Today’s quickwrite prompt at teacherswrite2015 summer camp… watch people, imagine character background. So, one of the other writers wrote about boys…getting in their heads…their fascination with bb guns…their bikes….their bugs, bruises, boxes of boy stuff. That brings me to my boy, Sam. Almost fourteen. At the end of our vacation trip in Maine, he found himself wandering about an antique/junk store with ten dollars to spend. To be almost-fourteen…with a little cash in hand…alone with your thoughts…perusing old post cards and a bowl of old-fashioned zippo type lighters. When I joined him, after a half hour or so, I felt what he was feeling–a familiar shopping-high–treasure-hunting satisfaction. He had gathered up an old cigar box, a small pocket knife, a lighter with a monogrammed “R”, and a little pair of scissors. He has notions of creating a little survival kit. He wants to add some twine, some tape. He says this is inspired by The Dangerous Book for Boys. He may be a boy, and I often find the things that fascinate him (Halo, Youtube humor) pretty darn dull. But I get this fascination with a shop full of nostalgia, mysteries, stories, imagined possibilities. And the desire to take a book’s idea and make it your own. That notion of a handy-dandy box of useful tools struck my boy as something true…something he wants for himself. How many notions and truths have I encountered in books that struck a chord, a longing, recognition. In developing characters, this might be something to think about. What would that person read? When they read, what ideas will grab them, shape them, make them long for an experience or a way of being? John Green’s Margo Ross Spiegelman’s character is overtly shaped and expressed by her fascination/use of Walt Whitman’s poetry. But…perhaps author’s think about their characters’ reading (and shopping) lives… and shape their characters by some of those fascinations and longings.
This all makes me want to hit the thrift store later today. Talk about great people watching!!