Prized Possessions

This blog is part one of six in a series designed to hone character development of protagonists in your fiction.

I own a few possessions that I prize though they aren’t worth much moneywise. These possessions represent the love someone has for me. That love is far more valuable to me than the few dollars I could earn from selling my memories on eBay.

Take the small trinket box my grandmother bought me when I was in the seventh grade. We used to ride to Petersburg, Virginia, upon occasion and stop at a small business on Route 460 called Grandma’s Antiques. The store was located in an old house and boasted many intriguing objects for sale. My parents weren’t interested in antiques so perusing old artifacts with my grandparents was a special treat.

A box I considered unique attracted my attention. Fashioned from metal with an ornate design, it boasted a lovely silk lining, made puffy by cotton, of pale pink. But alas, the $7.50 price was out of my league. My grandmother could see me admiring the box and she knew I wanted it. Though she didn’t have an unlimited budget herself, she bought it for me. As soon as I got home, I placed it on my bureau and to this day, decades later, the little metal box occupies a place on my current dresser. The little box holds a strand of pearls, costume jewelry my husband bought me for my 21st birthday. Both have traveled with me during several moves. I’m sure the little box, still holding the pearls, will occupy a prime spot on my dresser for the rest of my life.

Your turn

Does your main character have treasured possession? What is it?

What is the story behind it?

Does your reader know about it?

What does this possession say about your character?

Character Development Series:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six

43 Responses to Prized Possessions

  1. Judith Robl October 18, 2018 at 5:27 am #

    My grandfather’s reading lamp appeared in my Christmas novella last year. It became my protagonist’s study lamp handed down from her father’s father. It kept a family memory alive for her that wasn’t connected to a tragedy.

    Although the actual lamp needs repair, I can’t bear to get rid of it. I remember my grandfather reading National Geographic or the Saturday Evening Post by it’s focused light.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray October 18, 2018 at 5:42 am #

      Maybe give the gift of lamp repair to yourself this Christmas, Judith. My grandfather’s railroad watch needs repair but I haven’t had a chance to take it in yet.

      • Judith Robl October 18, 2018 at 11:39 am #

        Good idea. The parts are not readily available here. So I need to find a source.

  2. Joy Neal Kidney October 18, 2018 at 5:32 am #

    Bless you for this reminder. My main character, Leora Wilson (my grandmother) would have much different treasured possessions at the end of her story (end of WWII and losing three sons) than at the beginning. I still have her “treasured possessions,” (which included a box of her long dark hair, and the WWI letters from three brothers), so will think about including such poignant details to her story.

  3. Hilary Cobb October 18, 2018 at 5:54 am #

    Interestingly, my protagonist doesn’t have any, but I purposely did that to represent the fact that her life has been so chaotic that she hasn’t had a chance to put down roots or collect any significant possessions!

    I love this idea though, it’s the little things that make our characters more realistic. Thank you for sharing, I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!

    • Tamela Hancock Murray October 18, 2018 at 12:51 pm #

      Thanks so much, Hilary! I think your choice not to give your characters significant possessions sounds like a good one!

  4. Diana Holvik October 18, 2018 at 5:55 am #

    Good post Tamela. I have put fave things of mine or a family member into my stories. And my pets regularly show up in my novels. 🙂

  5. Roberta Sarver October 18, 2018 at 6:21 am #

    Tamela, What a novel idea! (pun intended). I hadn’t thought about including a treasured possession in stories. When my dad passed away several years ago I asked my mom for one of his hats. A person could get a lot of mileage out of that.

    Thanks,
    Roberta Sarver

    • Tamela Hancock Murray October 18, 2018 at 12:51 pm #

      Yes, especially if the character wears the hat and it starts conversations!

  6. Mermaid Scribbler October 18, 2018 at 6:29 am #

    Honestly, we have just been thinking about this in real life because we had to evacuate for Hurricane Michael. I write this knowing my town is in pieces, and all of us had to take things in advance or grab things in the aftermath.

    My son’s little picture he drew for me was the thing I could not live without – that and our baby books. After that, we had necessities like computers and chargers, etc. You can buy shirts and pants anywhere, but can you get your pictures, the info on your laptop, or the last birthday card from a deceased parent anywhere else in the world?

    The great thing about a hurricane is that it distills life down to the basics. You grab water, food, basic clothing, and the family members you love. There isn’t time to take big treasured possessions. There isn’t room in the car for them either. When forced to flee, it comes down to what you can carry and whether or not it is worth the haul.

    When all is said and done, having faith and family are the most important. Knowing that God can heal any would and rebuild any life gives the sweetest peace in any dark time. The importance of the power of resurrection is crystallized in a moment. After that, stuff is either a means to an end or the key to a memory. I am thankful to have my basics and some mementos – but I wouldn’t trade any if it – even that precious picture from my son – for the knowledge that Christ loves us like crazy and will see us through anything.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray October 18, 2018 at 12:53 pm #

      Exactly! I would have chosen the same items had I been in your place. Glad you are all well now!

