Let The Bobcat Loose In Your Writing

Though I’m only a few minutes from a freeway, I live in a semi-rural area, where there are some stretches of tangled brush and stands of tall trees. There’s a nice walk on a paved road through my neighborhood, and though there are many houses around, the road winds up and down some small hills, flanked by these areas of bushy scrub, scruffy oaks and fairly big pines.
There’s also a bobcat. The first time my girlfriend and I saw her on our walk, she was a distance away in a clearing, and I thought it was just a big house cat. But I could see the rumpy way she walked through some high weeds, and then could see the wispy flares on her ears. A bobcat! A wild thing, in context. Seeing an unexpected bobcat focuses the attention, stokes the heart, makes you tilt your head and consider things from a different perspective.
I advocate putting a bobcat in your writing. There’s not a recipe for what I’m pushing, no “use two action verbs, vary sentence length and strangle the adjectives.” No, instead I’m saying look for the places in your writing, whether it’s business writing or the novel that has been drinking too much decaf–and put in a bobcat. Don’t settle for the common phrase, don’t settle for rote description, don’t have your characters or your concepts always be tight and linear.
Whether it’s with poetic language, an artful dodge, a right turn when a left was called for, a bright balloon in a sea of grey, a bobcat in your writing is a joyful thing. Look for the fields–or the corporate boardroom–where you can place one, and see what happens.
Naturally, you can’t put a bobcat in every paragraph. That would de-claw it. No, find the places where it can pounce, and proceed.
Mors Pulchra
Mors Pulchra is Latin for “beautiful death.” I bring that up because there was (and I hope still is) more than one bobcat in our neighborhood. I know that because once on one of our walks, we found one dead, very close to the road. Perhaps he’d been hit by a car, though there were no obvious signs of what had killed him. He was a strikingly beautiful animal, muscular, with a thick, tawny striped coat and surprisingly large paws. I felt a sense of loss and regret that was oddly touching.
Some writers are able to capture an essence of longing and “what might have been” in a way that isn’t cloying or sentimental, and they can put it to use in their work. I had that emotional feeling when I looked at that bobcat, thinking that those big paws probably scrambled up these hills in a swift flash of electric life.
It’s a tricky thing to pull off, but there are also times when you want to put a dead bobcat in your writing. Done well, it can grab readers in a place where their brains don’t call the shots.
So, bobcats as writing aids–who woulda thunk it?

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