Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wherein a Shoe has a Soul.

by A.G. Howard

Looking back over some old manuscripts, it hit me how many of my stories have secondary "characters" that are inanimate objects. I started pondering how often writers do this, giving life and breath to objects, maybe without even being aware of it.

Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights is a perfect example, where the house itself becomes a character in the book. Ms. Bronte flawlessly wove personality into the surroundings by using melancholy and unnerving descriptions so that the house and setting emanate actual emotions: anger, hatred and jealousy.

Here's a quote taken from an online essay: “Wuthering Heights ... suffers from a kind of malnutrition: its thorns have become barren, its firs stunted, everything seems to crave for the ‘alms of the sun’ that sustain life.”

Throughout Ms. Bronte's story, the characters fall into despair, madness, and unrequited love: a self-fulfilling prophecy mirroring the home's ugliness and dilapidation. The proper literary term for this is objective correlative.

In one of my historical love stories, there's a pair of 16th century Italian shoes which harbors a gypsy curse and has an amusing yet creepy tendency to move about without a wearer. The heroine is drawn to the shoes, almost to the point of obsession. They hold a mystical power over her, even without her realizing they also hold the secret of her lost past.

Another example is my gothic literary love story, where a flower which embodies a man's spirit becomes an active participant in the intensely emotional relationship between the ghost and the flower's keeper, a young deaf woman.

Even in Splintered, worn-out and mutilated toys play too big of a role to be considered mere objects.

Anytime an "inanimate thing" serves as a game player or mirrors the characters and their arcs, it evolves to more than just a prop. It takes an active role in the plot, a role that without which, the story wouldn't survive. Thus it becomes -- for lack of a better description -- a character. Within the confines of the story, it develops a soul.

What stories have you read where there are objects that could be considered pivotal characters?


Bethany Crandell said...

I recently read a book about a flower that had magical powers--or, the petals did. It allowed the m/c to see/communicate with the ghost tied to it. I wish I was savvy enough to create such a "character", but since I'm not, I'll just enjoy the ones others create.

Anita Grace Howard said...

Hmmm. Sounds like an intriguing tale. I must read it some time. HA! Oh, and guess what? You have the haunted shoe story in your inbox. HEE. And for the record, contemporary novels take just as much savvy to write as fantasy/paranormal. So don't underestimate your own unique gifts. :)

Dan Haring said...

Great post Anita! One of my favorite stories of all time is The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings, and The One Ring is definitely a pivotal character.