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Picturing a World

Bounded in a nutshell

Hamlet muses, "I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space—were it not that I have bad dreams." But what about good dreams? A History Blog post on a 16th C prayer bead prompts the question, How could a two-inch sphere that opens to an intricately carved interior be used in a story?

1. A valuable prayer bead turns up among odds and ends in a box at thrift shop. Who finds it? What follows? Does investigation turn up something interesting in its history? Is it taken to an auction house and disappear? What does it look like? Has it gone undiscovered because it is hard to open? If so, what causes your character to open it and how?
2. A 16th C woodcarver (a) is hired to produce a secret crucifixion scene for a Catholic lady in a Protestant German state; (b) trains an apprentice who makes a mistake; (c) has a daughter who secretly practices his art. What does the workshop look like? What are the tools? How many people work there?
3. A carved bead is one of several on a prayer necklace, each suggesting a focus for meditation. Is the necklace Christian, Buddhist, or other? Is it stolen in the story or bestowed for safe keeping?  Is a new one added to a string when an adept achieves a goal? Is it magic with the result that the power of the whole is broken when one is lost?
4. A prayer bead is used by a spy to smuggle messages. Who is the spy? What is the period in history, or what is imaginary world? What war or crisis requires the secret conveyance? Maybe it's not a spy. Lovers? Friends? A gang of thieves?
5. A carved bead opens to a scene that is itself a portal into a magic realm. Is it the sole bead or is it in a chest of many? Is there a different magic attached to each object? Who is the main character—the owner of the bead or someone who chances upon it and lands in an unexpected adventure?
6. Someone or something bound inside one. Who? Does he/she/it/they find that it confers mastery of infinite space? What happens when it is opened? Who opens it? Where, why, with what results?
For more about boxwood miniature carvings, click here.

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