Tweet of the Day: Writing Excuses 6.24: From the Ridiculous to the Sublime
The character is working away in his farm, garage, spaceship, wizard’s lab, whatever when all of the sudden somebody comes up to them, spits in their eye and kidnaps their 3 month old kitten.
In our hyper individualist society we don’t expect our heroes to do it for the Man, or for a higher calling or what have you, after all those who claim such things are usually bald faced liars who try to manipulate the masses. Not to mention that we don’t want our kids to get into schoolyard fights at the drop of the hat or go off to war singing jaunty tunes about how they are going to rape, pillage, plunder and murder (not necessarily in that order).
No, our MC needs something more in the motivational department, something that a) the audience can easily identify with and b) something distinct to the character.
Hence the poor little kitten.
A nice shortcut that bypasses lengthy explanations of deep philosophical reasons why somebody might lead a frontal assault into the enemy’s bunker.
Also it tends to give the audience a clue about what the character really cares about: if the victim is a parent/sibling/child then the character is a family man/caring parent, defenseless animals=loves dogs/cats/alligators, planet blown up, well that’s where they kept all their stuff so yeah….
However it can make hero look like an idiotic and egotistical jerk off.
Did you have to wait until the army of darkness burned down your village before you strapped your sword to your back, Mr. King’s Champion? Didn’t you see the other five villages the mooks razed to the ground before getting to yours? You might have saved your family and theirs had you gotten off you lazy ass sooner Mr. I’m so put upon.
Can also be played for laughs if the “it” in the phrase is something trivial or absurd. Did I mention the kitten in question is a stuffed theme park lion cub toy?