K Is for Keepsakes 


If you were on a desert island what five things would you take with you? Or, similarly, if you had 15 minutes to evacuate your home what are the most important items that must come with you?
Many people would say family photos followed by a pet, but what comes next? What else matters to a person so much that they wouldn’t want to leave it behind?
No, this week’s column isn’t about planning for a disaster, it’s about thinking about how your character lives and what matters most to them, beyond just the people in their world.
For instance:

  • Does your character have tons and tons of stuff or hardly any personal possessions?
  • Is she or he a pack rat or a minimalist?
  • Are things strewn all over the house or does everything have a specific place in labeled boxes and bins?
  • Is there an item or two that your character can’t function without?

Think about these questions and try to imagine how they might play out in your story.

  • Would someone whose home is meticulously clean with everything sorted and labeled have a car that was filled with junk? What would motivate such a seemingly incongruous action?
  • How might the appearance of a person’s home affect how they dress? How they speak?
  • What would happen to your character if one of those keepsakes that matter most was lost? Will they be able to simply shrug it off or will they spend hours and hours digging through a landfill to find it?

We are all attached to our stuff, some more than others, and though we may not want to acknowledge it, on some level it does seep into who we are and what we want and do.
Come up with a list of things your hero or heroine can’t live without and then create a scene where the item is lost. How will your characters react? Can they find an easy substitute or will they be paralyzed with fear? Is the keepsake something they always carry with them, like a lucky charm, or something they have buried in their dresser where only they can see it? Why is it important? Use the answers to these questions to shed some light on your character’s inner actions and feelings. 

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