I’ve recently started working to get back into the writing sphere after a hiatus as a new mom. Writing articles and books now take up a large amount of my free (ha ha) time. Through them all, I’ve noticed a common theme.
Write who you are!
I believe that's exactly how James Scott Bell put it in Plot & Structure, though many authors have similar advice. And when the majority believes something it must be true, right? Naturally, I then had to evaluate what inside me could make for some interesting writing. And I’ll tell you what I came up with . . . nothing.
There was nothing there but the overwhelming insecurities I’ve fought my whole life. Nothing inside me was cool and unique. I was average and often overlooked by others. My life’s mission in high school was to be invisible. If one is not noticed, one cannot be hurt. And I’m awkward. Not the quirky, fun awkward, but the “make everyone else uncomfortable around me” awkward. I open my mouth and, though I carefully think about the words, gibberish comes out. These thoughts plagued me for a minute or two. Followed quickly by the usual negative comparisons.
“No wonder I’m not published and successful like so and so.”
Blah, blah, de blah.
Well, I could have stayed here for an infinite length of time. Me and my all-too familiar dark cave. But that’s rather depressing, so I dug deeper. And I found . . . me.
Those very things I’d seen as negatives have shaped me into who I am today. For better or worse. (I choose to believe the former.) The experience of often getting lost and forgotten in the crowd has made me more mindful of those around me. I notice when people look sad or lonely. I try hard to care about the individual. I’m observant (when not lost in imaginary worlds).
The super power of awkwardness provides a freedom I’m glad I have. I know I don’t fit in, so I’ve learned to embrace the awkwardness that is me. And found some people actually enjoy it. (Pretty sure they’re nuts, but I’ll go with it.) It turns out that stumbling through life creates some pretty hilarious and memorable moments for myself and others.
Many other things, both good and bad, make me who I am. And that person changes from day to day as new experiences and opportunities shape me further.
The characters I write develop the same way. They appear one dimensional at first, but as I write complexities that spawn from both their negative and positive traits add depth to them and the plot. I’ve started round one of revisions for my current WIP and find the person I cast my character to be has grown to something bigger. While this does mean many rewrites are needed to adjust the plot and characters, I know my story will be stronger in the long run.
Just as my self rewrites continue to improve who I am.
Character is fluid. We have so much power as the authors of our lives to become so much more than the rough draft we start out with. It’s our choice whether that person will be awesome or not. We all have that seed of greatness inside. What do we choose to do with it?