In the waiting area of my car’s service department there was a large tropical fish aquarium. Flashes of bright yellow, striped blue, hot pink flickered in and out of my sight; fins long and elegant or short and stubby, heads elongated into pointy snouts or smoothed into flat squares, flitting in and out of the coral and the rocks, ducking the bubbles from the filter…
Bubbles. FIlter. There went the illusion. You’re watching it all through glass. Fish are hard to touch, to understand and to love because they are removed from you.
They are your literary stories.
A cat is a terrific pet – it will snuggle with you, purr, make you giggle by doing weird things with cat toys. They will also leave you half-eaten mice beside your bed — and then be baffled by your inability to understand the concept of that present.
They are fantasy and science fiction stories, concerned with aliens and elves, which will return fantastic rewards – but which will on some fundamental level always be a little bit beyond your understanding.
We could make a case for a dog being the coming-of-age story. Or the horse being the adventure story. Or the parrot being humor. Or the snake being mystery. Or the hamster being… um… well, I don’t have to do all the work here. You tell me what kind of story a hamster would best represent…
But the point remains. There are oodles of things to know about the care and feeding of your stories. You’d better know what kind of pet you’ve got before you despair because your cats are turning up their noses at fish food. Fish of fowl? What are you writing?
There is a certain kind of care and feeding that a certain kind of story will respond best to, in order to reach the kind of reader who will take it as what it is, and understand that it’s possible to stroke that cat, or to crouch beside a tropical aquarium for a moment to admire the richness of form and function within.
What kind of animal is YOUR story…?