Tag Archives: identifying with characters

The real writer please stand

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The writer and two imposters faced the panel and answered questions. Among the highfalutin words sprinkled in the questions were artistic, clever, imaginative, inspiration, and creative spirit.

He could be profiled as visionary or daydreamer, but so could the plumber and banker beside him. The author wanted to discuss the force that drives him to write, but the question was never asked.

2The force that drives the writer

Bone-chiling fears during youth took root in the corners of his mind. He feared the dark, heights, and loss. Shadows appeared in the night. Evil hid under the bed and behind the closet door.

Loss of money, possesions … love, success. He checked the door locks twice, three times, and two more.

Childhood memories cluttered his head–racing home from horror films at the movie theater, Grandma’s bedtime story of Ole’ Lady Longfingers who made her home underneath the bed, and Grandpa’s stories of the Great Depression.

Heated voices waked him. A door slammed, an engine started, and a mother wept. Relationships are colored with fear.

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He never woke one morning and decided to become a writer. It struck and never lay at rest. Journal, notepad, or whiteness of a computer screen, the act of writing paved the road to meaning and understanding. Characters and plot forced him face-to-face with inner demons.

The taping ended. The author went home, poured a drink, and fired up the computer.

Making It

zThumb_playing-guitar-(2)  He received the invite. Nashville’s Grand Ole’ Opry. Now, it was real. Satisfaction cut through the engraved stress marks on his face that belied his young years. He had earned it. Rough schedules, racking up miles across the country, opening shows with a mixture of envy and admiration for those who had paid their dues.

Billed as the new Hank Williams those close to him shuddered at the commonality.

Blinding lights, applause, screams, hands reaching to touch him played in his head as he splashed water against his face and patted down his hair. The paraphernalia used earlier set on the counter beside the sink. One more time to pull him through. Good that he forgot to put it away, he told himself ignoring the real reason. The effect didn’t last that long, just enough to get him on stage.

“Twenty minutes,” the chauffeur said through the phone.

Muscles tightened. His stomach quivered. He washed white pills down with bourbon to calm the nerves, but his thoughts were on the bathroom counter. One last time his mind reasoned. Before the show, before walking onto that famous auditorium with pieces of wood from the Ryman auditorium.

The wood Hank Williams stood.

The stretcher disappeared out the door. That close to making it his chauffeur thought with a tear in his eye.

Your Comments and Shares are appreciated. Thank you, Paul.

Stale donuts from the bakery

file661267495258She loaded the children into the shiny Lincoln and drove down the tree studded drive to the highway. Every Saturday, the mother watched from the window as her aunt took brother and sister to the bakery. The donut run, as the mother called it, never failed to bring joy to her children.

When they returned, the eccentric aunt  set the bag filled with soft, warm donuts on the counter next to last Saturday’s bag. It was a simple rule. You eat the old donuts before getting into the new bag.

Knowing that they would never experience the taste of the fresh donuts, how many Saturdays before the children’s joy faded? It had been seven months since the spinster aunt invited them to move in and the children were as enthused as the first time.

“What is so great going to get donuts knowing they will be hard as a rock before you eat them?”

“It’s not eating the donut, it’s imagining how it tastes,” said one. “It’s like going to the dog pound even though you can’t bring one home,” said another.

“They are beautiful. Covered in frosting–pink, white, chocolate, sprinkles, dusted in powdered sugar, filled with jelly–different shapes and sizes.”

“It’s hard to choose.”

“So Auntie let’s us take all the time we want.”

“But,” the mother said, “you always bring back a dozen plain cake donuts.”

“That’s what Auntie orders. We eat ours at the donut shop.”

A smile spread across the mother’s dampened cheeks.

What lessons, if any, have you learned from children?  Please share comments below in Leave Reply.

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Cowboy

file2251249256861cowboySome said he was born on a saddle. Others said he was one hell of a man. Didn’t matter what you believed, he was an authentic cowboy and wore the title well.

