Picking Locks

Mara, one of the characters in Butterflies, learns many skills in her childhood on the streets that become important later on in her life.  One of those skills is picking locks.

Initially I figured that life as a street urchin would necessitate some level of illegal behavior, and that picking locks was something she learned in order to survive.  As I am developing her character more deeply, I find that I don’t really want her to become a full-fledged thief.  The gang of kids she runs with are opportunists; if there is something easy to swipe, they’ll take advantage, but they aren’t strictly thieves.

So if she’s not a thief, how does she learn to pick locks?  She needs to have the skill before she gets to the training school where the three main characters meet – it is a secret she saves until an opportune moment.  That leaves two places for her to learn it: with the street kids, or from the woman who becomes her mentor.  I’m leaning towards learning it as a street kid, because that seems to fit better.  Her mentor is who gets her into the training school, which also means that her teachers would know that Mara had already learned the skill, making the secret less impactful when it is revealed.

There is another reason to need to pick a lock besides thieving (which she doesn’t do) and spying (which is why she needs the knowledge at school).  Locks keep you out of places.  The group of kids that she joins lives in the odd spaces between buildings and inside the city wall (yes, actually inside of the wall), and some of those spaces would likely be protected by locked gates or doors.  Once I had that realization, it was easy to envision a young version of Mara learning how to quickly and efficiently pick a lock, for the same reason the chicken crossed the road.  She needed to get to the other side.