My fictional teachers

Other topics in Rhobin’s Rounds

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In one of the unpublished volumes of my Stories of the Ehvelen, a young fellow of 19 is an emissary from his particular group of tribes to the ultimate ruler of his people.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?”

Please leave a comment below, and visit the other participants in this blog round robin:

Skye Taylor
Rhobin L Courtright
A.J. Maguire
Marci Baun
Marie Laval
Judith Copek
Rachael Kosinski
Beverley Bateman
Fiona McGier
Connie Vines

About Dr Bob Rich

I am a professional grandfather. My main motivation is to transform society to create a sustainable world in which my grandchildren and their grandchildren in perpetuity can have a life, and a life worth living. This means reversing environmental idiocy that's now threatening us with extinction, and replacing culture of greed and conflict with one of compassion and cooperation.
This entry was posted in Rhobin's round robin. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to My fictional teachers

  1. I find it amusing that I’m a huge sci-fi fan, but the only attempts I have made at writing sci-fi were not very well done. I have to write what my muse gives me, and it’s always romances. I think what I find the most fascinating is how people think, and how they relate to each other. So even if I wrote a “space opera,” it would have to center around a romance. Because people are people…or aliens, or whatever. I think your fellow writer would find my stuff dull too…except for the racy bits! ;-D


  2. Marci Baun says:

    I enjoy people for a few hours before I need to find a place to recoup. LOL People often think I’m an extrovert. To some degree, I am. But I’m also very happy to be alone.

    I was going to say that a tree needs its bark. Not only does it protect it from insects and diseases, but, in the case of the giant sequoias, if a fire burns a portion of the interior of the tree, as long as the bark still connects the top to the bottom, it continues to live. Once that bark is disconnected to the top, the tree dies.

    But our characters, while a part of us, aren’t us. They work from their parameters, which may not be as big as ours. I shutter to think that some of my evil characters could be a part of me, but I think there’s a shadow side to everyone and everything to some degree. Everyone has the capability to do great good or great harm. It’s what we choose to do that is important.



  3. judyinboston says:

    So interesting that you and your friend could not swap manuscripts. I, too, am an introvert who lives much of her life in her head. Suspect that a lot of writers do.


    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Yes, it’s an advantage of being an introvert.
      I often find myself in the situation where instead of a review, I offer detailed suggestions for improvement. The funny thing, he felt like doing the same to me. Well, we’re all different.


  4. Jolanda says:

    I liked all the comments and am very much into the books as I live with them and watch them evolve [difficult to live with at times !]but is a great experience seeing it happen !Jolanda Rich

    Liked by 1 person

  5. okwriter says:

    I found your comment, you can’t even write a shopping list without revealing a great deal about yourself, interesting. And when I think about it, you’re probably correct. I also lean toward being an introvert. I prefer time to myself, quiet people watching from the corner, where ever I am, sometimes actually taking a few notes or even sketching people. Good post.


    • Dr Bob Rich says:

      Thank you, Beverley. How wonderful, to have drawing skill. I can only draw with words.
      I suspect most of us writers are observers, if we want real live characters…


  6. Dr Bob Rich says:

    Thank you, Rhobin. He is helping me to write a self-help book on depression at present.


  7. Marie Laval says:

    I love the idea of asking your character Pip for guidance! I experienced something a little similar recently when I had to do something a little scary, compared myself to the heroine of my novel and decided that she would be a lot braver than I was being and I should just get on with it! Thank you for a very interesting post.


  8. Rhobin says:

    As an ambivert learning toward introvert, I also find spending time by myself more enjoyable than many public occasions. Having read Pip’s story, I liked learning learning how he guides you.


  9. Skye-writer says:

    I’m far from being an introvert but I definitely find “observing” people helps to flesh out our characters. Waiting in line at the grocery store, arriving at your gate way ahead of your flight, watching children at play and people just about anywhere.


  10. Dr Bob Rich says:

    You going to argue with the Buddha? 🙂
    Actually, I’ve never seen that quote in any Buddhist writing.
    In my current writing, I have a young woman who has been bullied and made fun of all through childhood for having a large red birthmark on her face. But she is beautiful within.


  11. Jean says:

    Nice entry. But you know, a tree cannot like without its bark, any more than we can live without our skin.


Comments are closed.