Character Markers--Who we are and the things we collectThere is nothing like packing your life treasures into a box for THE BIG MOVE to give you an up close and personal look at who you are. The old saying, that you are what you eat, might be more acccurate if it said, you are what you collect. As a writer we choose specfic items in our characters' lives which define their personalities. My heroine Gracie, in my manuscript WALTZING WITH ALLIGATORS, has a lucky World Series baseball she which keeps between the mattresses of her bed. It makes for humorous romantic conversation when the hero discovers her treasure. But most of all, it reveals to the reader her naivety about the world outside the small town where she lives.
I have a flying frog with a three-foot wing span. My mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas one year . . . I'd spotted the frog in one of my favorite antique malls. Last year my family decided to give him a buddy, so now I have a flying pig as well. Then there's the sacred cow's head from India which hung over my telephone for years. Save your gasp--it's carved out of wood, like the frog and the pig, and looks sort of like the head of a carousel horse. There's a large carved red goose too. Oh, and a three-foot tall rabbit which stoically guards my front door.
Each one is a marker of a period in my life. I can remember the moment I received or purchased each item. They even evoke an emotional response from the time gone by. Pretty powerful stuff, as well as good reminder that the characters we create in our stories have markers and that we writers can get emotional mileage out their cool collectibles.
When our life is in flux or crisis, we need the markers we've collected to give us reassurance of who we are. Despite the changes from one house to another, our markers go with us and add a sort of continunity to our lives. When I can't find the pair of shoes I need amongst the moving chaos, my flying frog is there reminding me that everything is going to be okay. Lucky for both of us, he doesn't fit in a box.