Our Characters Are Us

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As I revisit a dear friend, Simple Abundance, by Sarah Ban Breathnach, I am inspired to write about our characters that we as writers create during a sitting.  I have been searching for a quote in this book where a writer states that there is some of us in each of our characters.

Breathnach refers to her character as Mrs. Sharp in a conversation with her sister.  Her sister says, “Stop this…  Stop referring to Mrs. Sharp as if she’s a separate person.  You’re Mrs. Sharp, even if you don’t believe it.  She is who you are deep within.”

When I think of the main characters from my first novella, A Golden Leaf in Time Revised, I thought that the main character Phoenix was some of me.  I admit that.  She tries to camouflage her pain through cheerfulness with the children.  Or, shall I say they serve as an antidote to what ails her.

But I suppose we all have dark sides just as the moon does and this is where we house what we hope others cannot see.  Even our villains are some aspects of ourselves though rarely admitted.  Sometimes our characters get to do things that we do not have the nerve to do and many writers will admit that much.

Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote in his poem, “We Wear the Mask.”

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes

  So, after pondering my character Flora, I had to admit that there is a bit of her in me as well.  As, the sister reminds Breathnach, she is you.  Or as the other gentleman quoted, all of our characters are parts of us.  Otherwise we could not have created them.

Flora is insecure and I suppose she can be any woman who is vulnerable and not in control of her situation.  Anyone can feel the way Flora feels and her lack of spiritual resources make her give in to her greatest fears.  She is afraid of abandonment and does not know how to cope with other means of finding inner fulfillment. Phoenix, on the other hand, only survives because of her faith and daily practices that reinforce her on a daily basis.  She constantly creates her own joy and solace through many avenues.

Trey, who takes on his given name as Tyre in the sequel, Warm Intrigues, is in turmoil because he is in a bad relationship which is consuming him.  He is whining and unhappy, but until he takes responsibility for making poor choices, he will not figure his way out of it.  There were several red flags that he could have seen with Flora, if he had been watching more closely.  He had taken the easy route because this relationship did not require a lot of him and he suffers the consequences.  I think we can all relate to a situation where we thought we were getting by without a lot of effort only to find that the debt paid was astronomical.

His nemesis, Hank, a coworker seems to want to see Trey fail and is happy when Trey is having difficulty in his personal affairs.  This gives him the advantage on the work front and he is able to be promoted into a position due to Trey’s lack of focus. We all know about professional envy  and how it works. Most people are more than eager to be thrust into a higher level or role, regardless of the circumstances.

We are multi-faceted people and sometimes our most troubled characters are parts of ourselves as the quote goes.  We either wish that those traits were not there or hope we have conquered or subdued them.

As writers, they only way we can create is to look within, look without and put the formula together.  The journey often surprises us and as many writers will tell you, though you have a plan, surprises come up as you dig down in the well of your soul and see what truly lies there.

As Frost says, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.”

Lynn                                                                                                                 August 21, 2014

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