  7. Deborah Clack October 18, 2018 at 6:57 am #

    I love this! I will be brainstorming this today!

  8. Loretta Eidson October 18, 2018 at 7:12 am #

    Great insight, Tamela. I’ll have to consider this in my next novel. I have a small cedar box that my grandmother gave me. I keep the letters she wrote me inside. I like going back and seeing her unpunctuated handwriting and rereading them. I can still hear her voice in each letter.

  9. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser October 18, 2018 at 7:29 am #

    I’ve never given my characters special prized possessions, and this essay made me think about why…

    When I was younger, two books that shaped my life were Richard Bach’s ‘Biplane’ and ‘Nothing By Chance’, his narratives of meaning and adventure in a 1929 Parks P-2A biplane. I thought, I want an aeroplane like that!

    The trouble was, very few were built, and only a handful survive. Finding one abandoned in a barn, waiting to be discovered and restored, that wasn’t going to happen.

    And then it did. I didn’t find a Parks; I found an example of the aeroplane from which it had been cloned, a Kreider-Reisner 34. It was a mess, but it was MINE.

    The search had lasted twenty-to years.

    I did the hard repairs first, and then was ready to start in on the fun stuff, when illness hit, and I had to pay the Mayo Clinic a lot of money for telling me that I was beyond repair. (The insurance I still had then was supposed to cover it, and decided not to.)

    So the aeroplane went to Dallas, and Mayo got paid, and I was left thinking, “OK, what was the lesson here?”

    It was blindingly easy to see, after my eyes had adjusted to the bright light of truth.

    The most pried possessions are the ones we carry in our hearts. Objects can act as memory-triggers, sure, and the feel of my favourite spokeshave is both comfortable and comforting.

    But as my body is breaking, so too will every object break, unless we enshrine it in a velvet-roped museum, cut off from the context that gave it meaning, in a glass box that becomes an altar.

    So if anyone’s still with me…hellOOOO…?..that’s why I don’t give my characters pried possessions.

    But in the future, maybe I will.

    And I eventually got to fly a Parks. It handled like a truck whose power steering had gone away. Mr. Bach MIGHT have mentioned that!

    • Judith Robl October 18, 2018 at 11:46 am #

      Sometimes the having is not as satisfactory as the wanting, Andrew.

      I’m glad that you felt good enough to post here today. You are constantly in my prayers.

      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser October 18, 2018 at 11:54 am #

        Judith, that’s so true! I’ve found that most often the journey is actually the destination, and the road is itself the reward.

        I got to work on the thing for a few years, and preserved it so that someone else could finish the job. I’m content with that.

        Your prayers are sure appreciated. Things are rough.

    • claire o'sullivan October 18, 2018 at 12:43 pm #

      Wow Andrew you always surprise me with your stories and inspire me with your testimony of faith in adversity.

      I can only imagine the feeling of having to wrestle something like a plane under control!

      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser October 18, 2018 at 5:33 pm #

        Claire, it wasn’t the aeroplane I had to wrestle; it was my own fear of inadequacy, of not being able to rise to the challenge that the object, once achieved, presented.

        In a way, the high point was giving the thing an identity. There was no clear title, and I had to find the embossed serial number )no easy task), and jump through the FAA’s hoops to get the title assigned to me.

        That gave it provenance, and value to whosoever might buy it.

        It was kind of like participating in a resurrection.

    • Tamela Hancock Murray October 18, 2018 at 12:55 pm #

      What a poignant story. Have you thought of sharing it as a devotional? I’m sure it would sell.

      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser October 18, 2018 at 5:29 pm #

        Tamela, that’s an interesting idea. It is kin of ‘search for the Grail’ story, and in the end the Grail was not the physical object after all. The real search was for my own soul, how this quest identified the transcendent.

  10. Rebekah Love Dorris October 18, 2018 at 8:43 am #

    Ruby Mae has a locket her mother gave her before she gave birth to the baby boy who lies buried next to her under the hickory tree.

    Unfortunately for her, both she and the locket are stuck in an Asheville hotel room until the next season of my life when novel writing time reappears!

  11. Ann Coker October 18, 2018 at 9:03 am #

    Tamela, your piece reminded me of what I wrote when my kids were little:
    Standing before my kitchen sink, I contemplate a needed task. The window sill above the sink ought to be cleaned. Yet it would first have to be cleared and I don’t know where to begin.
    Perhaps I should throw out those two small multi-colored stones and the three dried acorns with their beanie caps brought to me on different occasions when the children wanted to share their new wonders of nature.
    The object in the middle, a recipe holder made by my daughter as a Mother’s Day school project, cannot be discarded because I use it. Hanging above and behind this is a round green paper watermelon who wears a smile and the words, “Expect a Miracle.”
    Upon cards leaning against the window are handwritten Bible verses gleaned from morning devotions. I find that dishwashing affords an opportunity for planting the Word in my memory and heart. The latest donation is a pile of unidentified brown and white seeds. I’ll ask my older son about their value.
    Since I don’t know where to begin my clearing job, I put it off again. For you see, my window sill is cluttered with love.

