.


But detail for the sake of detail will delay the action and cause the problem you mention.  For example, the hero is walking through the woods, and a tree of living flame stops him in his tracks because of its beauty.  It begins to sing of the glory of the wind and the majesty of the rain.


The hero finally moves away and promptly forgets it, and it has nothing else to do with the story.


The reader will wait the whole novel for that scene to make some sense with the plot, but it never does so the reader gets angry.


If, however, that singing tree gives the hero a riddle he must understand to achieve his victory, then the scene is very important, indeed.  


Somewhere along the way, it would probably be best if the reader learns why the tree gave him that clue so the plot has some internal logic.


You also need to decide what your story is really about.  If it’s about the unusual political situation in this world, then most of the extra details and information should help focus on that.  If it’s about the world’s magic and how it is failing, then that’s where the details and the weirdness should be focused.  

Most of this boils down to not overwhelming your reader and avoiding info dumping to show off your incredlbie worldbuilding skills.  


Monday, March 8, 2021

Creating a Fresher Monster

 QUESTION:  I write vampire novels.  It seems like creating a paranormal or fantasy race is almost like a catch 22. If you stray too far from the norm, readers dislike it, but if you stay too close to the norm, it is seen as a been-there, read-that type of thing. What is the best advice you can give for making your race of creatures/humans/ etc. something believable, yet fresh?  



Study what other writers have done in fiction and media that is similar to what you want to do.


If you want an intelligent alien, think about the signature aliens in our popular culture.  What is it about Spock that attracts and fascinates us?  Or Dr. Who?  How about ET if you're looking for cute and cuddly?  


Or, if you want a scary alien, analyze the ones that scared you to death.  The alien in the movie of the same name?  The Daleks?  The Borg?  Why are they so scary?


When you find the core elements that push your and other readers' emotional buttons, then you have the key elements for your own race of beings.  That's far more important than building an extremely different race for your book.  The outer elements are only window dressing.


When you write one of these creatures as a viewpoint character, you must remember that the reader connects with the human elements of that character, not its difference. Spock, for example, became so wildly popular because he was the outsider, the misunderstood one on the Enterprise. Viewers, many of whom considered themselves the outsider, connected with that element of Spock even though Spock never complained about being the outsider.


In other words, when your creature is the viewpoint character, write it as a person, not a monster.  Write visceral emotion when you are writing about monsters who aren’t viewpoint characters.  


For vampire novels, your biggest selling points are the voice of your main character, the intensity of your storytelling, and the level of your craft. Difference is further down on the importance scale so don’t let that be your only guide to what you write. 

Monday, March 1, 2021

The BIg Picture

 QUESTION:  What’s a good way to describe events going on that no one is aware of? Do I do a prologue explaining it? It is important the reader understands the context of the story I'm telling.


One narrative choice is to have a prologue that's strictly overview, kind of like the scrolling words in the first STAR WARS movie. This may work in a sprawling epic fantasy or an historical novel, but it's so old-fashioned that most modern readers won't get past it to get to the real story. For any story that isn't an epic, it absolutely won't work.


You also have the talking heads method where characters who know the overview have a chat about the subject.  Again, this is old-fashioned and boring to the modern reader.


The real question is whether the reader needs this "big picture" information, or do you need it to get the big picture straight in your head?  Most often, in the case of an inexperienced writer, it’s for you, not the reader.


Readers are smart, and they are interested in what is happening with the viewpoint character--what is his goal, who is thwarting that goal, what are his emotional reasons for doing what he is doing, etc.  The big picture isn't so important at the beginning.


Instead, you broaden the knowledge of the main character as he goes along so that he knows why doing what he needs to do is as important to the bigger picture as it is for his own personal story.  Or, even better, have him discover that what he wants works against the big picture so he must choose to do the right thing or the selfish thing.  

Monday, February 22, 2021

From Result to Cause

Often, when you are worldbuilding, or creating a character, a supernatural race, or whatever, you know what you need for the story or the world to work, but these elements must be an organic part of the whole, not just something stuck in.  


For these elements to make sense to the reader, you have to work backwards to find the causes that fit your results.


I’ve used this method many times to discover what happened in a character’s past that makes a character like he is, to build back plot, or to world build.


When I started writing STAR-CROSSED, my science fiction romance, I had a few ideas about my alien world that were dictated by plot necessity.  Its gravity would be slightly heavier than Earth’s so human men would be weaker than the planet’s women.  It would be fairly close to Earth in living conditions and weather because it was a science fiction romance, not science fiction, and the audiences are different.  The wildlife would make it almost impossible for a human to survive on his own in the wilderness so Tristan escaping into the wilderness wasn’t a viable option.  


Beyond that, I really didn’t think out the specifics of the planet’s wildlife because it wasn’t needed for the novel.  


In the first scene with my heroine Mara, I decided to give her an alien pet to make the scene more otherworldly, and I chose an animal similar to a cat but with long rabbit-style ears because I wanted the pet to be relatable to non-science fiction readers.  


