While thumbing through a recent mail-order catalog, I began to wonder what items my heroine might select. This gave me the intriguing idea of assigning a collection to each protagonist. You can learn a lot about your hero or heroine from the knickknacks found in his or her house. Perhaps your heroine presents a tough exterior but indulges herself by wearing lacy lingerie. Or your hero, who seems a sensitive type, harbors an assortment of evil-looking knives in his drawer. This one might work especially well in a mystery.
What are some of the items your protagonist might collect? How about porcelain figurines, i.e. cats, dogs, birds, or children? Letter openers, music boxes, sports memorabilia, clocks, models of airplanes or cars? For works of art, does he prefer expensive paintings or framed posters? Sculptures or tacky souvenirs? What about religious ornaments, decorative plates, bead jewelry, antique coins, or crystal paperweights? How about porcelain thimbles portraying kittens, castles or cottages? Fantasy figures like angels, wizards, and unicorns? Or maybe icons from a popular TV show.
What books and magazines does he read? Are they strewn about the cocktail table for show, or are they askew on an unmade bed? Are the pages ragged, corners folded in, or is an elegant bookmark used for a book in pristine condition? Don’t forget the office, too. What do they have on display on their desk?
For inspiration, check out those unsolicited catalogs you get in the mail or browse the Web. Look through the magazine section in your local bookstore. You’ll see magazines for all sorts of hobbies. Ads can give you other ideas.
Next time you’re in someone else’s house, be nosy and snoop out their shelves.
Think about why your hero or heroine collects a particular item. Does it express a hidden desire, reveal a facet of his/her personality, expose a touching sentiment? Even owning nothing of a personal nature can make a statement in itself. Have fun delving into the intricacies of your people’s hobbies and describe the precious tchotchkes through their eyes. Adding these details will give an added dimension to your writing and more depth to your characters.