I looked into my own library and found an old dear friend gifted by a friend called The Healing Power of Stories by Daniel Taylor which I had not picked up in years. But I was glad when I did revisit it and it has spoken to me ever since. So, I will start by quoting Taylor when he asks the question, “What is a character? A bundle of actions,” he answers himself.
Reading about characters made me think of my book A Golden Leaf in Time Revised so I chose to apply some of the character’s actions in this novella to see if the formulas work. The main characters Phoenix, a children’s librarian and Trey, a college professor, go through a series of trials and they are constantly making choices and decisions which attest to who they really are as people. Daniel Taylor says, “Because characters have choices, stories are inherently concerned with right and wrong- with morality.”
My goal as a writer is to evoke empathy or compassion for these characters which I blogged about this back in June. I want the readers to care about the characters’ welfare and well-being because as the creator they are dear to me. A fellow author, whom I met on Twitter, graciously reviewed this book along with its sequel, Warm Intrigues. She tweeted during the reading of A Golden Leaf in Time Revised, “poor Trey.” Later, she tweeted, “poor Phoenix.”
She voiced her concern about these two characters and she said she was pulling for them as they made choices to move out of their cocoons. “Characters interest us because of their choices the ones they make and the ones they don’t.” (Taylor). When Phoenix is taunted by her coworkers, who we now call “haters,” she could have responded by confronting them and becoming engaged in a verbal confrontation. But, she makes other choices.
Instead,“She left the library and started walking through the impoverished yet sainted neighborhood. She cried as she looked at the community children outside playing, who so sorely needed love and guidance. She walked on as the tears flowed, and instinctively, she ended up at one of the local elementary schools. She headed toward the school library and the school librarian in the hallway. They had worked together in the past. She took one look at Phoenix and knew that a disaster had taken place.” ( p.38)
On the other hand, Trey is faced with a dilemma with the ill-matched Flora. We watch to see how he handles the situation. He also could have become verbally abusive when pushed to his limits, but we observe his action. “Floored again by Flora, Trey put the phone on the hook. His hands were trembling, his back was hurting down the center, and he felt his left eye twitching at regular intervals. Here he had a stack of seventy-five compositions to grade, and now this.
Pregnant! His mind started racing. She said she was on the pill. She said she had used the diaphragm. “Oh hell,” he said out loud. “She said. She said! Stupid me.”
He threw on his jogging suit and running shoes and took an extra jacket. Though the weather was brisk, he took the elevator down, walked over to the lakefront, and broke into a breakneck speed as though something or someone was chasing him.” (p. 53-4)
“In making their choices, characters reveal who they are. They define themselves by the values they live often unconsciously.” (Taylor)
We see that Phoenix and Trey are moral creatures and we hope that things will turn out well for them. But with Phoenix’s so-called friend, Lila makes some moves which show how unconsciously desperate she was as a woman when she makes a play for Phoenix’s boyfriend.
“She turned and introduced him to Lila, but before she could finish the formal introduction, Lila got out of the car and went around to where he was standing, touched him on his arm, and said, “Ooh. Let me touch you and see if you are for real. I have heard so much about you, and now I know that you exist,” cooed Lila.”
He just pulled back slightly, a little bit embarrassed but quite flattered. Before Lila came to her senses, she handed him one of her business cards. Phoenix was shocked as she drove Lila home. There were no words. ” (p. 23)
Yes. Characters’ choices and actions reveal a lot about who they are just like people in real life. The readers have the final say. Daniel Taylor said, “Like jurors, we listen for evidence, weigh the motivations, put ourselves in the defendant’s shoes and render our verdicts.”
Lynn August 14, 2014