Fences and Barriers

The back fence is gone. The last section and posts are in the dumpster. Clear space extends from the patio to the road, across the field and beyond the lake. The fence was an effective barrier to traffic, people, dogs and deer. Now the yard is exposed. The exposure is discomforting.

This disconcerting feeling jump started my writing today. This is where I want to push my characters. I want them in uncomfortable situations. So, I’m thinking about barriers. My main character is from another planet. Potential barriers to her could be language, customs, residual hostility due to a past war, and her proficiency in her area of expertise.

What about barriers that she erects herself? Will she build her own walls for others to overcome or is she the only one charging the barricades? Her planet has a secret. –Don’t they all?– Can she expose it? Should she? How will she choose who to trust? If trust is the basis of good relationships, can she build friendships without betraying her culture? Is being the outsider going to make her defensive?

Fear of the unknown stops people from doing things they would, or should, like to do. It also makes people do things they normally wouldn’t. Stupid, crazy things. Remember Orsen Wells’ broadcast of H.G. Wells’ “War of The Worlds” on October 31st, many years ago? It was before my time, but I heard stories from my father about the silly things people did that night thinking that the Martians had actually landed. Old newspaper accounts I’ve read since then backed up Dad’s tales. There were people that honestly thought that Earth was being invaded. Some drove around with guns, some hid in basements and others called their families and told them to get out of town.

People use hatred as a justification for all manner of wrong deeds. History has too many examples to use. There will be characters that hate my heroine. They won’t all act in the same way. Hatred can be overt or covert. People who hate build their own walls and can’t see over them. They don’t even try. Hiding sneaking hatred will require more thought to portray. Obvious hatred is almost a caricature. But covert hatred could look like friendship.

Back to the fence. The installers are digging new holes and using concrete to put in the new posts. It will have a firm foundation. The mental fences we build have firm foundations in everything that we’ve experienced. I need to think about my characters’ backgrounds. What factors would make people more likely to accept an alien?

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