Was involved in a webinar this afternoon that brought this question to mind. The quote is, of course, Gollum to Bilbo from The Hobbit, during the riddling contest. But it’s relevant. Sort of.
One thing that came up during the discussion – which was about plotting and character development – was taking note of the things your characters are carrying. The author, it was determined, should always be aware of the things that their characters are liable to be carrying at any given moment, as they might well be useful or important for situations later on… and if the character is liable to pull something unlikely out of their pocket at a given moment – I call this “watch me pull a broadsword out of my ass” syndrome, in homage to Highlander – then it should either have been pointed out earlier that the character had access to this item and probably be explained why the character keeps that on their person.
This idea merged with an earlier – and until this afternoon, mostly discarded – plot idea I’d had; sort of an update of The Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy was a psychotherapist, and her three pals were her clients. Not all that happy and fuzzy and warm, either. Specifically, the one that this idea resonated with was my Tin Man, who remains unnamed, but had one similarity with his Frank Baum counterpart: all he wants is a heart. A human heart. To be a real boy, essentially.
I had decided previously that my Tin Man lived under any number of names, performing any number of tasks – many of them likely of the unsavory flavor – trying to find the magic combination of skills, personality traits and associates that would let him feel something. Anything, really. This idea merged with the other – and then hopped over to the idea of power fetishes – to give rise to a semi-new concept.
Power fetishes, for those not in the know, are typically seen in folklore; generally, a supernatural being is powerless without a given object, for whatever reason. A witch’s broom, an alp’s hat, a redcap’s bloody rag. That sort of thing.
I said to myself… what if the Tin Man has collected a souvenir from each of his false personas? And what if those little trophies impart certain skills, attitudes, knowledge or personality traits to my heartless mechanical man?
I have no bloody idea where this idea is going – if it’s going anywhere – but the idea is attractive to me. That he could be anyone, at any time, and it all depends on that original question.
What has it got in its pocketses, precious? Is it the hair clip he took from a girl dying of cancer, that grants him a touch of pity? Maybe it’s the lucky cigarette he carried when he was pretending to be a journalist, that keeps him cautious and makes him ask questions. Is it the pocketknife he lifted from a would-be mugger on a day when he was in a more violent mood, the one that imbues him with bravado and bloodlust when he runs his thumb along the edge. My Tin Man has suddenly become even less predictable, and much more puzzling… but at the same time, more attractive to me as well, unlike his mates Mr. Crowe and Lyons.
So what about you folks? What’s in your pockets on a daily basis? What do they symbolize to you? What makes them absolute musts for daily living? My own typically contain a pack of cigarettes, a lighter or two, a pen, a highlighter, a pocketknife and a set of keys… and sometimes they have their own stories to tell. That’s without even getting into the intangibles, the things we carry with us, the battle scars from childhood or the emotional resonance some of that pocket lint might have. Hmm.