People ask me often, “Do your characters hold the same convictions and preferences that you do?”
The answer: No. Not even close. My characters do things I heartily disagree with, don’t have the guts to do, are exactly what I’d like to do if my thoughts and preferences were all that mattered and a bunch of stuff all around those.
I’ve had people become livid that I had Aggie choose not to kiss until her wedding. How could I put that kind of pressure and expectation on the poor girl? Well, because I know people who choose to do that, and I think that it’s a valid choice for them. Would I ever do or recommend it? Not hardly. I’m with Willow. I would not want to share my first kiss with a roomful of gawkers–no matter how much I loved them.
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But Aggie isn’t the only one.
Some found Grace and Nolan from Noble Pursuits to be too “cold” or “emotionless.” I’ve had people tell me that people aren’t that “passionless” about their relationships. The funny thing is, for every one of those emails or comments, I’ve had someone else say, “It was so nice to see a story that felt familiar. It was like reading our story with someone else’s details.” Do I think all relationships need to be matter-of-fact? Not hardly.
Another fun one from Noble Pursuits was Craig. People have a love/hate relationship with him. I don’t blame them. If he was my brother, I’d probably whack him. He annoys people. I love that he does. He’s supposed to. I mean, I love Craig because I see the heart behind who he is and what he does, but man he drives me nuts.
Get over yourself, Craig! You act like a controlling boyfriend! She’s your sister and she’s an adult. She doesn’t need you to pound the boy who pulled her pigtail. She’s perfectly capable of kicking his shins herself. She proved it with Chuck!
That said, he is who he is. He is part of why Grace is who she is. And vice versa. He behaves as he does because he was taught to and because she not only allows it– she almost welcomes it. It’s familiar to her. Just because that’s true of them, doesn’t mean that I am advocating this for families across America. [clickToTweet tweet=” I’m showing a fictional family–not giving a word picture of a perfect life. #characters #amwriting” quote=” I’m showing a fictional family–not giving a word picture of a perfect life.”]
But, back to Aggie for a minute.
Aggie seems to bring out quite a few objections. Why did I make her switch to skirts or dresses only when it isn’t her conviction? Why didn’t I show that it’s ok (in my opinion) to wear something other than that? Because this is her story–not mine. I think she could have continued to wear whatever she wanted and could have chosen to dress the kids as they always had been or changed to suit her preferences. I don’t think it matters.
What does matter is Aggie being Aggie. And Aggie is the kind of gal who kind of goes all out with this stuff. Luke supported her in it. Do I think he cares either way? Not really.
Then again, I bet if she handed him a skirt and a pair of jeans and asked which he preferred, he’d choose the skirt every time. Why? Because his mother always wore them. It’s familiar and comfortable to him. Does that mean I think her wearing jeans would be wrong? Nope. It just wouldn’t be her.
It would only be wrong if it violated her conscience.
What about Willow?
Willow’s fierce independence amuses and annoys me. I love her for it and want to slap her at the same time. She has a “know-it-all-ness” to her that is downright obnoxious at times. She makes choices that I think are utterly wrong (for example: in my world, you don’t make medical decisions about your reproduction without the input of your husband. She did. Oh, well.).
Alexa holds herself apart from connecting with most of Fairbury until residents begin turning up dead. Would she have reached out to Joe and maintained a friendship with him otherwise? I don’t think so. She liked her life exactly as it was. Sure, she likes it better with Joe as a friend and the slow tug into other local friendships, but she wouldn’t have made the effort to know that about herself.
She is unwilling to invest in close local relationships out of preference (she’s a loner by nature) and self-preservation. Close relationships have burned her in the past. She uses that as an excuse to keep herself aloof–even from the body of Christ. I personally don’t see that is being Biblical.
Characters are their own “people” so to speak.
They hold their own convictions, make their own mistakes, have their own faults and virtues, and sometimes are similar to me in one way or another and often times are very different.
I don’t always “condemn” in them what I don’t agree with. That would get ridiculously preachy and annoying. I let them be their fallen selves with their warped view of things and their ”
I don’t always “condemn” in them what I don’t agree with. That would get ridiculously preachy and annoying. I let them be their fallen selves with their warped view of things and their “thunderpuppy” ideas.
As weird as it may seem, I let them make their mistakes, and I don’t always call them mistakes. If it’s a part of who they are, but not a part of the story, I’m not going to make their personality quirks or personal convictions an issue. They’re just there because the character is. Sure, it’s okay to emulate their virtues. I try to when I think of it–just as I do with anything “true, praiseworthy, etc.” But their convictions are their own–flawed or not–and I prefer to find mine in the Bible.