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Author Topic: ...like a cat.  (Read 12618 times)

Offline Raptori

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...like a cat.
« on: May 02, 2015, 07:55:34 AM »
Does anyone else cringe when they read a simile that compares someone/something to a cat? @Saurus pointed them out once while reading Robin Hobb, now they always stand out. I love cats, but it's so common and used to convey so many things that it's really just a bland nothing. Most of the time removing the cat simile would actually make the description stronger.

A lot of the time the simile actually makes no sense, for example "tight as a cat's skin" is weird considering cat's skin is not tight. People seem to often "stretch like a cat", and the pedant in me naturally pictures them getting down on all fours and then moving their spine in a wave before stretching their legs out behind them. In examples like "cautious as a cat", it really means "cautious as a cautious cat" - cats aren't always cautious so it's a completely empty comparison.

I think writers should have a quota of one or two cat similes per book--maybe then they'll actually use it in places where it adds something.

Since I'm really cool, here's a run-down of the cat similes in RotE (excluding Rain Wilds since we don't have that on ebook):





Assassin's Apprentice - 4
Spoiler for Hiden:
Quote
Before I could react, she flung herself from me and fled into her bedchamber with a cry like a scalded cat.
Patience running in tears after Fitz shows her his painting of Smithy.

Quote
At a time when full sleeves slashed with colors were the mark of a wealthy man, he wore his shirt as tight as a cat's skin.
Describing Galen.

Quote
The Inland and Coastal Dukes took sides at the council tables, hissing and spitting at one another like cats over fish.

Quote
Clinging like a cat, I snugged myself up to the supports of the chamber floor and waited.
In Jhaampe, hanging underneath Regal's rooms trying to eavesdrop.

Royal Assassin - 5
Spoiler for Hiden:
Quote
She was as Shrewd had described her, a handsome woman, well muscled, who moved lithe as a little hunting cat.
Describing Virago, the troublemaker in Bearns duchy.

Quote
Compared with the other women in their voluminous skirts and cloaks; she looked agile as a cat.
Describing Kettricken.

Quote
In a little cat voice, she replied, “Only for hours.”
Molly when upset with Fitz for getting drunk at Winterfest.

Quote
Regal, in contrast, was as lavishly clothed as if to go a-courting, and moved as surely as a hunting cat.

Quote
He stepped back from my door, stretched like a lazy cat.
Will just before Skill-torturing Fitz.

Assassin's Quest - 8
Spoiler for Hiden:
Quote
The boy's face was tattooed with stripes like a cat's.
Describing a random kid.

Quote
They prowled about like trapped cats in Farrow's gold-and-brown livery.
Describing guards at Blue Lake.

Quote
She stretched herself like a little cat.
Starling after giving Fitz a makeover.

Quote
He slept like a cat, lax, but with that aura of constant wariness.
The Fool sleeping.

Quote
They caught the firelight, yellow as a cat's.
The Fool's eyes (a page later).

Quote
She moved like a stalking cat.
Fitz skill-seeing Chade talking to a woman.

Quote
His green eyes gleamed like a hunting cat's.
Chade's eyes (a couple of pages later).

Quote
He stretched like a cat, bowing and rolling reptilian shoulders and spreading claws.
Verity-as-dragon awakening.




Ship Of Magic - 18
Spoiler for Hiden:
Quote
It was a carefully rehearsed posture that suggested the languid grace of a hunting cat.
Kennit posing.

Quote
She watched the street with a cat's wide unblinking stare.
Amber watching a street.

Quote
Althea drew breath, swelling like an angry cat, but her mother's cold voice cut across her quarrel with Kyle.
Althea swelling like an angry cat...?

Quote
The woman's sallow cheeks were almost warm, her golden eyes glowing like a cat's before a fire.
Amber watching Althea look through her beads.

Quote
Agile as a cat, quick as a monkey, he made his way swiftly to the bow of the ship, leaving her clinging in the rigging and staring after him.
Brashen moving across the ship.

Quote
She wrung out her queue and shook her wet feet like a cat before padding back to her corner.
Althea (a page later).

Quote
Once he got up on the bear's back, the bear just folded up like a sleeping cat.
Comfrey talking to Wintrow (later in that same chapter).

