Do you collect something unusual? Is it your choice to collect it or have others thrust the collection upon you. My mother once bought a creamer shaped that looked like a purple cow, and everyone decided, “Oh! You like cows!” Now, due the generosity of friends and family, her house is filled to the brim with everything cow: magnets, pictures, coffee mugs, bath towels, mooing ice cream scoops, you name it-she’s got it.

In fiction, this kind of detail adds some quirky personality to a character. But what a character collects could be more than just a telling detail or character trait. Consider the following recount of the life of my personal collection of salt and pepper shakers, started when I was a little girl, it gave me something to search for as souvenirs and something special for my parents and friends to give as gifts.

Over the years, my collection of salt and pepper shakers grew. It included a zoo of animals, including trout, horses, monkeys, pigs, and even a kangaroo salt shaker whose Joey pepper shaker sat in her pouch. Toast and a toaster lined up next to replicas of landmarks like the Washington Monument, gardens of tiny, porcelain shakers of ears of corn, apples, and carrots. My collection was a sight to behold. I carried it with me from my childhood home, to dorm rooms, an apartment, and two houses. Finally, I displayed it on a mantle shelf hung above the kitchen sink. I loved admiring the shakers each day.

One day, I arrived home from work to the sound of running water. I walked into the kitchen to find that the shelf had fallen and hit the faucet turning it on, and worse, had left my cherished collection of salt and pepper shakers in shards all over the floor and counter. Ugh… I felt as if part of my childhood had been shattered along with my collection. I salvaged a few shakers. And, my mother – a very artistic and wonderful woman – took some of the broken pieces and glued them as a mosaic on a bulletin board frame, so I have the memory of my collection. However, I cannot bring myself to start anew.

If this were fiction, the build up and loss of this collection might be symbolic of the loss of innocence. Or, it might end up a catalyst to set the protagonist into action, sending him on a quest to find replacements, to seek revenge against whoever might have caused the shelf to fall, or to invent better wall anchors. It might also be an event that foreshadows disaster on a larger scale.

Use your imagination!

I’d love to hear about what you collect – be it stamps, beanie babies, antiques, or art! Share it here. It’s fodder for fiction.

Best to you,
Lisa Lipkind Leibow
Author of Smart Women’s Fiction

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