Exploring those mysterious, underlying forces fueling a writing life

Archive for the ‘Characters’ Category

When Piggy Flies

 

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Today I attended a memorial service for a 17 year old who was taken unexpectedly.  I didn’t know her, but she and my daughter played for the same volleyball club and she wanted to be there to support her coaches and teammates. She was a person I had seen but never spoken to, a volleyball player that played for another team, a stranger.  

As writers we develop characters by giving them idiosyncrasies, goals, likes and dislikes, and flaws.  We make them memorable by their uniqueness. Today, I got to know a young woman with a “god awful” diet who favored McDonalds and 7-11 slurpies and some kind of peach sticky candy. They called her ‘Piggy’ because of her love of food and the chubby legs she had as a child. She shared a fondness for double-stuffed oreos with an unsuspecting uncle who opened his bag to discover she had eaten all the insides and left him only the cookie ends. I heard about her plans to attend college with her best friend and make the most of their time there, though not attend “any college parties”. Her competitiveness and “I’ve got this” attitude were mentioned by many, as much as they spoke of her generous spirit and contagious laughter. Can I get a “hoo-yah?”

She became real to me. She became one of the characters from stories who stay with us long after we have turned that last page. 

She was unique, memorable and inspirational. 

I have been stuck in survival mode for the past year for too many reasons and I have questioned whether I would ever be able to write again. But as I listened to the pastor talk of God’s plan and her friends and family speak of making the most of the time we have, I found myself feeling something I thought I had lost. Story ideas percolated and I felt compelled to pick up the pen again. I wanted to write.

I didn’t know her, but her gift for inspiring others continues beyond her short life.

Rest in eternal peace, Christine “Piggy” White.

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our flaws, our strengths

“Do you grind them?”

The question threw me. It was my first craft show, first time selling my pieces of sea glass jewelry and she was a veteran. Was I doing something wrong?

Should I be grinding the sea glass? Smoothing out those rough spots, the dents, the imperfections? Would I sell more?

No.

Carved from the same tumbling sea forces, nature took what was discarded trash and created art. There are no two identical pieces of real sea glass.

The imperfections speak of their uniqueness, give them their beauty and strength.

Make them memorable.

Perfection has one grave defect: it is apt to be dull. W. Somerset Maugham

The same applies to the characters in the stories we love.

Would we have been so fascinated with Katniss if she weren’t so protective of the ones she loved?

Would we still be crying out “Oh, Mr. Darcy!” for another hundred years if he and Elizabeth did not let their pride keep them apart.

Flaws serve to add depth and conflict, establish empathy, and make the character more memorable. MJ Bush, WritinGeekery (www.writingeekery.com/flaw/).

I keep my sea glass just as I found them along the shoreline, flaws and all.  Those flaws inspire the design and I let them guide me into creating something beautiful and unique.

And as I revise (yet again) my middle grade novel, I am focusing on my own characters’ flaws and how their imperfections will shape and guide the story.

If only I could see my own flaws as my strength…

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Be someone's hero. No cape required.

Lynda Mullaly Hunt, a children's author, blogs on craft, news, and the importance of everyday heroes in everyday lives.

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