Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Are you what you do?

In which a chance comment sparks a No, Seriously. Just Try It story starter.

"Too often," someone told me this week. "We get caught up in defining ourselves by what we do, instead of who we are."

When she said it, I nodded, because I thought she meant "what we do" like "what our jobs are." But she didn't, it turned out. And I've been thinking about it ever since.

I am a writer, and specifically, I am a writer who believes strongly in showing, not telling. And so, in my mind, we ARE what we DO. Our actions define us as characters.

But then, because I am a writer, I had to ponder further. What I pondered is the deliciously powerful emotional space between who a character says he is and what he does. It can be hilarious* or tragic (think Lolita).

It's very real, this finding yourself unable to stop doing something that goes against everything you think about yourself. And it can drive us to do things which are even more out of character as we try to get back on what we consider our track to be.

This week, I am playing around with that moment when my characters find themselves looking down on the scene and thinking, "What am I doing??? This isn't me!" I am playing with the outrageous things they do to try to get back to themselves.

So. What kind of person does your character THINK she is? Now, what can she do that totally contradicts this? How does she get to that point? And when she realizes where she is, what does she do to escape?

No, Seriously. Just Try It.

*Like, say, you consider yourself a loving wife until you totally space The Mighty Thor's birthday today until he parades into the kids' room while you're in a good game of Pretend To Drown and says, "Ahem, how do I look, FOR 39???"


Elise Murphy said...

Lovely post, Jacqui. and Happy Birthday to Thor!

I love the "uncharacteristic"things my MC does and the moment when she realizes. Just like in real life.

cath c said...

good idea! thanks! and hilarious! we've all done the forgettable momentous occassion to our spouses haven't we?

does this mean i AM the woman who has to turn around and go back in the house a few times before she can leave to go anywhere, because she's forgotten her keys, drink of water, paperwork, kid whose appt it is....

fyi: bearing in mind my manuscript title, 'felix the comet' today's word verification is comet.

C.R. Evers said...

great post.

The story that I'm currently revising, my protagonist always thought she had been nice and outgoing in the past, but she realizes that she was oblivious and actually end up hurting other people's feelings even though that's not what she intended.

In the story that I'm currently writing, my protagonist is a rebellious trouble-maker, but his circumstance and new love interest will bring out the responsible, take-charge, kind of guy that he never knew he could be.

fun post!

Amber Lough said...

So he gets to be with you on HIS birthday, but not the other way around, eh? ;-)

sharon Blankenship said...

Why, Jacqui, you are a good mother a good writer and a good, if occasionally forgetful wife. Tell Thor he could have it worse. And threaten to make it so

Pat Zietlow Miller said...

It's kind of like Albus Dumbledore told Harry Potter. "It is our choices, Harry, that make us what we are." Or something like that.

And, I just have to ask ... "Pretend to drown?"

Pat Zietlow Miller