Swails? Swails? Swails?

I’m here, I swear.

I could do some song and dance about how I skipping a week of the blog was part of my master plan, and while I’m a fairly good bullshitter–I am a writer, after all, and writing lies is basically the job description–I’m not going to do that. I’ve got twelve hundred balls in the air and I plain forgot. But! Part of that busyness was holding a garage sale, so that’s what I’m going to blog about.

How do garage sales and writing go together, you ask? Hold on, skippy. We’re getting there.

I’m a pack rat that comes from a long line of pack rats. I just went through some boxes of my dad’s stuff, and the things he chose to keep astounded me. (Happy Meal toys, for the love of all that is holy!) I’m not quite in the league my dad is, but I have a tendency to keep things. Not because “we might need this one day,” but because of the memories tied to the object. So as I sold our belongings and watched them go home with strangers that needed them, I kept getting flashes of the past. The kitchen chairs that we bought from Lowe’s right after we closed on the house. The picture that hung up in Dad’s living room. The box of Griesedieck bottle openers (Dad collected them because I lived in Griesedieck Hall at SLU). The wine glasses I bought at a flea market as a teenager because “I’d have a house someday.” For the most part I was okay with letting everything go, but I did get melancholy at times.

Now, I understand that not everyone gets wrapped up on their possessions as much as I do. But maybe … just maybe … your characters can. (See? SEE?! Writing! I told you I’d bring it back around.) Your character doesn’t have to be a hoarder in order to keep objects with special meaning. Maybe it’s a sword their grandfather had. Or a plate from their mother in law. Or the knife they used to kill their first victim. Giving your characters meaningful possessions deepens their personalities and makes them more fully realized. If a secondary character always carries a particular rock in his jacket pocket–maybe it was given to him by his grade-school crush–then that character feels more like a real person and less like a character in a book. He has a history. He has desires and memories and regrets. And you can tell that history–however briefly–through his possessions.

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