Floppy, the rab-cat, hopped up onto Mara’s lap and promptly told me he was as intelligent as a human, he would take care of Mara--no human male needed, and he was in the story until the end.  


Being well-trained by my pets to be obedient, I agreed with his assessment of the situation, and I realized I needed to work backwards from Floppy to make sense of rab-cats in relation to the other parameters I’d set up for myself for the world.  


I ended up writing an interview with Floppy which details my choices, and since it is more entertaining than a bland recital, here it is.  




Floppy, the sentient alien kitty, from STAR-CROSSED was kind enough to let me interview him.  His interpreters were busy, but, fortunately, he is quite proficient at writing human Basic so he typed his answers on my laptop.


Floppy is a bit larger than the average Earth cat and has a solid black, smooth coat, emerald green eyes that dance with intelligence and mischief, and elegant long ears that resemble a rabbit's.  Those ears move with grace as he speaks in his own silent language.


"Thank you for letting me interview you."


I am always happy to talk to my biographer.


"Biographer?  STAR-CROSSED is Mara's story."


No, it isn't.  It's the story of how I helped her find happiness with a true mate and children of her own.


"I guess it is.  My error."


She deserves every happiness, and I could not find my own happiness until I knew she was happy.  I kept her safe through our adventures.


"I thought Tristan did that."


He helped as did others.


"Very gracious of you.  I'll start with some questions others have asked me about you.  Here goes.  What's with the bunny ears?  Cats don't have bunny ears."


Humans call my race rab-cats, but we are not Earth cats, and we're not rabbits.  We're the sentient cat race on the planet Arden.  


"Cats from another planet?  That's ridiculous."


The cat is the perfect predator.  Why shouldn't it evolve on more than one planet?  Many planets have a vermin similar to a mouse so many have some form of cat to keep it in check.


"That still doesn't explain the ears."


The most feared predator on my world is the tyrlin.  Tristan compares it to the Bengal tiger on Earth.  It kills and eats every creature which crosses its path, and, if it is not hungry, it kills for the pleasure of it.  It hunts more by sound than scent or sight.


"So its prey evolved into absolute silence."


Yes.  No cries or songs, and stealth in its movement.


Rab-cats also hunt prey so we had to evolve with excellent hearing as well as sight and smell.


"And the big ears help you hear quiet mice?"


Exactly.  We also developed intelligence, and we created a silent language by using our ears.


"Clever kitties.  What do you think of Earth cats?"


Mara is owned by a cat.  Sheba was very kind to me when I first came to Mara's house from the vet hospital.  She licked my face, purred, and slept curled around me to comfort me. 


"You were nearly killed by a tyrlin when you were a kitten."


Yes.  It killed my mother and was trying to kill me when Mara lured it away and blasted it.  She took me to human doctors then brought me to her home to live.


"I'm sorry about your mother.  Why were you two alone in that meadow with tyrlins about?"


An earthquake destroyed our home and killed my father, my brothers, and sisters.  There was nowhere safe to live or seek refuge.  The earth would not stop shaking so no den was safe.  


Our only choice was to cross that meadow and reach the rab-cats who lived in the hills beyond.  My mother hoped the tyrlin would be busy looking for the dead of the quake.


"How horrible!  I'm so sorry."


It was a long time ago, and my heart mother healed me and loved me after my fur mother died.


"Heart mother?"


Her heart chose me although she is not rab-cat.


"Back to Sheba and Earth cats.  Do cats talk?  And what do they say?"


They are not as evolved as we are.  They talk, but they have little to say to others.  Feed me.  Hold me.  Leave me alone.  That is all they feel they need to say to humans.  They speak with their voices and with their bodies.  A slight twitch of the whiskers and a flick of the eyes in a certain direction can say volumes.


"I know.  Pan, the cat who owns me, will twitch his ear to beckon me toward him, then glance down at himself then up to me when he wants me to pick him up and hold him.  He's only vocal when he's starving to death after being away from his food bowl an hour or so.  If he's silent, I know he just wants to be held."


He doesn't need to be vocal for most of his needs because you read his body's language.  Some humans only understand a loud meow, and others don't even understand that.


"Some humans are pretty blind."


Yes.  You did not know I was sentient when you began my story.


"No, I didn't.  I thought you were an alien pet, there to make Mara's first scene obviously not on Earth.  But you set me straight when you jumped up on Mara's lap and took over the plot."


I do my humble best to set humans on the right path to happiness.


"One thing I don't understand.  After I realized you were sentient, I wanted to change your name to something more dignified than Floppy.  Why wouldn't you let me?"


Floppy is a perfectly dignified name.  In fact, in my native language, my kitten name meant almost the same thing.  My ears were quite long, and I hadn't quite developed the strength to control them completely.  


My parents never lived long enough to give me another name so Floppy I will stay to remember them.  


"I can understand that.  It's amazing that Mara chose a name for you so close to your real name."


Mara sees with her heart so she sees truly.  I forgot that for a time when Tristan entered our lives.


"She is an extraordinary person.  Thank you for this interview."