While relaxing in the pool I focused on the wooden fence that separated us from our neighbor. The knotty boards have long been neglected, worn, and weathered. Eyes peered from those boards that held my attention. The eyes of a cat embedded within a board and other looking creatures that seemed to be peering from the flat surfaces.
Wow what a great thriller this would make from creatures that come alive after dark as they morph from the wooden fence and creep around through the night. Watching a person’s every move they learn to communicate and do other task while the living goes about their life. But what happens when those creatures refuse to go back in their place among the fence. The devil himself couldn’t pull off a better plot then to let loose on a neighborhood of unruly teenagers that had thrown rocks and balls for years at that fence. Practicing their fastball, soccer kicks and mastering their slingshots. The creatures had had enough and it was time for revenge.
But it made me think about something I read about characters.
“Characters can’t exist in a vacuum.”
Well, why can’t they? Sure it would be a tornado every few days and it would be like living in the dessert with very little to eat. Unless of course there is small children in the house. Lol. But who’s to say it has to be a human character. I’ve vacuumed up ants before and a bug I’m sure. A speck of dust like Horton Hears a Who….there ya go. A complete little village of characters can exist in a vacuum. Never say can’t in fiction anything is possible. Right? Think about the movie A Bugs Life or Ants.
But what the author meant on those words is that characters need to be three-dimensional. They must be put into situations that let them act and react. Not just, grow potatoes in the dusty canister of the vacuum. Boring. Move the story forward. To learn, live and grow. A village that took up home in an old vacuum would face the biggest challenge of survival when the whirlwind of a tornado comes from nowhere and wipes out there village that they worked hard to build. Can they work together again to rebuild it? Or will the human hands stand in their way?
Maybe the main character is weak and sees no point in rebuilding so he gives up. When the tornado of debris twirled about, half the village wiped out. What’s the point, his beautiful wife and children gone there’s no reason to rebuild. The other villagers, young and old band together. Their strength, hope, and faith in one another they try to convince their leader that then can rebuild and life restored.
Just like in real life, we have mountains to climb and bridges to rebuild. There will always be conflicts and resolutions. Life is ho-hum then suddenly conflict but it has to be ho-hum again so be resolve the conflict, sometimes it’s not so easy.
Why are the creatures in the boards relevant to the vacuum? Because as writers we’re always looking for that character that can bring a story to life and awakens our brains for story writing when the blank pages rest before us. So look around at the hundreds of objects that surround your everyday and think about where it’s been, where it came from, who touched it before you or what kind of story that object would tell if they could talk.
You never know, that eraser on the end of your pencil might just have some words of their own to say.