Quote
Soft-footed as a cat he padded up the darkened stairs.
Kennit walking down some stairs.

Quote
Etta, crouched naked over her kill, looked savage as a feral cat as she unconsciously bared her teeth to the sound.

Quote
"He came aboard with a bound, like he always did, landing on the deck like a cat and stood before me."
Althea talking.

Quote
Malta watched Cerwin with the avidity of a stalking cat.

Quote
She hit the deck cat-lightly and stood a moment kneading her stiff hands.
Althea landing.

Quote
Her open hand slapped him away like a man swipes at an annoying cat.
Althea slapping Kyle.

Quote
A small cat smile curved Etta's lips
Dialogue tag.

Quote
Kennit, lithe and lucky as a cat, sprang clear of the falling boat.

Quote
Etta growled low as a threatening cat.
Another dialogue tag.

Quote
!Little whip of a kid you was, spitting and scratching like a cat when we hauled you out of the rigging.!
Tarlock talking to Brashen.

Quote
Her eyes were narrowed, like a cat's when she stares down a hostile dog.
Vivacia glaring at Etta.

The Mad Ship - 17
Spoiler for Hiden:
Quote
From what Wintrow had seen of her, she was savagely tempered and remorseless as a cat.
Wintrow thinking about Etta.

Quote
The woman moved faster than a clawing cat.
Etta attacking.

Quote
He had a tiny thin mustache that twitched just like a cat's whiskers.
Description of the Satrap.

Quote
When she did, her mouth would curve in the tiniest of cat-smiles.
Malta smiling.

Quote
Amber's eyes burned with a cat-like intensity.

Quote
"You two have been apart for almost a year, and the first time you are in a room together, all you do is spit at each other like cats."
Ronica talking to Althea and Keffria.

Quote
The man would be as soft and easy as a fat purring cat, but when it came to the bargaining, this Faldin would be lucky to walk off with the shirt still on his back.
Brashen describing Faldin.

Quote
Quick as a cat's pounce, he seized the boy by his shoulders and jerked him near.
Kennit grabbing Wintrow.

Quote
Ever since then, the Satrap had watched her like a cat, waiting for her to challenge him.
Satrap watching Serilla.

Quote
"He is sweet, like a little house cat."
Malta describing Cerwin.

Quote
The sailor had watched her move like a hungry cat stalking a bird.
Malta describing how Brashen watches Althea.

Quote
She was glaring, her eyes yellow as a cat's, at Davad Restart.
Amber glaring at Davad.

Quote
She was not softly feminine. Instead, she was female in a cat-like way that was as much threat as it was enticement.
Brashen describing Althea.

Quote
As a wave lifted the tiny vessel within reach, the sailor leaned out and scooped her into an arm like a cat snatching a mouse from under a cupboard.
Serilla being picked up by a sailor.

Quote
The Satrap rose, stretching like a cat.
Satrap standing up.

Quote
But when she did come in, she came slinking in like a cat after a night's hunt.
Etta trying not to disturb Kennit.

Quote
It reminded him of a cat's tongue.
Paragon describing the sensation of Amber using a rasp on his chest.

Ship Of Destiny - 12
Spoiler for Hiden:
Quote
She leaned back along the railing with catlike grace and stared up at the early stars speculatively.
Jek leaning.

Quote
Roed would be no more than a cat in the path of a carriage if Ronica managed to gain an audience.

Quote
He turned as he spoke, somehow conveying both the charm and arrogance of a well-clawed cat.
Description of Roed Caern (a few pages later)

Quote
Like a panicky cat, he flailed and clawed in all directions, seeking something, anything to attach himself to.
Wintrow returning to consciousness.

Quote
They fled over the side, like startled cats.
Pirates fleeing from Paragon.

Quote
"There is the water against your bow, purring like a cat, and the wind shushes us along."
Amber talking to Paragon.

Quote
She toys with you like a cat with a mouse, and you have not the sense to remove yourself.
Etta talking to Wintrow.

Quote
He supposed it might be her pregnancy, but during his mother’s times with child, she had become as content as a fat purring cat.
Kennit thinking about Etta.

Quote
It was like hugging an angry cat.
Ankle attacking Brashen.

