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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Workshop Wednesday - Secret Stories

Lives are songs, and so many of the chord progressions and notes and refrains are similar, but the rhythms, those are their own. Those constant, daily beats that we hit again and again, not in drudgery, but in thanks for the reliability. When one slip, one flat note interrupts that rhythm, we notice. Like, say, when Markus comes so, so gingerly out of his stall and resists stepping through the pasture gate. That's a great cymbal crash of a disruption. Something off. Something wrong. Run the diagnostics.

Poor man. This is the third summer in a row he's suffered this bizarre attack of leg swelling, lethargy and mild fever. I caught it very early this time, and I'm thankful that my vet will just drop off meds and doesn't insist on seeing him; that he knows I don't make calls to the office lightly or often.

Today was all about taking care of Markus, and I was struck by a familiar thought as I stood cold-hosing his puffy hock this afternoon: all the stories there must be in this sleek hide and these innumerable little scars, and silver hairs sprouting beneath the ears. Our silent friends - what were their lives like before they collided with ours? He has this very old scar in his mouth, and I've always had my theories about it, have spun my own mental stories about it. There were other farms, other hands, other saddles and cold compresses and worried frowns before me. There are those little nonverbal tells: I know he feels poorly when he stands still and lets me doctor him. It brings the nonexistent mother in me to the forefront when he's sick; how many others felt this same way, once upon a time?

Humans - behold, the power of speech! But they harbor stories we'll never know, too. Stories that shaped, softened, hardened them. When we meet someone, we're meeting the silent weight of their past stories.

Just a little character-creating nugget for this very late Workshop Wednesday post. It's okay not to know everything about our characters upfront. They reveal little by little to us as we go along. And even then, there are those secrets we'll never learn, but will put shadows in their eyes nonetheless. A well-rounded character isn't one in limbo, but one that has a song, a rhythm, a routine - however often it's interrupted. We learn their beats, and then the skips are all the more real to the readers. And then there are those secret stories, the ones that always leave us wondering.

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