Know the Small Stuff too

I’m allergic to cats. I break out in hives and get congested. Not fun. But my twins are even more allergic. If they touch a cat, their eyes swell shut and their faces look like they’ve been attacked by a thousand mosquitos. Not pretty. However, we’re animal lovers. Can’t help it. So when a stray cat started visiting us on a daily basis, we had to do something.

We couldn’t bring the cat into our house, but we could feed her. Sort of. We didn’t exactly have cat food on hand, so we did what we thought was best. We gave her a bowl of milk. Gasp. The horror! I know. Now. This isn’t a good thing. Despite all the children’s books, shows, and even adult novels that show characters giving their cat milk, veteranarians frown on this practice. Apparently, many cats are lactose intolerant, so when you give them milk, you might be causing them a lot of discomfort and pain.

Why am I telling you this and what does it have to do with writing? Well, this post is about knowing your facts. Because I’ve read so many stories about cats drinking milk, I didn’t think to question whether or not we should give cats milk. If these authors had done their research, they would’ve known better. And what about me? Because this seems like something we all “know to be true,” I could’ve easily had one of my characters give a cat milk too. I assumed it was okay.

I’m not saying you need to research every little thing in your manuscript, but if you have other people read your story, you’ll have a better chance of someone picking up on details like this. It’s much better for your critique partner, beta reader, or editor to catch this than a reader who might give you a bad review because you didn’t do your research.

What are we going to do about Xena, the stray cat who adopted us? That remains to be seen, but there may be a cat food purchase and homemade shelter in the near future.

Meet Xena. We named her this because she looks a lot like the cats on the cover of the Warriors series by Erin Hunter. The character names in her books are too long for my taste, so we found the name of a warrior princess instead.

Xena 01.27.15

What are some other “well-known facts” that prove to be myths?

Availability update: My next substantive editing (aka developmental editing or content editing) slot is April 28 June 23. (I just booked the April slot.)

Lynnette Labelle

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