Quote
Her head swayed like a poisoned cat’s.
Althea while drugged.

Quote
Amber had observed Wintrow as a cat watches a bird.
Amber watching Wintrow.

Quote
She spoke to herself as she poured tea for Etta, a gentle stream of words, soothing as a cat’s purr.
Kennit's mother babbling at Etta.



Fool's Errand - 10
Spoiler for Hiden:
Quote
He opened one cat-yellow eye.
Description of the Fool.

Quote
It was like watching a cat explore a strange house.
Fitz watching the Fool explore his house (a couple of pages later).

Quote
He rose suddenly, graceful as a cat.
The Fool standing up.

Quote
I held my awareness still and small, waiting as a cat lurks beside a mousehole.
Fitz sensing Nettle while skilling.

Quote
Then he came to his feet as effortlessly as a cat.
The Fool standing up.

Quote
In the dark, he was up and moving silently and gracefully as a cat.
The Fool walking.

Quote
Dainty as a cat, he arranged the food.
Dutiful eating.

Quote
Catlike he glowered at me, head canted, mouth ajar.
Dutiful glaring at Fitz.

Quote
He hissed like a cat from his open mouth as he sprang, and the tiny sound gave me an instant of warning.
Dutiful attacking Fitz (a couple of pages later).

Quote
He was there, still and taut as a crouching cat.
Fitz skilling Dutiful.

Golden Fool - 3
Spoiler for Hiden:
Quote
It was like being stalked by a large, overly friendly cat.
Jek talking to Fitz.

Quote
It was like poking a sleeping cat.
Fitz waking Thick.

Quote
Yet he sat watching me so intently that I felt like a mouse under a cat’s eye.
Dutiful staring at Fitz.

Fool's Fate - 19
Spoiler for Hiden:
Quote
Then, as effortlessly as a cat lofts into a chair, she rose from the railing, her cupped wings catching the wind and lifting her in flight.
Gull flying around.

Quote
Large and round as a fat cat, yet masked like a ferret, he crouched on the table, his bushy striped tail sticking straight up behind him.
Description of a raccoon.

Quote
He pounced on the Fool like a cat on a mouse, and together they went rolling into the snow. Civil snarled like a cat as he fought.
Civil attacking the Fool.

Quote
Civil was like a crouching cat with a lashing tail.
Civil still angry with the Fool (a couple of pages later).

Quote
"I feel in this creature the charm of a great cat, the beckoning wile that can bond a youngster whether he would or no."
Webb talking to Swift.

Quote
"He has the tenacity of a cat, and I'll wager he'd be just as hard to kill as one."
The Pale Woman talking to her guard.

Quote
She smiled a cat's smile now, and observed
Pale Woman Dialogue tag.

Quote
And all the while, the Pale Woman watched me like a cat watches a bird.
Pale Woman watching Fitz (a couple of pages later).

Quote
She made a pleased sound, like a settling cat.
Pale Woman again (a few more pages later).

Quote
She landed on the dragon that had been Kebal Rawbread like a furious cat and her jaws closed on his neck just behind his blocky head.
Tintaglia landing on the skill-dragon.

Quote
She walked stiff-legged as a stalking cat toward the stone dragon.
Tintaglia walking towards the skill-dragon (a couple of pages later).

Quote
When she leaped from the ground to the air it was effortless in the manner of a cat floating from the floor up to a tabletop.
Tintaglia taking flight.

Quote
Cautious as a cat, he approached it.
The Fool approaching a blanket.

Quote
He possessed the lax grace of a sleeping hunting cat.
Fitz describing the Fool.

Quote
She suddenly looked like a cat with a mouse between her paws.
Dialogue tag for Nettle.

Quote
The candles released a calming perfume into the air, but Kettricken was tense as a treed cat.

Quote
She had thrown back her head and died, mouth open like a snarling cat.
The Pale Woman's corpse.

Quote
Her shortened hair stood up like the hair on an angry cat's back.
Description of Nettle.

