on convincing protagonists to climb trees that are bad for them
OMG you guys I KNOW WHAT THE CAT SAYS. (No, smartass, the answer is not "Meow.") I mean, I kinda know what it says. Maybe not word-for-word, but enough to get the plot moving both forward and away from the main characters' homes and workplaces.
My problem--what had me stumped--my stumparoo--was in thinking the cat would just open its mouth and impart some sort of Cosmic Wisdom upon poor, confused, troubled Delta. When your pet cat suddenly starts talking to you, it's kind of a momentous occasion. I thought that what the cat had to say ought to be momentous too. Oracular, even.
But that was my mistake. The cat is a kindertotem, an animal made up of all the parts of its human that its human outgrew. An externalized inner child, if you will. Inner teenager maybe. I think Michael was fifteen, maybe sixteen, when he went fully human and the cat showed up? So the cat might angst. The cat might be very intelligent but also whimsical and reckless. The cat might have a simplistic point of view. The cat will most definitely not spout the Wisdom of the Ages.
(This is a good thing. I'm not particularly good at coming up with Wisdom of the Ages for my characters to spout.)
In fact, it's the cat's simplistic point of view that helps move the plot. He points out a very simple solution to Delta's complex problem. Sometimes, it takes a simplistic, straightforward POV to cut through the complexities and deliver a simple solution.
What was it H. L. Mencken said about that? "There is always a well-known solution to every human problem--neat, plausible, and wrong."
Of all the ways I could get my characters up a tree, "It seemed like a good idea at the time" is a great one. After that, the rocks pretty much throw themselves.