I discovered Snoop by Sam Gosling in a note by @piscivorous on Facebook. Its subtitle is What Your Stuff Says About You. I was interested in this book not only for what it could tell me about how to portray fictional characters but also for what it could tell me about me.
Chapter One begins with the story of John Steinbeck taking a shower in a hotel room before it had been cleaned. He named the former inhabitant Lonesome Harry:
“I could feel that recently departed guest in the bits and pieces of himself he had left behind.” from Travels With Charley
What was left: some laundry receipts, an unfinished letter in the trash, an empty bourbon bottle…
In a chapter entitled, “When Good Judgments Go Bad,” Gosling writes about extreme hoarding, which is defined as “the repetitive collection of excessive quantities of poorly useable items of little or no value with failure to discard these items over time.” I’ve written a story about this entitled, “Little Things,” which is almost finished.
Apparently the difference between pathological hoarding and ordinary collecting is that collectors enjoy their collections. Hoarders are disturbed by their booty. There’s an easy lesson there.
My favorite lines of all are about identity:
Identity is “the thread that ties the experiences of our past, present, and future into one narrative.”
“It is a story you tell about yourself to make sense out of what has happened in the past and kind of person you are now.”
I love this question that Gosling asks in the first chapter: “…what are the mechanisms by which personality reaches out and connects to the physical world?” His answer:
“identity claims“: (posters, awards, photos, bumper stickers). To assess their meaning, notice whether they are directed toward others or toward the self, whether they are in public or private spaces, and notice discrepancies between between public and private spaces, between front and back yards for example.
“feeling regulators“: stuff to help us manage our emotions and thoughts. My little notes on my desk: “Begin anywhere.” “I am a work in progress.” “Believe.” My pictures of the ocean…
“behavioral residue“: A scavenger after peering into Cher’s garbage wrote: “It was like I had her whole world in my hands.” Apparently the incredibly telling aspect to trash is that it reflects “behavior that really happened.” In my trash in my study at this minute: wrapper from an IcyHot Sleeve for my elbow, zip lock bag with crumbs from my RyeKrisp snack yesterday, an empty tin from my Big Dipper Clarity candle, crumpled lists that have been accomplished.
To paraphrase a popular commercial: What’s in your trash? OR What’s in your character’s trash?