humans hedgehogs pinI am now the bemused owner of a hedgehog.

He belonged to my manager and was the “clinic hedgehog.” But the veterinarian life didn’t suit him well, so he was replaced with two guinea pigs.

His name is Quigley. Cup your hands together and the little ball of prickles fits in there quite well.

Most of the time, he throws a fit when you pet him. He’ll spaz, jerking and making a spluttering hiss — “I’m a dangerous hedgy. Hear me roar.” — hilarious, but not very intimidating.

After five to fifteen minutes of being out of his cage and being handled, he’ll uncurl and start sniffing. Exploring. Let you pet him without exploding into a mammalian version of a puffer fish.

He’ll leave his fuzzy, spine-free legs, face, and underbelly exposed.

Over the short span of time I’ve had Quigley at my house, I’ve realized something: a lot of people are a lot like hedgehogs (and no, I refuse to digress into how John Watson is like a hedgehog and Sherlock Holmes is like an otter. Thanks for those amusing comparisons, Sherlockians.).

Many of us are–or can be–prickly. Not necessarily mean, or on the offense, but we curl inside of ourselves, protecting our soft underbellies and tender hearts with hisses and jerks whenever anyone touches us and tries to get through our defenses.

The same thing is true for book people, because characters—good characters—are mirrors of humanity, encompassing on paper the wants, dreams, failings, victories, and et cetera of real flesh-and-blood people.

I can think of multiple examples from the fiction world of characters who display characteristics of hedgehogs. Lady Mary in the BBC television series, Downton Abbey. Dustfinger from the Inkworld trilogy. Rosa Hubermann from The Book Thief. Frankenstein from the novel Frankenstein. While each of these characters plays a different role, ranging from a grouchy foster mother to an antiheroic ally, they each have something in common: they hide.

Don’t get me wrong—most of us do hide something-or-other.

However, these characters take it to the next level. They pull into their spiny, prickly outsides and hide aspects of their beautifully broken humanness.

What do they hide behind?

Well, what do we hide behind?

Harsh words. Acts of small and large villainy. Sarcasm and stiff aloofness. Pretending to not care, when in fact, concern, worry, and even love exist very strongly inside.

Why? Well, why do we hide? Is it fear of something happening? Personal insecurities? Relationship issues? Simple personality? All are valid reasons, and if you give your character a hedgehog streak, tucking his nice or fearful side beneath a layer of burr-like spikes, please do your readers a favor and find out exactly why.
With that said…

Go pet a hedgehog. It’s a very enlightening experience.