In the wake of the Seahawks victory, there was some noise about defaced public property. People got drunk and made silly decisions. It was reminiscent of excited fans’ absurd behavior when the SF Giants won the World Series. During the celebration of a baseball victory, a shoe-shine stand on the street corner was burned to the ground.
A man lost his livelihood because of a sports victory.
It turns out that this man, Larry, had struggled for many years with his heroin addiction, and wore a suit to work every day—even though he was sleeping under a bridge. When he was contacted by reporters, he told his story, and said that giving up is not an option. It’s something he doesn’t believe in.
I must have passed him a hundred times before I learned his name — much less the trials he had overcome before the burning. I’m too fixated on my story, and my own main characters. I think in movie culture we don’t see the value of having a huge cast, but in text it can be used to extraordinary effect. They crop up in the story later and reveal their importance, even if you didn’t notice at first.
Seemingly small stories like this are all part of something bigger. As we’re writing, we fall in love with main characters, main events, and main ideas—forgetting that ‘throwaway’ characters also have histories, families and dreams. They don’t carry the burden of the main narrative on their shoulders, and are free to explore the world you’ve created. They’re free to be afraid, to spy, to run from one scene to the next—and surprise you with what they reveal.
“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
— Vincent Van Gogh
“There is nothing insignificant in the world. It all depends on the point of view.”
— Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
“Any path that narrows future possibilities may become a lethal trap. Humans are not threading their way through a maze; they scan a vast horizon filled with unique opportunities.”
— The Spacing Guild Handbook