Folks, I’m wearing my reader hat today, because I just finished reading a book that committed the plotting sin that irks me the most. I’m talking about when the writer gives the heroine (it’s almost always a woman) a beloved cat or dog, for the sole purpose of having the baddy kill the animal to demonstrate to the reader how badbadbadCRAZYbad he is and how much incredible peril the heroine is in.
Don’t do that.
Why not? Well, for one thing, it bugs a lot of readers. I know I’m not alone in this. Do you think that’s balanced out by the readers it pleases? You think someone can come to the end of an otherwise satisfying read, only to dash off an annoyed e-mail to the writer, complaining because they didn’t kill the dog? Does. not. happen.
So why do it? The displeased readers are not counterbalanced with an equal number of pleased readers. You’ve lost word of mouth. And come on, it’s trite. It’s overdone. It’s a cliche.
You’re writing because you’re creative, right? So if you want to get across the point of how bad your villain is, come up with a way to demonstrate that which hasn’t already been done, overdone, and done to death a thousand times before. The ‘kill the cat’ scene not only irks plenty of us, it also lowers our opinion of your creative abilities.
So please. Show some originality. Either leave the pets alone or don’t create them in the first place.