Quote
She peered round the corner of the concealed door, saw me, but still came in cautious as a cat.
Nettle entering Fitz's hideout (a couple of pages later).
« Last Edit: May 04, 2015, 12:41:28 AM by Raptori »
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Offline Saurus

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Re: ...like a cat.
« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2015, 07:59:42 AM »
It is thanks to these books that any simile with a cat just jumps at me, and breaks the flow of the writing. Even if it's a decent one. I'm pretty obsessed with cats, but OMGJUSTSTAHPITALREADY!!!
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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: ...like a cat.
« Reply #2 on: May 02, 2015, 09:35:45 AM »
!!!
Reading them all together like that makes it sound Robin's just a tiny little bit obssessed with cats ;)

And this is another reason for ebooks being a bad thing: nobody would create a list like that based on paper books :P ;D
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Offline Yora

Re: ...like a cat.
« Reply #3 on: May 02, 2015, 09:51:26 AM »
Few things are as bad as describing people as food.
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Offline Saraband

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Re: ...like a cat.
« Reply #4 on: May 02, 2015, 10:22:30 AM »
Ok, when you read that entire list together, it does make Robin Hobb seem like an awful, cat-obsessed writer. I have only read the Farseer trilogy yet, but now I know I will be on the lookout for these!  ;D

Few things are as bad as describing people as food.

Yes, yes, yes! I can't remember where, but I once read a narrator giving a description of a female character using a food for her look, and another for her smell, and it was absolutely creepy.  :-X
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Offline JMack

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Re: ...like a cat.
« Reply #5 on: May 02, 2015, 11:41:58 AM »
The part I like best is how Raptori, pleased as a kitten with a mouse to play with, has pounced one of his favorite writers - and taught us all a lesson.

What lesson?

Spoiler for Hiden:
That Raptori is cool like that.  8). In fact, he's cool like a tom sneaking in the night, or like an unpeeled banana in charge of its own ripeness.

Actually,this is a freaking amazing post.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2015, 11:43:53 AM by Jmack »
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Offline JMack

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Re: ...like a cat.
« Reply #6 on: May 02, 2015, 11:42:39 AM »
Error
Change, when it comes, will step lightly before it kicks like thunder. (GRMatthews)
You are being naive if you think that any sweet and light theme cannot be strangled and force fed it's own flesh. (Nora)
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Offline Raptori

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Re: ...like a cat.
« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2015, 01:12:35 PM »
!!!
Reading them all together like that makes it sound Robin's just a tiny little bit obssessed with cats ;)

And this is another reason for ebooks being a bad thing: nobody would create a list like that based on paper books :P ;D
I would have, it'd just have taken a lot longer - I'd have noted them all down the next time I re-read them.  8)


Few things are as bad as describing people as food.
Yeah food is possibly even more common. One thing that bugs me about the food descriptions is that it makes it out that they survived entirely off meat, with just a tiny amount of veg thrown in...  ???


Ok, when you read that entire list together, it does make Robin Hobb seem like an awful, cat-obsessed writer. I have only read the Farseer trilogy yet, but now I know I will be on the lookout for these!  ;D

Few things are as bad as describing people as food.

Yes, yes, yes! I can't remember where, but I once read a narrator giving a description of a female character using a food for her look, and another for her smell, and it was absolutely creepy.  :-X
I think we'll have to note down all cat similes used in other books just for balance. One of the Ketty Jay books had a good one, where rounding up the crew was likened to herding cats, which made me laugh. I just spotted one in The Vagrant that described a caravan settling down for the night as a cat circling around and settling down for sleep, which was pretty apt as well. Ones like that are rare, most of them are just common like a cat.  :P


The part I like best is how Raptori, pleased as a kitten with a mouse to play with, has pounced one of his favorite writers - and taught us all a lesson.

What lesson?

Spoiler for Hiden:
That Raptori is cool like that.  8) . In fact, he's cool like a tom sneaking in the night, or like an unpeeled banana in charge of its own ripeness.

Actually,this is a freaking amazing post.
;D
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Offline ultamentkiller

Re: ...like a cat.
« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2015, 01:56:16 PM »
It doesn't have to be a meow meow kitty-cat. "Like a cat" probably means more of a tiger. I would hope at least. My cat never was able to sneak up on anybody. He was too vocal.

Meow!

