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Discussion Starter #1
I have a question about whether or not something works. I know there is a whole discussion on villain's killing the cat. (the idea very basically is you have a villain kill a cat or do some other despicable act immediately so that the reader hates him... there's a book on it.)

I have a character I really like, but he just isn't as likeable as I'd like. There's a scene I rewrote at the start of my story where he has this cat, and he's like ridiculously nice to his cat because people who are nice to animals have to be likeable, right? right?

Does that type of thing work to make him at least seem like a good guy from the start? or does it only work with bad stuff.

I guess the idea is, if I show a guy help an old lady across the street, pick up groceries for a pregnant lady, etc, is that enough to overcome the fact that he's naturally a douche teenager?
 

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JACipriano said:
I have a character I really like, but he just isn't as likeable as I'd like. There's a scene I rewrote at the start of my story where he has this cat, and he's like ridiculously nice to his cat because people who are nice to animals have to be likeable, right? right?
I think I'd worry that'd be a red herring and eventually he is going to kill the cat.
 

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The saying is "save the cat" or "pet the dog." Typically it's done to add sympathy to a somewhat unsympathetic hero. I've never heard it used to define a villain. But killing an animal is a surefire way to show one. To your questions, you can do what you suggest, but with a few caveats. I, too, would worry he was going to torture the cat later. Jerky teen boy with cat would immediately signal psychopath in training for me.

That said, you can use it or a similar device to grow sympathy for your character, but it needs to be organic to the story, not come at the v start, and if possible, be repeated later in some way.
 

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Dan C. Rinnert said:
I think I'd worry that'd be a red herring and eventually he is going to kill the cat.
I feel sorta like this ^^ too... Depending on how you do it, I'd either find the character creepy, like why is he loving on his cat so much when I don't know anything else about him and is he a crazy creepo incapable of identifying with other humans, or I could be aww, that's so sweet, he's giving Mittens a treat!! But I guess it depends on how you do it. :D
 

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The whole concept behind Blake Snyder's Save the Cat books is to make you like the hero.  So, yes.
 

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Well now you could have the cat and the walking catfish chase the villain away.
Oh wait, if I hadn't seen it for myself I would not have believed that one.  Though it wasn't a villain per se.
 

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I remember reading somewhere (and wish I had the link now!) that if you have your character do three nice things in the first three chapters, your readers will like them. It may well have been from Save the Cat, I can't remember. But this is a problem many new writers run into. In their attempt to show the problems the character must overcome during the course of the story, they make them unlikeable because they come off weak and complaining instead of a hero worth cheering for. So, yes, allow your character to do some nice or kind things in the beginning of the book to help your readers connect with them.

Hope that helps!

Rue
 

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I'm a big fan of anti-heros (ala Don Draper), but you can make a character likeable without him also having to be a super nice guy. My favorite characters are the ones that are complicated.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thank you so much for the feedback. I hadn't thought of the possibility that it might seem like a red-herring. I'll endeavor to make sure he doesn't seem fiendish!
 

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In the "pet the dog" signpost from James Scott Bell's books, it isn't just that the character is nice to animals; it's that the character helps an animal (or any other character weaker than himself) at the risk of increasing trouble for himself. Examples: going into busy traffic to help a wandering elderly person get safely to the sidewalk; jumping into the water to save a drowning kid even though the character can barely swim himself; risking being late (and dirty) for a critically important meeting because the character stops to help a cat caught in a sewer.

I think this eliminates the risk of a red herring because it's a spur-of-the moment decision that helps someone/something with no obvious gain to the main character and despite the clear risks involved.
 

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Anyone notice the Save the Cat moment in the recent movie Kingsman: The Secret Service? At the beginning of the movie, the main character literally saves a cat. I pointed at the screen, nudged my wife, and whisper-yelled, "Blake Snyder! Blake Snyder!" She had no idea what I was talking about.
 

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Z. Rider said:
In the "pet the dog" signpost from James Scott Bell's books, it isn't just that the character is nice to animals; it's that the character helps an animal (or any other character weaker than himself) at the risk of increasing trouble for himself. Examples: going into busy traffic to help a wandering elderly person get safely to the sidewalk; jumping into the water to save a drowning kid even though the character can barely swim himself; risking being late (and dirty) for a critically important meeting because the character stops to help a cat caught in a sewer.

I think this eliminates the risk of a red herring because it's a spur-of-the moment decision that helps someone/something with no obvious gain to the main character and despite the clear risks involved.
Love this idea.
 

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Joseph John said:
Anyone notice the Save the Cat moment in the recent movie Kingsman: The Secret Service? At the beginning of the movie, the main character literally saves a cat. I pointed at the screen, nudged my wife, and whisper-yelled, "Blake Snyder! Blake Snyder!" She had no idea what I was talking about.
It's actually more of a foreshadowing. His later refusal to kill the dog is what gets him kicked out of the program.
 
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