Oct 6 2010

Western Banded Gecko

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Arizona’s Western Banded Gecko is one of my favorite desert critters. This little guy, right outside the front door, almost landed under my foot. In the evening light and on the concrete, he was nearly invisible.

Even in the light, his coloring is fascinating and nearly camouflaged. Doesn’t his translucent skin look baby soft, and just as delicate?

The mainly nocturnal Western Banded Gecko is found mostly in southern Arizona, in creosote bush deserts (my backyard), canyons, rocky areas and in the pinyon-juniper belt. Click to enlarge.

For Writers: Webster’s defines translucent as “allowing light, but not detailed images, to pass through; semi-transparent.”

Our characters need to possess this same translucent or semi-transparent quality – especially early on in the novel.

As the author, it’s your responsibility to shed some light on your main character’s personality early in the story. But not too much. Readers enjoy the gradual revelation of character, and they enjoy hints that they can later piece together. “Oh. Now I know why John was so preoccupied with saving stray animals,” you say, when you learn that his childhood neighbor was hauled off to jail for animal cruelty.

By giving the reader only some of the details early on (key details), you continue to create suspense and let her draw conclusions. Because, let’s face it: no one wants to read pages and pages of character back story all at once. The main character’s hopes and dreams, fears … they should be sprinkled throughout, brought to light at strategic moments in the story.


5 Responses to “Western Banded Gecko”

  • avatar Rachna Chhabria Says:

    Hi Melissa, a lovely analogy between the gecko’s translucent skin and our characters’ translucency.
    I agree that an overload of a character’s back story can be suffocating; it should be sprinkled throughout, little by little, taking the reader by surprise.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Thanks, Rachna. I’m reading a novel right now in which I know the MC is an orphan. But I don’t yet know how that part of her history unfolded. That missing detail is part of my drive to keep reading! Because, while I don’t know the specifics, I do see how her parentless childhood influences her decisions and behaviors as an adult. I think some authors try to throw too much in at once – which can become overwhelming and feels ‘staged.’

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  • avatar Bryan Says:

    Cool little guys. It’s also interesting to note that they are one of the few geckos to have eyelids, and again one of the few lizards that can vocalize … that is, they can SQUEAK SQUEAK! when threatened.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Bryan,
    Thanks for the insight. I didn’t know they had eyelids … cool tidbit of info. And I’ve never heard one squeak. I guess me and my camera weren’t too threatening! So tell me … what is the difference b/w this guy and the geckos I saw on my porch when I lived in Phoenix? They look nothing alike.

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  • avatar Bryan Says:

    The larger ones will squeak if you try and pick them up. Actually, it sounds more like a tiny quack, haha.

    The geckos in Phoenix are Mediterranean geckos, an invasive species that only lives in our urban areas … there are some on the interior of Tucson as well. They actually can’t live out in the open desert, so they’ve done well in the niche of stucco wilderness.

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