As I backed out of my driveway yesterday, I noticed a dead fly on the dashboard of my car. It was a pretty big fly. Big enough for me to detect flecks of green and gold in its lifeless body. I thought to myself, “Poor guy, he probably fried to death in the sweltering southern sun.” Then I thought, “What are you thinking? It’s a fly, a pesky, buzzing, menace to society. It doesn’t matter if he fried, choked, or succumbed to old age! IT’S A FLY. Dead flies are good.”
I vowed to get rid of the corpse as soon as I came to the first traffic stop.
So I drove along my route as I normally do, singing along with Ed Sheeran (because he’s Ed Sheeran). I was right at the bridge of the song, time to really belt it out, when I approached the stop sign. I applied the brakes and something surprising happened. The force of the car slowing flipped the dead fly over. He was no longer belly-up as he had been. He was suddenly standing there on his spiky spindly fly legs. And I thought, “Hm, SCIENCE!” Then I tried to remember what type of force it was that created the phenomenon and how many legs flies have.
When I passed through the intersection and was underway again, naturally, I paid attention to the road and the other drivers. But, something caught my eye. It was a tiny flicker of movement first, but it increased until I had no choice but to investigate. Imagine my surprise when I realized the fly was alive and he was staring in my direction, taunting me, daring me to swat him away.
I knew at that point there were three possibilities. One, the fly had been playing opossum, or some insect version of opossum (ladybug?). Two, the virus is real and this fly is a Walker. Or three, it was stunned and had regained consciousness. I was forced to quickly discount my first two wild (but creative!) theories, so I decided my third theory was correct. This fly was a fighter and it wanted to live.
So I named him Jeff Goldblum.
I watched Jeff Goldblum attempt to crawl across my dashboard. He was wobbly, but he was moving. He inched along, a few steps at a time. Soon he had somehow managed to limp almost five inches toward the window. See, Jeff Goldblum was a smart fly and he instinctively the way to freedom. (Or remembered the way he came in.)
By the time I turned onto the street by my office, I was rooting for Jeff Goldblum. I cracked my window to show him the way, like a lighthouse shining through the dawn mist guiding sailors home. He fluttered his wings, bouncing and hitting the dashboard hard, but he would not give up. I spoke to him. “You can do it, “I said. “Fly, Jeff Goldlum, fly!” I said.
For a brief shining moment he took flight. He ascended into the air, hovered for what was probably a lifetime to him. (Roughly three seconds for me.) Then he plummeted downward,crashing in front of me and slowly drifting his way toward the gap in my steering wheel column.
I gasped in horror. Was this the end for Jeff Goldblum? It couldn’t be. He had a life yet to live. He had places to buzz and leftover food to devour and people to annoy. I didn’t want him to be dead. I wanted him to live.
After what seemed a long time to me (probably another three seconds in actuality) Jeff Goldblum twittered to life. I had never been so excited! (At least that morning anyway.)
So I did what any good and benevolent lifeform would do. I used a discarded menu found in the recesses of my car and I scooped Jeff Goldblum from his precarious perch and I carefully opened the car door, depositing him among the flowers in our beautifully landscaped flower bed.
I don’t know what happened to Jeff Goldblum. I’d like to think he regained his full strength, flew to a nearby rosebush and met the fly of his dreams (Geena Davis, of course.) After a honeymoon in the Landfill, they’ll come back and make hundreds of little fly babies.
(Okay, maybe not the fly babies part.)
The moral of this story. writers, is to give your characters goals and then give them a thousand different roadblocks to keep them from them. I don’t like flies, yet when I found one that faced an insurmountable odds, I rooted for him. I wanted him to succeed in getting to freedom, so much so that I helped him to do it.
Sometimes it is difficult to put our characters into challenging situations, but if we do, we create characters that readers WANT to win. They journey with them, experiencing the pain, the torment, the obstacles, along with them. They have no choice but to keep reading to see them succeed, or sometimes, fail.
I’m going to remember Jeff Goldblum because he was a profound, if not strange, reminder to make my characters struggle to get what they want. I want to give my readers someone and something to root for.
Like Jeff Goldblum.