One woman, lots of paint and hundreds of tiles. If you're here because you found a painted tile, it's yours to keep.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Where have all the Freeples gone?

Ever wonder where the characters in a story or novel really came from? Some were born into those stories the way we’re born into families. Once born into a tale, many characters are content to make do with their storymates but sometimes a character wants more than a story can offer, so one day they just walk out of their novel.

Such was the case with Iona, who grew increasingly unhappy with her tale. The writing was uninspired, the transitions seemed forced and it took place in Texas. Iona isn’t even sure how she wound up there, as she hated country music, rodeos and most things associated with Texas. She didn’t even like how things were always bigger there … as she was kinda fond of miniatures. Despite that she had no business being in the Lone Star State, it took her a long time to depart.

When she first considered leaving her book, Last Tutu in Texas, other characters tried to talk her out of it, saying she oughta learn to settle rather than stray off into uncertain places. “Do you even have another book to go to?” one asked. “Or are you just gonna be a Freeple, ‘cause being a Freeple ain’t much of a life. You got security here in this book, and you can stay forever.”

But that’s what scared Iona most. She’d already been there too many years and she knew she could be there forever, but that the novel was never going to get any better. What good is the security of forever, she thought, when you feel unhappy most of the time?

She knew Freeples at least had hope, so she headed to Freepleville where masses of former book characters who’d joined the Freeple movement were trying to figure out who they were and what made them that way. Ultimately, the Freeples had to find a new story or remain on their own forever. Iona chose the latter, because a good story that one can just slide right into like they’d always belonged there is very rare.

The chances of that are about the same as the chance of happening upon a puzzle that contains 499 interlocking pieces and discovering you hold that 500th piece that’s been missing. Vacant story roles are typically too well-defined once a book has been written.

Before one could even consider a new role, there are questions Freeples must ask themselves, difficult questions like “Do I ever want to be in a new story again?” and “Do I want to be a Freeple forever?” Being a Freeple is liberating but Freeples must be tightly glued at all times, because they juggle so much and can’t afford, emotionally, financially or otherwise, for anything to go wrong. But things do go wrong nonetheless, and In Freepleville, all of one’s weaknesses eventually come to light, but so do all of one’s strengths. Sometimes people begin to unravel, and keep unraveling until all you see are their shiny little cores. It’s a beautifully honest, yet frightening, place at times.

It is in those core states that Freeples become more in tune to their own needs, and begin to see themselves and each other for who they really are. Some Freeples are unhappy with themselves, but instead of working on their issues, are looking for a story to complete them, but none ever will. Other Freeples just seek the unconditional love they received as a child and have left their stories to search for that. They fail to realize that this doesn’t happen in the adult world, where there are no parents to shield them from the ugly truths of life, to protect them when they fail. Some of the more distressed Freeples just keep hoping they’ll get swept into a good novel with a happy ending, that some author will conjure a tale that saves them, a tale that seems to have been awaiting them their entire lives.

The Freeples who go on to live the most fulfilling lives, however, are the ones who realize that they ultimately have only themselves to rely on, that a story is a choice, and not a crutch, or a savior.

Those Freeples tend to craft their own stories. It’s a difficult process and not everyone survives it. Some instead settle for temp work in short stories that never become novels, over and over again. But those who do the hard work of writing their own stories sometimes bond with others who are doing the same and occasionally they collaborate on tales that turn into brand new gorgeous heartfelt novels.

There’s no real formula to make this happen, but studies have shown that it happens more often when Freeples are looking inside, rather than outside, for their happiness. When the outer layers finally unravel enough for Freeples to connect with their own inner source of happiness, there’s a little glow that surrounds them and that glow sometimes draws people closer, close enough to see their shiny little cores and all that is inside of them.

That’s how Iona met Ernie, a character who clearly didn’t need a short story or novel to define or complete him. She loved his imagination because it was pure, unfiltered and innocent, the way she dreamed imaginations should be, but much like her, he’d stopped thinking about novels. He thought only in short stories or sudden fiction, which is really short, but easier to make come true. But deep inside Ernie came to want something bigger and intuitively, and almost subconsciously, sought that out … one tiny chapter at a time. That’s what Iona loved most about him, his ability to dream things up, in little baby step ways, and then make the dreams come true by simply believing them. She loved how all the little stories he dreamed up were interconnected, like there was a golden thread that ran through them and would eventually pull them both into one giant heartwarming novel.

Iona had lots of short stories too, just waiting to be told. And no one wants to keep all the short stories they’ve been writing in their heads bottled up forever, so eventually, they tumble out and sometimes they collide with another’s stories and those stories sit on fences together and listen to music and drink wine and roll down hills and lay in grassy fields beneath starlit skies and eventually kiss by the light of the full moon, because not doing so is not an option. Afterward they contentedly sleep all curled up beside one another like little puzzle pieces that have finally found their little place in the world.

Freeples are a secret underground movement of characters who have mysteriously gone missing form their original novels. Only very careful readers will even notice their absence because long after the reader falls asleep, book in hand, a character will escape and begin the journey to Freepleville. When this happens, the words of their original novel rise off the pages and swirl madly for just a little while before falling back into place, rearranged. If you return to a novel you’ve been reading and feel like someone is missing but cannot put your finger on it, just know that you probably lost a character to the Freeple movement, and just be excited for them. This tile was dropped off deep in the heart of Freepleville.