Mailbox: It Gives me Flings

If you want your characters to go anywhere, put a stamp on 'em. (Mailbox by eternalDomnation)

If you want your characters to go anywhere, put a stamp on ’em. (Mailbox by eternalDomnation)

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.

Categories: Creative Writing, Fiction, Observation

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

17 replies

  1. I had the same feelings as I sat waiting to pick up my daughter from the airport. It’s become my new favorite spot for inspiration. Each person is a story waiting to be told… only wish they had one on every street corner.

    • I couldn’t agree more – the airport is, in a lot of ways, a dystopia! And people are just so darn funny when they travel! 🙂 Thank you for dropping a comment, always appreciate them. Hope you continue to find inspiration…

  2. Hi, never read anything like this on a mailbox. New perspective. Inspired.

  3. I’ll never look at a mailbox the same way again! Thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

    • You got it! Thank you for your continued support. Now all I have to do is go back to that mailbox and write about an unsuspecting but awfully interesting passerby (with a past, a tone of conflict, and ultimately a lasting change). I really like the idea of live prompts – of what I tried to describe as a character fountain. I can think of a few more – ATMs, water fountains, pay-to-park stations, and…oh this is good, those big massage chairs in the airport that cost a buck and vibrate like crazy (takes a character…)!!!

  4. That’s a really creative way to figure out some characters! I’ve never thought of mailbox stalking before. 🙂

  5. 🙂 that’s funny. I never thought of a mailbox as being a place to observe people for character development.

    I guess because there are never enough mailboxes around. Now I think I’ll start paying attention.

    • 🙂 Yea, I’m telling you – some real characters still use snail mail. I happen to be one of them (well I’m not sure how much of a character I am, I just happen to write a few checks from time to time). It’s a great live prompt – easy to make stuff about people who come in go in a flash, often its harder to really dig into the imagination of someone sitting right in front of you!

  6. Fantastic little life observation!

  7. Hello there! Thanks for checking out my blog post tonight.

    Just read your mailbox post. As an avid people-watcher, I appreciate your words. I really liked the section about the letters / items being dropped in the mailbox, each having their own story. So true. I will be back to read more here!

  8. Great, can’t wait for more on the characters you find in your fountain

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