by Alison Dasho
I learned a new word yesterday: Hibernaculum
(Before you click that, or the link below, did you know that it's possible to switch your web browser's settings so it doesn't load pictures? Check under the Preferences menu -- in Firefox, it's in the Content tab, just uncheck "Load images automatically.")
A hibernaculum is a place where an animal hibernates. Simple -- and fun to say -- yes?
Okay, well, I learned the word from this horripilating news article. My skin is still crawling. An Idaho couple (with two young boys) bought a house, moved in, and discovered it was infested with thousands of snakes.
The ground outside the home sometime looked like it was moving, and the sound of snakes slithering through the walls kept them awake at night.
THE SOUNDS OF SNAKES SLITHERING THROUGH THE WALLS, YOU GUYS.
Ugh, can you imagine the layers of sloughed-off, dried-up snake skins in those walls? It must be so thick it's like insulation.
The family lived in this house for three months before becoming overwhelmed with the stress of LIVING IN A HOUSE FULL OF THOUSANDS OF SNAKES FOR THREE MONTHS. Three months?! I'm in awe of their fortitude.
And yes, I know the snakes were garter snakes, and that somehow is supposed to make it less of a big deal because garter snakes are harmless, but honestly. Even if I weren't mortally afraid of snakes, a house infested with thousands of anything that moved through the walls in the night and woke the residents would be just horrendous. I mean, Kirk didn't just let that Tribble infestation go despite the fact that they were cute, right?
But this family had invested in their new home, and they had a mortgage, and two young sons, and they thought they could overcome the snake problem, and so they lived in that house for three months.
Think about that. THAT'S character motivation. A character has something to lose or something he wants to protect, and so he makes a decision to endure a hardship because he believes he has a chance to successfully endure, or overcome that hardship.
If you want your character to do the equivalent of living in a horrible snake-infested house for three months, you have to give him a compelling, simple, relatable reason to do so. And he has to have hope that the choice he makes will eventually lead to a favorable outcome (for himself, or for the person/persons he cares about).
No one would live in a hibernaculum for nothing.