I sat alone and thought about my characters – you know, the growing population of make-believe people that hang out in my mind. More specifically, I thought about creating some “real characters” to mix things up in the ‘ole noggin. I wanted these folks to medal in page-jumping and really have oxygen in their lungs.
It was a Monday and there was quite a bit of foot traffic at the mailbox a few feet away. Between bites of my burrito bowl, I stalked the patrons of the satellite US Post Office. Each person dropped their letters into the box a little bit differently. I was fascinated, maybe infatuated. Some triple checked their stamps and addresses; others slammed the metal lid with paradoxical indifference. Some smiled while others sulked. A good number just seemed proud and round.
It occurred to me, in my imaginative world, mailboxes are character fountains. It is from their gaping blue slots that the characters are formed – not because of the approach to the mailbox, but because of the letters they drop. They all have stories. The possibilities in those letters are endless: a final mortgage payment, an unsolicited and salacious love letter, an anonymous complaint with a return address, a winning stamp to the Publisher’s Clearing House, a confession, a critical secrete with no stamp, a suicide note, or a ransom, just to name a few.
I decided on two things: first, a burrito bowl is actually just a salad that is far less satisfying than a burrito, and second, I’d return to the exact same spot with a notebook. Nothing beats a character fountain, and I’m certain a highly visited mailbox is pretty damn faithful for those of us creating people in our heads.