Getting to Know your Character — Items of Importance

The minimalist attitude (lack of accumulated material goods) is a hot topic of late.

This week, I got out my guitar for the first time in months, played it a little, then let it sit outside its case in the livingroom. Each time I passed by, I thought to play it some more. Sometimes I did. Often I didn’t. I used to play it every day, for hours. Priorities change.

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While I paced the house and procrastinated writing, seeing my old guitar setting there got me thinking about past days. There was a time in my twenty’s that I figured I could travel anywhere with just seven items: my toothbrush, toothpaste, a hairbrush, a clean pair of underwear, a book, a sleeping bag, and my guitar, with it all packed into my guitar case (except for the sleeping bag, of course). In fact, I’d often travel like that on weekends.

Later, during my seven and a half week camping honeymoon four decades ago, inside the little Pinto car, besides our clothes in two suitcases, we packed: two tents (one canvas and a nylon one for backpacking); two backpacks; two sleeping bags; mattress pads and pillows; a blow-up raft with life jackets and two collapsible oars; a cooler; a two-burner stove with pots and plates and silverware and a can of white gas; a backpacking stove; two folding stools; two cameras with multiple lenses and heavy tripod; my guitar; and a bunch of dried food, including fourteen jars of peanuts. We used it all–except for some of the peanuts, which are a topic for another post.

1978 Honeymoon

Fast forward to the present. I wondered if I were going away for a weekend, what seven essential items would I take this time? If I were packing for seven weeks away from home today, what items would I make sure we had?

Your turn. A getting to know your character writing challenge:

If your character could only take seven items for an overnight, besides the clothes on his back, what items of importance would they be? If your character traveled for a week (business or vacation), besides the clothes she wore, what would be vital that she pack?

Have fun writing.

Money! — Your Character and Finances

Money! We all need it. (And so do the characters about whose lives we wrangle.) We either love money or hate it, often both. Of course, there are the stories of a family living in a house a few square yards long, or a man solving his financial woes by retiring, or people investing and coming out with big money.  Well, you need money to build, to have put into retirement, and to invest. You read of lottery winners or of poor girls with whom a prince falls in love with. And the chance of either of those happening is such a sliver-thin chance we know it won’t happen to us. But we still hope. Oh, why has money so fascinated us?

On Saving Money — If the average American family eats out four times a week, and my DH and I only eat out once a month (and only to a fast-food-take-it-home-to-eat place), a suggestion to cook at home in order to save money isn’t really relevant. Give up smoking? Don’t do it. Give up annual family trips? DH and I spent $2,000 on our seven-week honeymoon, camping out in or traveling through sixteen states. Our family vacations were all camping or visiting out of state family. Both our cars are eighteen years old. It’s not like we’re putting that extra money in the bank every month; it mostly goes from paycheck to mouth and bills. So how does your protagonist save money?

On Giving Away Money — Even in the church-going realm, the Bible instructs to give one tenth of your income to God. (All of what you have is God’s, but we are expected to give back only one tenth of all that.) Many people claim to be “tithers” because they give money to their churches, but a recent poll showed that only 3% of church-goers actually give that full annual ten percent (and that’s before taxes, gang). The poll also showed that the people who give the larger percent have the less income.

On Having Extra Money — Are rich people happy because of money? How many people are like Rockefeller who, when asked how much was enough, answered, “Always a little more.”

On Being Free of Money — As I mentioned, we need money, but we can be freed from the hunger of it. One of my favorite lines about money is from a movie from a book by Bernard Cornwell. When Richard Sharpe is asked, “What do you do when you don’t have money, Richard?” He answers, “Do without, Sir.” The response is, “No, Richard. You borrow!” Richard is free of the entanglement of money. How about the characters you write about?

Writing Exercise: Think about a character in your story and where they are with money. Do not just think about where they stand physically (e.g., village in Sudan, wealthy American suburb, rural, urban, tourist area). Also wrap your mind around their attitude towards money. Are they needy? Greedy? Freed from it? Then plop your character into a situation to show off that attitude (e.g., earthquake, robbed in an unfamiliar city, divorce, health issue, etc).

Happy writing.