top of page

How a Wooden Doll Unexpectedly Joined The Empty Lot Next Door

Updated: 20 hours ago

The Empty Lot Next Door

Imagine this: A terrifying scene with Candle Face, the villain from my memoir The Empty Lot Next Door, and me, surrounded by a disorderly array of toys on my bed, which included a fake Hot Wheels car and a GI Joe figurine. Unbeknownst to me, a little wooden doll was about to make a surprise entry!

In Chapter 8, Candle Face quietly crept into my room in the dead of night, seized a pretend Hot Wheels car and a GI Joe figurine from the floor, smashing them together to create a loud crash. Candle Face symbolically just reenacted a friend's death that occurred just the day before.

My illustrator, a highly skilled artist from India, presented a unique challenge – he wasn't familiar with GI Joe figurines, which were key to my original scene. Consequently, his first drawing featured a wooden doll, which, although adorable, wasn’t what I had described in my manuscript. This misalignment highlighted intriguing challenges and opportunities that can arise when two cultures merge in a creative endeavor.

In an effort to resolve this issue, I sent photos of GI Joe figurines, thinking visuals might help my illustrator mimic them. But understanding and reproducing a cultural icon without having a cultural context or personal memories of it is a difficult job. Despite his best attempts, the GI Joe figures in his drawings didn’t quite match what I had in mind. Interestingly, the wooden doll continued to make appearances in every new sketch, as if quietly insisting to be included.

Confronted with the choice of strictly adhering to the actual scene or adapting to the developing situation, I opted to rewrite the scene, creating a spot where the wooden doll could rightfully exist alongside Candle Face and me.

An unexpectedly beautiful thing occurred: this unplanned wooden doll, initially a symbol of miscommunication and annoyance, seamlessly found its place in the frightful disarray on the bed, adding an unanticipated yet fitting twist to the story.

Now, my story has gained an unexpected layer, gently prompting readers to recognize and value the sometimes unpredictable journey of creative projects. Candle Face, myself, and our new wooden companion are captured in a moment of eerie connection, a scene shaped by the hands of an artist from afar.

In the end, even though the wooden doll wasn’t a part of my childhood memories, it has found its place in my story, imparting a valuable lesson: sometimes, embracing unpredictability and allowing stories to unfold in their own way can create a rich, multilayered story that is even better than the original plan.

Thus, the wooden doll stayed in the second edition, serving as a reminder to all that wonderful outcomes can emerge when we allow different cultures and unforeseen events to sculpt and enrich our stories.


To ensure readers grasp the full context and significance of this article, it’s crucial to have familiarity with Arthur Mills’ award-winning memoir The Empty Lot Next Door, inspired by actual ghostly events in Austin, TX. The book provides essential background information, and without it, the nuances and depth of this article might not be fully appreciated. Therefore, reading The Empty Lot Next Door is highly recommended for a more enriched and coherent understanding of this article’s content and implications.

To purchase The Empty Lot Next Door, please visit Amazon:

Visit us online:

1,229 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page