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  • Writer's pictureT.R. Slauf

Why I Killed the Cat (Kind Of)

In media there are certain 'taboos' one of them is death of an animal/pet. Just ask Keanu Reeves, he has a whole movie franchise about it!

Some novels I've read that feature this 'taboo' are below. It's used because it's a powerful event that effectively communicates emotions, desperation, and the severity of the characters situation.

Dead Until Dark, True Blood Book 1

Mary: An Awakening of Terror

The Damnation Game

Harry Potter, Book 7

In the first Legends of Lightning novel, I choose to feature this taboo. Kind of ...

Let me back up a bit.

** The following does NOT contain spoilers as these events happen in the first three chapters

book cover for legends of lightning paperback and hardback
Legends of Lightning covers by Jeff Brown Graphics

In the first Legends of Lightning book, Hidden Realm our MC (Main Character) discovers she can travel between realms in her dreams. In order to travel body and spirit to the magick realm she needs to illicit the help of a psychic who performs a spell.

A bit of information on the MC, her father just passed away, she's desperate and alone searching for a answers about who she is. She lives alone with her cat. The magick realm she visits in her dreams is dark and brutal, infested with beasts and blood-thirsty monsters. The MC's first exposure into just how brutal and unforgiving her journey is going to be happens with the spell to transport her.

When writing this scene, I thought to myself, this part of the novel is pivotal. It has to be heart wrenching, it has to be terrible, it must be a great sacrifice on the part of the MC. But what could it be?

At the time I was drafting Hidden Realm, I also lived alone with my cat. I was in a new and strange city where I didn't know anyone, what would be the worst thing imaginable to happen? What would be a sacrifice that would break me?

Being forced to sacrifice my cat with my own hands. So, that's exactly what I made my MC do.

It was a terrible sacrifice, and it defined the journey she was about to undergo. Contrary to what some may think, I didn't do it for the sick satisfaction of offing pets, nor to have a 'good time'. I did it because it was the worst possible thing I could imagine in that specific situation.

Now, you may be sitting there shaking your head and thinking 'if this event is so terrible, why would some authors choose to depict it?'

Well, when done correctly, this type of event is very powerful. Consider this, who purposefully harms pets? Domestic abusers, early serial killers, and the occasional mafia henchmen leaving your horses head in your bed. Meaning the murder of a pet signifies the character is dealing with someone very dangerous. They are in a life-or-death situation and the pet was a message.

This is effectively shown in a handful of horror books, mafia stories, and thrillers. But it's still a topic many readers despise--for good reason. Those of us with pets (I can't have kids, and my spouse and I have chosen not to adopt at this time, my cats are my life) the thought of our fur babies being hurt, let alone dying, is horrifying.

Is the passing of a pet unpleasant and horrible? Yes

But books are not always meant to be pleasant.

Now this is the part where I chickened out of the taboo a little bit. Kind of.

In Hidden Realm the pet cat is sacrificed, to show the terrible truths of the magick realm and the sacrifices the MC will have to endure to survive. But the cat's role doesn't end there. See from the beginning the cat was supposed to be something more than 'just a cat'. This is shown in how he interacts with the MC and watches her sleep while she's having nightmares of the magick realm. Simply put, he has magick and is able to transport to the magick realm with her. He's reincarnated into a new kitten in the process, so it takes a while until he shows up again the novel.

When he returns, he becomes an important part of the MC's journey. Book two even features a chapter from his POV!

Have you read any other books featuring this 'taboo'?

If so, I'm curious to hear your thoughts; how did that impact your emptions while reading, did it terrify you, or make you terribly sad?

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