Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Before taking Jerry to the airport yesterday morning, we drove to the garbage dumpster in the alley behind our house. Two doors down, I noticed our neighbors' new fence. Unlike our worn-out fence, their pickets stood straight and not a hole could be found. It was perfect.

"We need a new fence," I told Jerry.

"But how would the rabbits get in?"

I laughed. This spring and summer an abundant crop of cottontails have hopped freely around our backyard. They eat our English ivy and feast on my flowers, but we don't make a fuss. The trade off is the zen state of mind they provide us just by watching them.

Occasionally our next door neighbor's cat slides through the hole on the north side and torments our dog, Bronte. Recently Bronte escaped and did a romp around the neighborhood, courtesy of a broken picket. Imagine, if we replaced the fence. We'd miss all that fun.

The trumpet vine on the south side grows thicker each year, causing the fence to lean in a charming way. We'd have to chop it down, to make way for a new fence. The roses would take a beating, too, if we pulled their thorns from the old wood. They've been married for so long, they might not attach well to a new partner.

"We owe it to the flora and fauna to keep this fence," Jerry said.

He was right. Although it would be nice to have a fence that didn't threaten to fall every time we had a tornado watch, there are benefits to having an aged one. It makes our yard more interesting.

That's the way it is with characters, isn't it? We want to see their attributes, but it is their flaws that make them interesting. Their flaws endear us to them and keep us turning the page because we care. We're invested in them. It's what I try to do as a writer each time I write a story. I want my readers to believe those people exist even if they're confined to their imagination. My hopes are that when they finish the book they are thinking about those characters, wondering what happened to them.

If only creating flawed captivating characters was as easy as enjoying the backyard gifts provided by a worn-out fence.

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