Just a week or so ago, I read a blog by Maggie, where she was starting a list of 100 things to do before she dies, and I was fascinated with the variety on her list. Okay, I have to confess that the first thing I thought was who has time to make a list of 100 things? and then the second thing I thought was that, if I had to make a list of what I wanted to do before I died, I’d be hard pressed to keep it at just a hundred. Or keep it serious.
23. Get roaring drunk in an Irish pub
68. Meet royalty
(preferably not at the same time)
(unless the royalty’s paying)
And then a bunch of other people started their own lists and sometimes they made me smile (ride a giraffe) and sometimes they made me question their sanity (spend the night in the room where Janis Joplin died).
32. Learn to be an expert at firearms
(probably best not mixed with #23)
Sometimes, sandwiched in between simple desires, like learning to bake a puff pastry and making great marinara sauce, they would slip in the one that’s a quiet knife to the soul: quit being mad at my parents or learn my biological dad’s real name.
How often do we admit to these things? It’s brave, I think, to face the hurt, the pain, and want to find a way to write it on a list and check it off as done.
79. Live in a big city for a year
And I wondered, then, what kind of lists would my characters write, if they had to make a list? I know the character’s backstory, but since I’m writing a series, I’m still discovering little things about each of them along the way, which makes the process interesting. While I know them well, they’re growing and changing from book to book, and if I ever thought I knew them absolutely, that there was nothing left about them that could surprise me, I’d instantly be bored and wouldn’t be able to write another word of that series. But even though I’ve thought in terms of goals and desires and internal conflicts… I haven’t ever thought of a list like this, of all of the little things they’d randomly want to do before they died.
If they each got everything they wanted in the current story, what sort of things would they want to do next? What are the small things, I wonder, that aren’t life threatening, that would bring them joy? Or peace?
2. follow dad’s advice, and keep it fun
It’s different, too, to think of the list I would have made for myself ten years ago vs. the list I’d make now. I’ve accomplished some of the things I’d have originally felt were necessary, and just as important, I’ve realized that others weren’t things I really wanted, or needed, to do. I haven’t regretted those choices (but then, I tend to not worry about regret, because life’s too damned short and I’ve lived a good one). But this led me to think in terms of what my characters would have thought was important to accomplish a few years prior to the story starting vs. what they would put on their list right now. In using this simple tool, I can see their growth (or lack thereof) and the continuity of their lives.
What are some things that would be on your list? or your characters’?