avid Barry frequently uses the phrase “This is absolutely true” and “I am not making this up” when he’s making a central point, the quirk of base reality set against the background of his humor. Writers should take note of this. We need to occasionally have a point of absolutely true quirkiness in the center of our characters, something that makes them real.
My own life has its quirks, but it’s pretty much a point A to B life-path. Nothing major. But if I were writing it, I’d have to mention the cat-feeding story.
See, the wife is all but retired now, taking leave until the papers come through. That means I have to get up in the morning to get ready to go, and one of my chores is to feed Mookie the cat.
Now Mookie has a problem – she eats all her food and then barfs it up in the excitement of the moment. So the wife has a program where she gives her half of her food to start, and once she’s cleaned her plate, she gets the other half. Mookie has leaned to count to two and knows how this works.
A few mornings ago, a weekend morning, I woke up at 5am for some reason. I was still tired and would have gone back to sleep but I knew if I did, I wouldn’t wake up until 8:30 or so. Poor Mookie – no food. So I got up, got her sealed food container and gave her, not a half, but a full serving, banking that she wouldn’t barf it up. With her crunching happily away, I returned to bed. I’d only just started to drop to sleep when, with a hop, she landed between us, meowing, as anxious as Lassie when Timmy’s down the well again. From the cavern of her covers, JB moaned “she wants the second part of her breakfast”.
The second part? But I’d just given her…
Knowing not to argue with two women, I padded back out to the kitchen, Mookie dogging (catting?) my footsteps. And there was her bowl, still half-filled with uneaten food.
I looked at her. She looked at me.
I picked up her bowl, put my back to her and rattled her crunchies around as if I were pouring a second serving. Then I set the same portion down at her serving place. “Crunch crunch crunch,” she enthused as she hunched over her bowl. And back to bed I went.
This is a strange little story that really makes no sense in any context but it’s true (and weird) enough that readers will accept it. The point is that, when writing fiction, you need to come up with your own quirks. The hardboiled detective with the lucky rabbits foot. The cancer patent who practices at being a ghost in the moonlit halls of the hospital. Or even the writer with the cat who can count to two.