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.

Super Powers to the Rescue

I commute to my day job over an hour. When I first took this job, I thought I would invest in a Rosetta Stone program and learn a new language with all that drive time. Wouldn’t that be great? Linguistics always captured my attention. The opportunity made me giddy with hope.

“Oh, the things you will do.”

Dr. Seuss


I’m going on three years. I speak English, bits of German, and childish Spanish, none of which I learned while driving twelve hours a week. I have listened to audio books as varied as the “Little House on the Prairie” (serious wisdom in those books) to a biography of Hamilton. I’ve tuned into anything to fill the time, and allow my brain to detach from the trials of the workday and transition to the sanctuary of home. Learn a language after the daily toil of a new job. What was I thinking?

I bring this up because my aspirations remind me of how sometimes characters in books can do amazing things. They can diffuse atomic bombs with two broken hands. They have convenient gifts that allow them to see through walls (I once thought I had this gift. Okay, people be nice I was six). I’ve known some amazing, productive people and I applaud the ideal that they represent. But I find it tiresome that so much fiction is based on superpowers or feats of learning and physical stamina that leave no hope for us normal mortals to see ourselves in them.

Regular people can be truly inspiring without being the strongest, most adept or the top of their game. My point is, let’s try to keep it real, or at least not resort to the ‘special powers’ or ‘super skills’ every time our characters get in a bind. Write on! The world awaits your voice.


Confession

In the speculative Sci-Fi arena there are at times, stretches of humanity’s traits. Two of the four projects I’m working on involve people with abilities that we don’t (currently) have, but they are plausible, and some might say probable.