Offline ScarletBea

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Re: ...like a cat.
« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2015, 02:00:13 PM »
rounding up the crew was likened to herding cats,

I use this one in real life (ie work) all the time ;D that's the group of people I have to work with... ::) hehe
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Offline D_Bates

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Re: ...like a cat.
« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2015, 03:10:22 PM »
When you make a comparison it tends (should) be to clarify something that is otherwise fuzzy. I have to say I'm a bit of a go to cat guy as well--I even used it in my rogues short story in the writing contest *shamed*--because cats are something everyone knows and are also rather expressive creatures. On thinking back to it now, a fox might have been a better choice for that story, but then cat has that tamer quality which I think fits the character better.

That said, some of the comparisons in this post are indeed bad and in fact just leave me confused. "At a time when full sleeves slashed with colors were the mark of a wealthy man, he wore his shirt as tight as a cat's skin." What? Maybe a Sphynx, but most cats have fur over rather saggy skin. A lizard would have been a better comparison if you even need a comparison at all. But yea, seems like the author has a bit of a thing about cats. But then cats are pretty cool creatures.
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Offline Raptori

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Re: ...like a cat.
« Reply #11 on: May 02, 2015, 03:29:13 PM »
When you make a comparison it tends (should) be to clarify something that is otherwise fuzzy. I have to say I'm a bit of a go to cat guy as well--I even used it in my rogues short story in the writing contest *shamed*--because cats are something everyone knows and are also rather expressive creatures. On thinking back to it now, a fox might have been a better choice for that story, but then cat has that tamer quality which I think fits the character better.

That said, some of the comparisons in this post are indeed bad and in fact just leave me confused. "At a time when full sleeves slashed with colors were the mark of a wealthy man, he wore his shirt as tight as a cat's skin." What? Maybe a Sphynx, but most cats have fur over rather saggy skin. A lizard would have been a better comparison if you even need a comparison at all. But yea, seems like the author has a bit of a thing about cats. But then cats are pretty cool creatures.
Well that's the point: adding "like a cat" rarely clarifies anything - stalked like a cat, landed like a cat, etc are all pointless because cats stalk or land in a huge variety of ways, and really all the writer means is "stalked" and "landed lightly" which are far more effective imo.

Actually a Sphynx cat has saggy skin too, that's why they're wrinkly - the only difference is that their skin isn't covered in fur. I think it's a perfect example of a place where a simile is completely unnecessary anyway, just saying his clothes were tight gets the message across perfectly.  :P

It's funny that "like a dog" is rare, and comparisons to other non-humans are pretty much non-existent...  :o
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Offline Nora

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Re: ...like a cat.
« Reply #12 on: May 02, 2015, 03:37:01 PM »
Agreed with @D_Bates and @Raptori on that point.
While I see no problem with a writer defining a character as being 'feline' it's its way of moving, or make a cat comparison (but more in the style of "she was like a cat. She spent more time sleeping than anything else and loved to toy with her food in rather indecent ways") but almost the totality of those uses are plain bad. It's not about being a cat lover but rather a poor writer.

Oooh. It's been said. Don't beat me up. I don't like Hobbs. She exasperated me so much throughout this assassin serie.

Dogs are used often enough in expressions such as "he had a doglike fidelity to him".
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Offline D_Bates

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Re: ...like a cat.
« Reply #13 on: May 02, 2015, 04:00:05 PM »
Yea I agree completely, Raptori. I wouldn't have used a simile for the coat either, and many of those others are equally unecessary... especially the eye ones. Though I do sometimes go for the puppy-eyed look in my own writing, but only when the two characters have a close relationship and are being rather *ahem* sheepish with one another.
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Offline Raptori

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Re: ...like a cat.
« Reply #14 on: May 02, 2015, 04:27:25 PM »
Dogs are used often enough in expressions such as "he had a doglike fidelity to him".
Yep, though that's little different to "he ran like a dog" or "he slept like a dog"...  :P


Yea I agree completely, Raptori. I wouldn't have used a simile for the coat either, and many of those others are equally unecessary... especially the eye ones. Though I do sometimes go for the puppy-eyed look in my own writing, but only when the two characters have a close relationship and are being rather *ahem* sheepish with one another.
Puppy-eyes don't really bother me, because they mean a very specific expression to me. :)
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