Friday, December 10th, 2010

Writing Prompt – What Do Your Characters Collect?

Sinister Minister and Bad HabitI collect dolls. The more unusual, the better. I have several mundane and beautiful specimens, but the unusual ones are the ones I like the best.

Sometimes, it’s a defect that attracts me. For instance, I have a Geordie LaForge (Star Trek) action figure with two left hands. (I’m still wondering how that got off the assembly line.)

Or it’s the rarity: I have a tiny little boy doll made in 1960s Italy which is anatomically correct.

I absolutely love my Living Dead Dolls: Sinister Minster and Bad Habit. Toddler dolls, dressed as a priest and a nun, laying in a coffin. They come with their own death certificates. This I find clever, and I like clever very, very much.

Like it or not, we all collect….and our collections reflect something about us. It provides useful information to the people who know us.

For instance, I also have a collection of Matryoshka dolls, sometimes called babushkas: Russian nesting dolls. The collection started when I inherited several from a great aunt who brought them over from the Ukraine. The mass produced ones you can buy these days are horrible — so generic — but hers have genuine character. Collecting them rules my actions:

I scour estate sales and yard sales. I search for them on Ebay. I put them on my Christmas list.

Some people collect unconsciously. Others have collections thrust upon them. Some people display them prominently, some people hide their collections away like dirty little obsessions.

Here’s Your Prompt: Develop a character for a short story or novel (or use one you currently have) and give him a collection. Show us: is it something he or she decided to collect, or did he or she inherit (or simply receive) it in some fashion? How does the character house that collection? Is it displayed prominently? Is it well-kept? Perhaps items are simply acquired and tossed in a drawer.

Next, take a moment to explain how the collection defines your character. What does it tell about him or her? What does how your character’s care of the collection tell you about him?

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