Follow the Leader – Exploring Character Types

What you are speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have you been there? There’s a sign in the conference room (remember those?)that says when a meeting is over all chairs should be pushed in and clean the wipe board.
Your boss finishes a meeting, you start to tidy up and he says, ‘leave it, we have the planning meeting to get to’. What just happened?
A kid watches his father take two free samples of buffalo flavored peanuts, when the sign says, “one per family”. The star athlete, the star dancer, the star drummer, the star brainiac, the star, starts a conversation with, “did you see what that girl was wearing?”
What is going on here? Someone down the line is faced with a choice. Will that employee heed the boss’ instructions to not make the effort to put the room in order? The boss said it’s okay, isn’t that enough? My dad is a good guy, if he says it’s no big deal to swipe two samples then it must be okay right? If my idol at school makes fun of the quirky kid, then I should laugh right?
When leaders take the easy way, make excuses, they give license to all those below them. They confuse those who know the behavior is incongruent with the authority they represent. But how far does that license go? Only as far as the next person allows, chooses, hiding behind the fault of one higher and disclaiming their own choice in their shadow. Or, they prove themselves to be the true leader. The one who faces each crossroad without looking up but looking side to side. How will my actions impact those next to me, with me, far up the road from me.
Explore that thought when developing your characters. A character can be the one who stands out, does it right, or the one who doesn’t and learns later the consequences and is inspired to change (this happens at least once to every parent) or goes on blithely unconcerned.

10 Things I Can do Without in my Life

a personal survey

  1. Lipstick – it’s a ‘special occasion’ thing for me. I wouldn’t miss it.
  2. Statistics- Like out of 5000 submissions less than 50 are requested for more in a query to an agent.
  3. Boss- in the traditional work sense. Otherwise, we all know there is always an authority somewhere in our lives and I’ve come to know that is not a bad thing. Work bosses though are not always easy to deal with and if they have a few ‘issues’ it’s tiresome to be the subject of their whims.
  4. Hand sanitizer- well, actually, I’ve been a hand sanitizer junkie long before the pandemic so let’s change that to stinky, cheap, questionable sources of ingredients, hand sanitizer ; something only known to mankind since 2020. And for good measure throw in face masks, definitely could do without the need for these.
  5. Doubt, uncertainty, not enough time to write- I want to include each of these but truly I need these in order to push myself forward, just like a story needs conflict and trouble to keep it moving. So change that to ‘wasted’ doubt, uncertainty or time.
  6. People- okay so what I mean is people not in my family, aka neighbors, in close proximity. This is a love / hate relationship. I simultaneously enjoy my neighbors kids running through all our yards, laughing, screaming , playing, enjoying life with abandon while wishing I couldn’t overhear their family barbecue conversations, arguments and even having them stand on their patio gazing into my yard as their dog does his business, thankfully on their green grass. If I had to choose between living in a densely populated place or alone in a remote place, I’d choose squirrels as my companions. Why not? I always have books to connect me to humanity.
  7. Prejudice/ Hate/ Discrimination – don’t want to give it a moment in myself; don’t want it to push my family to choose not to go places, not to do things because these human blemishes lurk, ready to strike, ready to ruin the day, and as much as it appalls me and makes me ashamed of the human race to say, ready to kill.
  8. TV news- it’s designed to hook me by conjuring up fear from the slightest of possibilities. It pretends to be helpful, needed, informative (ha!) but the amount of value it brings is far outweighed by the psychological, mental stress that it stirs up in order to encourage me to watch more which ultimately means more commercials which at the root is the evil of the love of money. My apologies to anyone who is in the business, don’t take it personally.
  9. Anger- it has its place but I’ve found for me it takes me down paths and then abandons me to spent emotions, destroyed self control and defeat.
  10. Complacency- this one scares me. How much is this embedded in my life? I am passionate about certain things, at least I can talk about them with energy and zeal but are they just my trophies sitting on the shelf of what I call my character, who I am? Say it ain’t so that I’m a hearer only and not a doer.

Take a “Ten Things” survey of your life. It’s an interesting activity. Makes me want to pay attention, make changes. Also a good exercise to do with characters at the start of a novel idea. I did this days prior to NaNoWriMo this year and even though I didn’t know my characters well, it made a huge difference in getting the story right with much less tangents that I had to snip out of the first draft.

Happy writing! Happy living!

Who Is In Your Corner?

No one likes to be backed into a corner, to the place where there doesn’t seem any way to go.  Left, right, up or down, is there a way out? It’s the perfect place to put a character in. It’s classic. Every story has it. The moment when all seems lost. It’s the reason we don’t put down the book. Why we watch the movie over and over, we want to see the resolution whether it’s happy, sad, defining or moving.  

Today humanity is in a corner. Never in modern times has every human being faced the same restraint, the same submission without anyone truly exempt. No one escapes. Kind of like death but we dodge that just fine because there’s always the pursuit of happiness until our hour is up. But this confinement, this change of circumstance, this lack of choices, threat to loved ones, threat to ourselves. This is not life as we planned it. 

There’s a beauty in the unity of this situation. Yes, a beauty in the oneness of our experience. Only made possible by today’s technology; in today’s world where we’re starting to understand we are not different, not at all. We just have different habits, comfortable traditions, ways of speaking but we all breath, feel, care, dream and love the same. So here we are in the story of a millennia. How the story will end no one knows. What is life like in the corner? It’s not lonely, not when we’re all in it together.  Hold your neighbor up my friend, your strength is not for you alone.