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August 11, 2010

Road Trip Wednesday: Important Useless Stuff

Kate Hart
(At first, I named this post "What Lies Beneath Your Character's Skivvies." Then I thought about that a little harder and realized how wrongly it could be construed. SO WRONG.)

Anyway, you probably saw the first 8,000 times we've mentioned it, but a bunch of the YA Highway girls went to SCBWI, and several of us very much enjoyed Carolyn Mackler's presentation on "Creating Characters That Come To Life." Her first suggestion: Figure out the details. What are your character's quirks? One way to dig deeper into that question is to ask another: What would s/he hide in his/her underwear drawer?

On the flight home, I made a list of all the major characters in both my books (parents included-- woot for existent parents in YA!). One by one, I dug through each of their dressers, and here's what I found:

  • Aubrey: A pressed flower
  • Griffin: One of his dad's guitar picks
  • Bryan: Baseball cards he still secretly collects
  • Paige: won't tell me. hussy. Or maybe she just has no secrets. It's possible.
  • Jason: An arrowhead he knows he should give to a museum
  • Hugh: A secret fiction MS
  • Natalie: If I tell you, there's no reason for you to read the sequels... that only exist in my head right now anyway.

  • Matt: Small collection of rocks
  • Andrew: Weed
  • Raychel: Andrew's pipe (funny-- this already existed in the story)
  • Dr. Richardson: Ticket stubs from past concerts
  • Mrs. Richardson: Her father's cuff links, to be given to the boys at their graduations
  • Raychel's mom: The wedding ring she never pawned
I was not only surprised by the items themselves, but what they mean for the larger story. For example, Raychel and her mom need money, yet her mom has never pawned that ring. She feels guilty, which drives some of her overreactions.

Carolyn's second prompt was Who would your character call when s/he got good news? What would that good news be? I found Andrew would call Matt, but Matt would call Raychel. Ohhhh... Andrew resents her for taking his place as his brother's best friend, and that's why he pursues her, even when he knows it'll hurt his brother. It's so obvious... now that I've asked a seemingly completely unrelated question...

Yes. This is really my room.
As for me? I honestly have nothing hidden in my underwear drawer. My shelves, however, are overflowing with old pictures, fabric, beads, pieces of costumes, yearbooks and other assorted nostalgic detritus. I have a crippling inability to throw stuff away.

But sometimes unimportant stuff turns out to be crucial.

Road Trip Wednesday is a "Blog Carnival," where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

We'd love for you to participate!


  1. I like your original post title better :P

    You were so I feel like I should be thorough!

  2. Pot hiding characters FTW! Although mine doesn't really hide it. Everyone knows it's there...perhaps a porn magazine would have been a better answer for him, haha.

    PS I have an inability to throw things away too. Mostly papers.

  3. Interesting characters and interesting books I can tell already...
    Thanks for commenting on mine anyways! And I like the "nostalgic detritus". My room's all that. I also have an inability to dump things out. That's my dad's job when I'm not in the house..

  4. <3 what Raychel's mom would keep. I could so see that.

  5. I really like the idea of a character never pawning a ring but feeling guilty about it. Is that in the book?

  6. awesome awesome awesome. wow.

    i need to do that.


  7. I'm glad other people are packrats too!

    Jess-- I don't think the ring itself will make it into the book, but what it means for her relationship with her daughter almost certainly will.

  8. This was a great post and you put way more thought into it than I had. I agree with Michelle - very thorough.


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