Rhobin’s topic for February, 2018: “Your characters come from your mind, sometimes interpretations of other people you’ve witnessed or met, but can you create character lives without revealing something about yourself? Have your characters ever taught you something?”
As I’ve said before, you can’t even write a shopping list without revealing a great deal about yourself. Every character in all my stories is an aspect of me, my child, and my teacher, all at once. This is true even for the baddies, and for the once-only walk-ons.
I am fortunate in being an introverted loner who lives inside his own head much of the time. That means that, while I have taught myself to chat, my favourite activity in social situations is to be an observer. This has been invaluable in two activities: psychotherapy and fiction writing. It is part of the basis of my empathy, which is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it gives me my ability to ease hurt, and a curse because I constantly need to fight my tendency to take other people’s pain on board.
Recently a fellow writer and I attempted a review swap, but we both decided to decline a review. For me, his book was names lacking personality exchanging invented technobabble. For him, my book Sleeper, Awake was flat, unexciting, low on action — because I constantly did everything possible to write about real live people, and even more alive than the people you meet in your everyday life, because my writing empowers you to feel their emotions. (I must say, my book has won awards, and while he said he has fans, perhaps those people are comic book specialists…)
For the final part of the topic, I am happy to tell you that characters in my stories are among my greatest teachers. I’ve learned a great deal from them, because they say and do things I’d never have thought of. Here are a few examples:
Ramesh is the hero of a short story, My Amanda, one of the offerings in Striking Back from Down Under. He taught me this:
- Beauty is a tree.
Inner beauty is the timber that makes a tree a tree.
Outer beauty is only the bark, of no use whatever.
In one of the unpublished volumes of my Stories of the Ehvelen, a young fellow of 19 is an emissary from his particular group of tribes to the ultimate ruler of his people. He said,
- Honoured, Khan, life is too short for the seriousness it deserves.
In my recently published historical novel Guardian Angel, six year old Maraglindi is outraged when she hears about the conflict between Catholics and Protestants:
- How can people kill each other over different ways of worshipping the God of love?
I’ll use Ascending Spiral as the final example. Pip, the narrator, experienced everything that happened to me, including my past life recalls. However, he has handled critical incidents better than I managed. So, when I face a problem, I ask, “How does Pip handle that?”
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