Recently, I’ve read various books and blog posts in the hope of expanding my writing skills. As a self-confessed plotter the reading material I chose was focused on understanding the various parts of a story and how they interact with each other.
What I wasn’t expecting to learn about was how much a story can revolve around the writer’s own journey.
In The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson the author suggested I give my protagonist a character flaw I have. Alderson claimed it would make my protagonist more human. She further suggested I use the journey of my protagonist to be influenced by my own experiences and perceptions.
As a retired art psychotherapist I was intrigued. I had used the story of the art pieces my clients created to help them cope with tragedy and loss. I had witnessed how successful a therapy method narrating an art piece could be. Recently I’ve used art directives to help the writers who come to Elaine’s and my Writing from the Centre retreats to deepen their creative experience.
A writer using her own flaws to create more memorable characters was an idea I was conflicted about. It’s not easy to be self-aware enough to recognize our flaws let alone to own them. Most people hide behind bravado and rarely project their insecurities publicly. That said, using fiction to generate characters that can work though the flaws of the writer provides a tantalizing reason to keep on writing.
I needed to give this idea a try.
I have a fear of confrontation. I don’t like it at all. I envy and am annoyed by those of us who have no problem expressing unpopular positions that go against the status quo.
So, I gave my main character Jaime a fear of confrontation. I wrote or plotted scenes where she didn’t and did confront people. In my novel Jamie learns through trial and error what works for her. She never learns to enjoy confrontation but she’s more at peace with it and becomes able to express herself in a proactive way.
However, a strange thing happened to me as I was discovering Jaime. I start to feel more comfortable speaking my mind and trusting my judgement. I’m not good at it and I still sweat like crazy when faced with another person’s anger, but I’m recognizing my evolving personality and how writing about it helps me to become a better person.
I’m not saying this will work for everyone but I hope it will give you something to think about.
Perhaps, we all put something of ourselves into the characters we create, consciously or unconsciously, and it’s this part of our characters that the reader connects to.