We’ve all been there. Contemplating life. Forging ahead with plans and BAM something happens to change it all. Is it for a good reason? Who knows? But every life gets disrupted from time to time. Maybe you wanted to get into an Ivy league school. Maybe there was a possible life with your high school sweetheart that didn’t work out. Children unborn for whatever reason. A parent that died when you were too young. Yeah, life can suck like that. But it can also lead to new possibilities. We may not always know what’s best for us. What will work out. What won’t. However, we can count on the fact that life won’t be boring.
Ah, so many dreams. Time and reality can whittle them down fast. What we wished for so much in youth becomes a missed opportunity in our present. Just why we may never know. All we can do is go on. Pick up a new dream and run. We may miss the old dreams for a while but sometimes something else takes over in our lives. There may be a skill we’re better at that we didn’t know about. A friend or loved one points us toward the direction we didn’t expect to go.Sometimes the day job may be just that: a day job. Writing is like that second job you didn’t quite know you wanted.
Something in you just continues to pull you back to the words, to the rhythm of stories. As I’ve said many times, I wrote from a young age but didn’t realize a career at such was possible until later in life. That pastime that I loved doing couldn’t really be a real thing, could it? Hadn’t the guidance counselor and other employment checks always beat into me that arts were never the way? For a poor girl like me to have a shot, she’d have to somehow flip up into the top ring. I tried to go for Equestrian Science. My dream was to go into horse shows. The finances were never there for me. I did have the skill though. Just…didn’t go anywhere.
With shattered dreams, I tried factory work to make money still convinced I could salvage those horse show dreams. I held tight to them even as I went through an abusive marriage, the birth of my two children and an ectopic pregnancy. I remember talking to one of the doctors then about trying to save the pregnancy, even though my life was at risk because it was forming outside my womb (I cared more about the baby than me) but he told me that it was like grass poking up through the sidewalk cracks. Something not meant to be. During an ultrasound a couple days later, I felt something like a sharp jab and there was so much blood. I knew even before I went back to my OB-Gyn that I’d lost the baby.
My ex went fishing that day while I lay in bed at home crying. I should’ve known the truth about him then, but I brushed it aside. I spent a lifetime turning aside the pain and drama to follow that man. When the day came that something snapped inside me at the coldness, at the brutalness of who he was, I never looked back. I reformed my dreams and kept on. My life had become too tragic even for myself at that point and I spent some time in a hospital recovering, discovering about myself. I was stronger than I thought, the doctors there told me repeatedly. And I was. Dear God, at everything, I was.
Slowly, I began to dream again. Smaller dreams but dreams, nevertheless. It reminds me of what we have to do with our characters. Open wounds and let them flow in their lives to discover who they are, why they are the way they are. It is their truth and lies. Each piece, each flaw reveals the path they must take or fail. They can’t settle, can’t stagnate, or they’ll die. Life is a balancing act. We learn to bear our crosses, to lift ourselves in times of triumph, to fall to our knees in other times of despair. All part of life. The reason we recognize ourselves in characters is because we’ve all walked similar roads. We are them. And they are us.
Each sorrow, each joy crunches or expands our soul. We can look back and perish or we can push on. I choose to push on. To dream that dream. Even if some time has passed and I’m in the middle ground of aging. Time does shorten for us, yes. That’s the way life’s meant to be. However, on the page, there’s always time. Always the pressure to unfold the character to who he or she will be. Or won’t be. Sometimes we stumble, slide backwards, get off in the middle of the road. We’re all human. And being human, we have a lot of choices to make with ourselves, with our characters.
Who do you want them to be? What do you want them to accomplish? Should they even? Would it bring the world to its knees? Destroy nations? These are some powerful thoughts on who each of our characters is. They don’t just sit on the shelf, waiting for us to take them out, they grow from their dreams or failures. They stand or fall. That’s how we’re made. That’s how they’re ultimately made. Next time you pull your story out, consider: how do you break them? And raise them from the dead? That will show you what steps to take in creating a great character.
As for me, I keep going like that old pink Energizer bunny. You can’t change things that come your way. Health. Circumstances. Hateful people. But you can take up your courage, feel your heart beating, and shove the mess out of your way to a new day. New hope. The lesson’s in not giving up.
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