Sep 7 2010

The Vulture’s Necessity

Melissa Crytzer Fry

They are U-G-L-Y. I’m talking turkey vultures (And, no, I was not chanting U-G-L-Y as if it were a cheer.) So back to the vulture … Have you ever seen one up close?

The bright red appendage-looking fleshy protrusions along their beaks? Their beady black eyes? The way they circle above a rotting carcass, congregating in the air before they swoop down and tear it to shreds?

Despite their unattractive appearance, I found great beauty in this photo that captured roosting vultures in the early morning light near Apache Lake in Roosevelt, Arizona. The hundreds of reflective saguaro cacti standing at attention in the background were an added bonus. Click to enlarge.

For all their ugliness, turkey vultures do provide a beautiful service in the circle of life. They clean up the dead stuff no one wants to touch. Trust me. We’ve had many experiences of smelling foul, dead things on our property. And the vultures do a fine job of ‘disposing’ of them.

Take the rattlesnake that our neighbor accidentally ran over. It slithered off to die somewhere, but we couldn’t find it among the prickly pear, despite our best efforts. We could smell it. Two days later, the smell was gone. So was the snake (save some vertebrae and his rattle lying in the middle of the driveway, which I still have). This was all, of course, thanks to the vultures.

Then there was the poor javelina that was struck by a vehicle on the highway and landed RIGHT in front of our driveway gate. After a few hours in the sun, the stench was unbearable. So when the vultures (and I don’t know how they did this, because the javelina must have weighed 20 lbs) carried him over the edge of the embankment the next day, we were happy. Oh so happy. Did I mention how sad I was at the poor guy’s fate, though? I was…

For Writers: Just as turkey vultures have a place in the ecosystem, so do our villains have a place in the novel. They may be ugly – completely unattractive – but they help characterize your protagonist. Readers get to see how your protag reacts to the bad guy. And, let’s face it: the bad guy adds that tension and conflict that is paramount to a good read. So, writers, embrace your villains. They, too, have a role. A very important one.

4 Responses to “The Vulture’s Necessity”

  • Hallie Says:

    Love this! What a great way to give perspective on the balance of one’s novel!


    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Thank you, Hallie! I find that getting outside is not only inspirational in my character-driven, women’s fiction writing, but also good for providing daily writing lessons.


  • Rachna Chhabria Says:

    Hi Melissa…thanks for the retweet. That’s so nice of you. I have been reading your posts on Necessary Writers.
    Just few days back I had written a post on villains/antagonists ; how they are an important element of our books. They are as important as the protagonists. I think the two of us are on the same wavelength.
    Thanks for this wonderful post!


    Melissa Reply:

    Hi Rachna,
    Thank you for the comment; indeed, we’re on the same page! I’ll be checking back on your blog as well. Keep writing!


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