I’ve been lucky enough to see Gila Monsters in the area on three different occasions this year. Did you know the Gila Monster is one of only two venomous lizards in the world (though so slow as to pose no threat to humans)? OK – so they can lunge…
When we first bought our property, hubby found a juvenile Gila Monster trapped in an old tin tar bucket, whom we successfully freed.
This Gila Monster, photographed in Smelter Wash, AZ, took his time heading for the brush when we encountered him in the middle of the wash. Click to enlarge. Scroll below for second photo.
For Writers: Do your stories feature misunderstood characters like the Gila Monster? Warnings say this lizard will latch on to human flesh and not let go with its razor-sharp teeth and nearby poison glands … True, but only if provoked. And who’s going to be dumb enough to stick a hand in front of a Gila Monster? Keep your distance, and all will be well.
What happens when one of your characters is provoked? Does he or she change personality completely? Does he become a monster? Does his upbringing/life history justify his reaction?
Lucky Encounter: Gila Monsters are rare to see in the wild. They store fat in their tails; a swollen tail indicates they are well fed, similar to this guy. Click to enlarge.
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.