  12. claire o'sullivan October 18, 2018 at 10:35 am #

    Hi Tamela –

    My first main character has several, though she is unaware that they are ‘prized.’ Her first, her gun. She puts her trust in it for her safety.
    Second, her ability to steal (also a contention of shame).
    Third, her ability to see corruption and search it out.
    Fourth, her short term home representing freedom.
    Fifth, the cop who blackmails her, and she doesn’t get it, but she can’t let it go.

    Sixth, her realization that her life is in a horrible rut, and she needs God.

  13. Ashley Schaller October 18, 2018 at 10:53 am #

    Ooh, I’m excited about this new series!

  14. Janine Rosche October 18, 2018 at 11:43 am #

    My character has major wanderlust, but she is torn by her longing for the familiar, for home. When she was a teenager, she was given a simple Rand McNally atlas (by the story’s hero). For her, it opened her eyes to all she’d yet to see. It also gave her the literal routes to get there. Now, years later, that same atlas is filled to bursting with notes, momentos, polaroids of all the places she’s seen. It’s evidence of the life she has created for herself, but it’s also evidence of the boy she left behind and never could forget.

    The reader sees snippets of it in the beginning. They understand its significance when the heroine’s current boyfriend throws it away in an attempt to “tame” her. My hero, though, finds it and returns it to his long-lost love.

    I feel a oneness with my character over this possession. In high school, I was fearful of venturing anywhere unknown by myself. At some point, I opened my dad’s road atlas and could trace with my finger a route from suburban Ohio to anywhere in the country I wanted to go. It awakened courage in me to head out on my own.

    People think I’m crazy, but I still love a good road trip!

  15. Joey Rudder October 18, 2018 at 11:44 am #

    I’m with Ashley…I’m excited about this new series!

    Your treasured box sounds beautiful and precious, Tamela. It reminds me of the music box I have that was my grandma’s. When our daughter, Danika, was born, my grandma would bring out this music box and play it because she wanted to make sure our little one wouldn’t forget her in between visits; she thought the song would help Danika remember her GG (Great Grandma). Not even a year later, Grandma was diagnosed with lung cancer and hospice was called in. I took that same music box out and played it for Grandma when she was unable to speak, telling her I would make sure Danika would always remember her. Oh, the stories I share and the memories I cherish! I still cry every time I bring out that dear music box and play it. But I know we’ll see each other again one day in the presence of our Lord, and I have no doubt the music will be absolutely amazing!

    As for my character, her most prized possession is the photograph of she and her sister. I love the story behind it: The two just moved to Ohio and are at Cedar Point (amusement park). They’ve got bubble gum stuffed in their cheeks, wearing cut-off shorts and cheap sunglasses stuck on their heads. It was a lighter time for them, a time of joy. The reader knows about this treasure because the character gets lost in it, remembering the screams of people on the rides and the warm air coming from Lake Erie. And I think this shows the character was close to her sister, enabling the reader to see the bond they shared and to understand the pain in losing her.

    I’m looking forward to your next post, Tamela! And thank you for this one. 🙂

    Blessings to you!

    • Janine Rosche October 18, 2018 at 11:49 am #

      I live in Toledo! I’m very familiar with Cedar Point! Your story sounds sweet!

      I love the music box you shared. My mom crocheted me a doll when I was younger. The doll had a bag with a music box that played “The Impossible Dream”. It’s my favorite possession! I still listen to it, but I’m discouraged.

      • Joey Rudder October 18, 2018 at 2:28 pm #

        I’ve been to Toledo before! When I was going to school at Bowling Green, a friend of mine knew someone going to school in Toledo so we took a little road trip. 🙂 (By the way, I LOVE the idea of your character receiving an atlas and filling it with notes etc. There are so many possibilities there!)

        The doll your mom crocheted sounds so very sweet. Such a treasure indeed!

    • Tamela Hancock Murray October 18, 2018 at 1:00 pm #

      Wonderful, powerful stories, Joey! Thank you so much for sharing. I hope you benefit from the rest of the series, too!

      • Joey Rudder October 18, 2018 at 2:34 pm #

        Oh thank you, Tamela! I’m sure I will benefit from the series. (I’m sure everyone reading them will!) I’ve been wanting to add more depth to my characters, more layers, so this series sounds perfect!

  16. Linda Riggs Mayfield October 18, 2018 at 7:36 pm #

    My main character’s most prized possession is a dowry chest that contains not only the things young women made and saved for their first home with a husband, but the money she saved from teaching so she could open her own school to educate girls–and teachers were gernerally unmarried. The conflicting contents in the dowry chest symbolize the conflict in her life between her disappointing marriage and her desire to be a teacher. A plot crisis occurs when she discovers that by New York law in 1830, the moment she married her husband, all her possessions, including her savings for her school, became his.

  17. Kay DiBianca October 19, 2018 at 7:46 am #

    My main character has a possession that was important to her in her childhood, but she hasn’t thought about it for a while. (Can’t reveal what it is since It plays a major part in solving the clues to my mystery novel.)

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