Recently I was told that we cannot change our character. Is that true? Am I stuck? Are you?
Certainly, some aspects of self are hardwired. I have blue eyes. I am five feet tall. I am female. I carry my extra weight around my middle. If I don’t get enough sleep, I struggle with mood and impatience. I have bi-polar. I was raised in the Deep South and that has a lifelong impact. My parents are who they are and they are gone now. And so on.
BUT – and this is a big BUT – not everything about me is unchangeable. My character is MINE to do with what I want. My character is MINE to de-construct and re-construct.
The most important element of any story is the character. There are thousands of resources an author can use to develop three-dimensional characters. I am beginning to work on my third novel. I’m at the stage where the characters are revealing themselves to me. I now know what Abby and Ian look like. I know where they were raised and what their family of origin is. But, more importantly, I’m getting a sense of WHO they are, what they WANT, what they NEED.
As the author, I have to DISCOVER these people and then construct a story that pushes them to ACCEPT their strengths, fears, weaknesses and use that information to CHANGE. I get to decide what situations they face but I don’t get to decide how they react. I have to let the character guide my pen. In order to do that, I have to truly KNOW my characters. Abby and Ian have to be with me at all times – talking, arguing, challenging, laughing, crying.
If I can use character development techniques to understand a fictional character, I can use the same techniques to Discover-Accept -Change MY OWN CHARACTER. Just as I have to sit with fictional Abby and Ian, in order to understand myself, I have to sit in my own mud puddle. I have to delve deep, ask the hard questions, watch myself as I interact with the world. I have to be INTENTIONAL. I have to be CONSISTENT. I have to be ALL IN.
My fictional Abby recently relayed an argument between her and her father. It was painful but it explained so much about her decision-making and her reactions to the world. That one argument revealed a deep NEED in Abby. She hasn’t recognized that need yet – but she will because I will force the issue.
You already know some of your wants and needs. Or do you? In order to discover, we have to uncover the good, the bad, the mediocre. We have to be honest, if only with ourselves. It might be painful but it’s also Background not “Now”ground. “Now”ground is yours to plow. We can turn over the old dirt and plant whatever we want and more importantly, we can cultivate what we NEED. We have to force the issue in our own lives.
We don’t have to do all this plowing overnight. I hate the word ‘process’. But real change is a process. It’s looking at self then hiding from self. It’s being honest and then lying because lies are more comfortable. It’s being critical and then accepting and then being critical again. It’s lonely. It’s hard. It’s worth it.
I refuse to believe I’m unable to change. I am NOT stuck. I can choose where to focus my energy. I can identify and accept those areas that I cannot change. I can identify those areas I can change. I can identify those areas I want to change – those I’m willing to change. I can choose my next best decision rather than let life roll over me.
An author creates scenes that force a character to react and to grow. While I can’t structure every scene in my life, I can use my life scenes to better understand myself. Once I understand self, I can make my next best decision no matter what scene I find myself in. Even better, I can begin to change and choose the scenes in my life. That’s my hope and my goal.
As I learn more about Abby and Ian through character development activities, I will use these exact same activities on myself. I will share what I’m doing and extend the invitation for you to join me. As always, I will be authentic and vulnerable. I will be afraid and excited, embarrassed and proud. I will ACCEPT whatever I discover.
I’ve gathered together some supplies for this journey (I also hate the word ‘journey’). I decided if I had everything organized and ready for me, I’d at least eliminate that excuse. My supply bucket includes:
Discovery-Acceptance-Change is appropriate for every age, every gender, every race and faith. It is appropriate no matter who you are, where you are or what you’re doing. Share this with others. The more we look at self and furrow NowGround, the better the world will be. Your world. Your family’s world. THE world.
We start the “real” work next week. There will be a new “reveal” every week. Some of what I’ll ask you to do will hit painful nerves. Remember, I’m with you all the way. I’ve got my own pain to face. I also promise that some weeks will just be plain ol’ fun!
Until Next Week:
In April 2012 I had a mental breakdown. The real thing. I have about 36 hours that I don’t remember....