A Pet Peeve

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.

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1 Comment

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One response to “A Pet Peeve

  1. John Rudolph

    I can see it from both points. While it may be overdone and a bit lame, the writer’s objective is mainly to spark emotion in the reader, causing emotional reaction to the piece. Their introduction to the animal is usually the heroine feeding or interacting with the pet, when writers do that it’s almost an expected foreshadowing that the animal will die in the story. Unfortunately, some writers do take that cheap route. They start off getting the reader to fall absolutely in love with the animal and then something happens to it. There are indeed better, more original ways to do that. In sci-fi I’ve read about the robot we as readers fall in love with and then getting destroyed in stories; equally gets me upset as well, but in the end it’s a win-win for the writer. Emotions in the reader are then ignited; reader will be curious about the other writings. It is a cheap shot but unfortunately that’s how a lot of these writers roll. Another example is Grogan’s story, Marley & Me. Ultimately, even as I read that book, I knew that death was coming naturally, but what a beautiful story that was. To me, that’s positive emotional effects on a reader. At least Marley didn’t end up getting murdered!

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