Creating characters with emotional power I am finding requires the indirect method. The character needs context. Empathy can be aroused for a character whose partner has been hospitalized. If they are flawed that is all the better, and better still if they are worthy of sympathy. I don’t mean pity, but a true feeling of compassion for the place they find their life suddenly thrown into. I think this basic building block is fundamental to fiction construction. Excessive sentimentality is cloying. Purposeful use of complexity pays its way when in the unfolding layers of a scene we have that sudden flash, the insight, that seeing into reality that we’ve never quite understood before. If you haven’t noticed I themed my blog titles and there is always the word change in the blog postings. Long fiction rewards when we are allowed behind the curtain. Sometimes real people hide from their own painful truths, resist looking at what they are, what they’ve done. I am never more alive than when I all at once see that the curtain has gone up and I am no longer hiding from anyone about anything…. At least for the moment, but then secrets are as stubborn as change…
“Sammy, how old are you?”
“Between you and me, it is not so much a secret, but for Noel you must never tell, I am just 31. And you?”
So, it is to be mused upon, laugh hard mate, that change is what it is, and things remaining the same is as probable as your discovery of immortality. Best freeze some sperm, put away an egg, cross your fingers and hope. Observe these things from afar. Don’t bring change too close to heart. It will not be a happy marriage. Yes, there are happily married couples, but they observe in their relationship a mutable code, a transfixation on being pliable, to being more open than closed. When Tioga Pass closes for the winter after snow falls and blocks the road the opening of that road comes by natures work, a springtime, a warming, a snowmelt, and finally a road opens. Still, I am a road dog, I run the highways, have diverted to Reno, bent south on 395 and run that long road past Yosemite…and found another way to get to the same place.
Making a significant amendment to behavior is difficult. It’s hard to get at these things. Jealousy is a good one. This particular interior state of anxiety thrusts the ego into a convulsion of groundlessness. Our hearts and happiness are judged at risk and in our spontaneous splendor we
behave in ways that are rare. The rare behavior rests secreted into the best hiding place and waits dormant there so long it is almost a total surprise when it makes its break out move and confronts circumstances deemed too risky to tolerate. We don’t get over it so much as we get away from it, or it gets away from us. Then, maybe or maybe not, we think we’ve got things back under control only to find, surprise, that it has just been hanging out deep down in the depths of our neurons waiting for that fateful indication of a breach along the edge of our secure self and strikes with all its force and venom yet again. We don’t do anything until we have to and often that is not only the wrong time, it is the worst time. I like to play the out of sight, out of mind game. As the saying goes, the Nile isn’t just a river inEgypt.
Kathy looked at Noel and thought about what he said. “Messy could be fun. I like messy. Why not? I’m really not that good a girl, but then I must say,” she hesitated then decided to say it, “I don’t think Leslie is that good a girl, either.”
Noel let go of Kathy’s hand and stepped back. He searched her eyes for the truth.
“I kind of got a thing going with Leslie.”
“You went out with her twice? Big deal… I’ve had Doug over here more than that.”
Things change whether we want them to or not. I recall that turning twenty-one could not come fast enough and that sixty is coming up too quick. What’s that about? Winter is too long, the weekend too short. Curiosities perhaps or a clue to something else going on. Giving our attention to change around us is different than wanting things to change. Placement of our desires in the path of change can put us right into the path of an oncoming change we might not be an advocate for. On the other hand we can make it even worse by reacting as things swing back and forth. The basic idea of the thing is to watch as the world does what it does and try not to get in the worlds way. We can go in the direction we feel best while appreciating that even that isn’t good enough sometimes. Creating a fictional character asks of an author to figure out how a character reacts to change. Our best choices are not necessarily our first choice. Sometimes it is choiceless. What is extra is our reacting to change. Here is the high art of change. You train yourself not to get too excited about things going your way and not too bummed out when they don’t. Sometimes we exaggerate our influence upon change. Often we have not influenced the changes at all. A seasoned loser is in some ways entered the fray with an advantage over a consistent winner. If on the other hand you see yourself as being just along for the ride, in the audience, going with things as they are instead of how you wish they would be… well, I am wondering out loud. I don’t know I’m convinced of the thing. What say we do our best, hope it works out, but learn to accept the fact that things can’t possibly always go our way…
Our stories are in part understood by our finances. We see people on the way up, on the way down, remaining where they are, stuck where they are, ending up where they are because of where they’ve come from. I was in a campground in Montana, down to my last hundred dollars when a backpacker hiked into camp down to his last dime. I shared supper with the hiker. I’d imagined I had it pretty tough until I met him. He wasn’t worried. He had arranged to help buck hay for a rancher for wages. Figured he’d eat good food and get along fine for a while with that work. I wasn’t as comfortable. I figured I’d use every dollar of what I had to get back to California where I hoped to do more work as a street performer. After that meeting I stuck to just working for tips out of my hat for some years. I’d come to think of it as the best path.
Into the mix of changes comes mortality, birth- life- then death, then………..In some belief systems there is the notion that after death comes rebirth and after rebirth another incarnation and that this incarnation is part of many former lives and that we’ll likely be born again. I have a hard time buying in on this idea, but I have no difficulty seeing that after this version of being here that there are going to be other versions of being here even though I might not have the pleasure of a really fabulous human mind to play with in the next visit. We know that we know we are here and we can think about being here and reflect on the idea that it will end. Perhaps we come back as a tree and its hard for me to get my mind around the quality of a trees consciousness, whether it knows that it knows….I’m here in Seattle for a memorial for Hokum W Jeebs… his work as an eccentric musician is part of my second novel, Bankrupt Heart, and in this one sense Hokum’s life extends into the future in an absolute sense. And so we can view end in the strict sense of the word as having a final point, or we can see it to be a movable feast, that in another way nothing ever ends, things continue on and on and on……..