Mothy Madness, Linked to Lessons In Character Development

silk-moth-1440670-mSo, I had a crazy afternoon on Sunday. Allow me to explain, and to bring it around to creative writing:

My roommates and I had been seeing some moths here and there in the kitchen. We all thought, as we use the back kitchen door as a main entrance and we live in New Orleans and summer has basically started here, they were just coming in from outside.


Turns out some old roommates who moved out before I even moved in to this new place left flour and other grains in a “communal use” cabinet I never even open. Can you say MOTH INFESTATION?

One of my roommates and I spent over an hour getting things under control: throwing out EVERYTHING, wiping down the cabinets with cleaner and then with water and vinegar. Climbing on the cabinets to get egg deposits that we started noticing off the walls and to spray the ones we couldn’t reach with insecticide.

I have never been so disgusted in my life. (On the bright side, any squeamishness I ever had about bugs, and squashing them, and getting rid of them, and just feeling icky around them, has been conquered thanks to a strong dose of aversion therapy.)

Then we, of course, had to clean the counters and floors. And we’re still not technically done, though we both feel we made a ton of progress and have gotten things well under control before they got completely out of control. So truly, YEA for that!!!

Still, on a week when I’m scheduled to work overtime, am behind on freelance translation work that I have to do in my off time, and am desperate not only to find time to work on my second edition of the Herezoth trilogy, but to focus on my faith life (which is truly undergoing an amazing renewal right now), this was NOT how I wanted to spend my Sunday evening.

But… Writing? This is a creative writing blog, after all.


My first thought was to talk about infestations in writing: writing tics and what not. You know, the importance of getting bad writing habits under control before they become truly unmanageable infestations, in the same way my roommate and I  got the kitchen situation taken care of and prevented a bit of an inconvenience becoming a major issue.

The thing is, though, I’ve written about writing tics before. Quite a bit. And I don’t like the analogy, because it’s not that great. Moths are never good. You never want moths or other insects breeding in flour someone left in your kitchen cabinet without telling you.

Writing tics–adverbs, the passive voice, the verb is–have good sides. The have good uses, and there are times it definitely makes sense to use them. They are tempting to overuse, sure, but in of themselves, they are not ALWAYS bad to have around or to find in a piece of writing.

Where I did find a connection was in this thought process:

  • “I can’t believe I’m doing this right now. I have a blog post to write! I don’t even have an idea for a post!”
  • “Well, maybe I can use this as an idea. Maybe I can turn this into a post.”
  • I told my roommate about that idea…. And she thought I meant I wanted to apply this experience to my fiction itself, rather than to the blog.
  • I realized that every crazy, insane, unwanted, and kind of awful experience is a learning experience. Is a life experience. And can definitely add to our writing or teach us something about how to make our characters more human.

I haven’t been living at my new place long, and I haven’t really gotten to know my roommate. But we definitely bonded over our shared horror of the situation we had to confront and over confronting it together. That was AWESOME.

It made me think back to the first book in the Harry Potter series: when Harry and Ron still don’t like Hermione. They think she’s a snob and snooty and just kind of awful. And then they realize a troll is trapped in the girls’ bathroom with her, and the three of them work together to take that sucker down, and Hermione even takes the blame before the professors for the stupid risks the boys took in trying to help her.

And they are friends after that. Because how could they NOT be?

I modeled a friendship between two characters in the Crimson League after that concept: Kora (the protagonist) and a gruff, difficult woman named Kansten. They don’t get along at first, but after being thrown together into a troubling experience of having their fortunes told and not liking the results–in fact, being terrified by them–they bond.

Real relationships are strengthened by shared hardships. That’s just a fact. The world works that way. The human spirit works that way. And though that isn’t something we should or need to force in our fiction, it’s something that on occasion that realistically and logically strengthen a relationship between two characters who are having trouble getting along.

So: that’s my random thought for the day. Have you experienced this kind of a bonding with someone in real life? Or do you have a great example from fiction that stuck with you?

Victoria Grefer is the author the Herezoth trilogy, which begins with “The Crimson League” and has new editions coming out this Fall. She also has a writer’s handbook out, titled “Writing for You: A Novelist’s Guide to the Craft of Fiction.”

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10 responses to “Mothy Madness, Linked to Lessons In Character Development

  1. It’s always interesting what get us writing. I feel nothing is wasted when it comes to writing. Your thoughts and feelings about the moths will work its way into one of your books. 🙂

  2. What an interesting post! I’m sorry about the moths, but I’m glad you got it under control. What interested me about your post today is the ” writing tics”. I see that you have adverbs as one of them. It’s funny, I just finished reading ” On Writing” The memoir of Stephen King and he hates adverbs with a passion. LOL….So, I guess you aren’t the only one. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us!

  3. Funny what events can bond characters together. I always like reading or hearing about odd situations that create friendships. Will and Horace in Ranger’s Apprentice kind of had this. Horace tended to bully Will when they were growing up and they didn’t get along until something happened during a boar hunt. I don’t want to give any major spoilers since this is one of my favorite series. In real life, all I can think about is how we’re put with a random roommate in college and we can bond over that.

    Kansten’s my favorite. 😀

    • everyone says that about Kansten, hahaha!!! I never really expected that.I need to find a way to read more fiction…. things are just a little hectic right now. Grrr….

      • I’m planning on taking a slight break for most of the summer. At least I won’t be touching on any new books. Just editing the 4 I have in first draft stages and finishing up a few outlines. That gives me more time for reading, so I might finally finish a series I started nearly 3 years ago.

  4. Shared experiences leading to a strong bond is a wonderful observation. That is an idea I can use in my WIP. Maybe I should name a character after you.


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