One night he cleaned off the dust, slipped into his best shirt, new Levis, and drove to a dance in the valley. A fiery redhead caught his eye, and his mind entertained thoughts other than lonely nights in the bunk house.

Having learned responsibility at a tender age, he secured a regular job. One that allowed him to take an active part in family life.

This didn’t take the cowboy out of him. He never missed saddling up for a round-up, branding, or any event to help a local rancher. He signed on to a ranch after retirement. His wife, known for her biscuits, pies, and any dish that cowboys had a likening, went with him.

Life of a cowboy isn’t an easy one. You take the lumps with the good, he used to say. He didn’t regret one bit, and lived life to the fullest.

Those who knew him never doubted he was a believer. His God lived in the outdoors–the plains, sagebrush, painted desert. Mountains, green pastures, and the beauty of horses working cattle. He never spent much time inside a church other than attending a wedding, or funeral. It made sense that his funeral was held in the local community lodge.

The minister stepped away from the podium and strapped on a guitar. There wasn’t a dry eye as he sang the cowboy’s favorite song.

Now, his wife lives in the house by herself, but few doubt that she’s alone.

Is there an unforgettable character in your life? Your comments are welcome and appreciated. Please comment below.

Invisible

file4241270227593 (2)             She sat in the assigned seat although her demeanor expressed dislike in leaving the far back corner of the classroom. The corner protected her from sounds of gun shots fired in the middle of the night, boisterous laughter, groans, cursing, and rhythmic squawking of the lone bed separated by the thin wall of her room. The smell of smoke, crack, meth, and putrid body odor seeped through the rotting wall’s cracks and crevices. Even the cockroaches ran over each other getting to the bare floors of her room.

Wearing the jacket over the bulky sweater she wore night and day to disguise any resemblance of a girl with female parts, she sat huddled on the single bed, back against the wall, eyes glued to the door.

The girl’s fear burned at a constant level while her mother worked the streets and spiked each time a second pair of footsteps returned with her.

She relived every second as the tape played inside her head. It happened two years ago. Ten years old but far from innocent, no child should hear, see, or experience what she had. His putrid taste and smell stayed with her no matter how strong the mouth wash, or how red her skin turned as she scrubbed. Her mother promised that it would never happen again, but the words offered no consolation.

They found her underneath the bed, the sanctuary she visited when she escaped to that place in her mind with grass, daisies, sunshine, and blue sky.

A voice crackled through the police car radio. She sat in the backseat with her jacket pulled over her head, but it wasn’t the dispatcher’s words she tried to deafen.  The sounds of kicking, splintering wood, and firing gunshots rang in her ears.

The woman in the second police car hadn’t lied.

 

 

Do personal struggles and those of friends and family affect the way you relate to characters in a story? Does personal tragedy enhance the story and create an emotional bond to the characters? Please share your thoughts.

The old woman next door

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Three summers now, rude words cut through the cool morning air followed by a window shut with force that rattled the glass.

The old woman next door started that damn lawn mower every Saturday morning at 6:45 am sharp. You could set your watch by it.

A chain link fence, four feet from his bedroom window separated the properties. The landlord made it clear that seniors made up most of the quiet street. He assured the landlord, early or late, he never threw parties. In fact, he did his partying after work before he came home in the wee hours of the morning. He slept late, and returned to the club where he and three others played music from nine to one o’clock in the morning. If anything, learning of the quiet neighborhood drove him to sign the rental agreement without reading or asking questions.

He never admitted the early Saturday morning routine had turned into a game. He could have left the window unopened that one day of the week, or used earplugs.

As it turned out, a game so ingrained that he woke up 6:45 sharp every Saturday morning from the first Saturday the lawn mower failed to start. A habit that continued after they took down the for sale sign.

Have you experienced a conflict with people and discovered that you missed them and the conflict after they were gone?

Keep them strong

strong characters

It’s the fight. It’s not winning the game.

Protagonists of contemporary fiction might not win or come out on top, but they remain strong throughout the conflict. If they lose, they go down fighting.  Additional strong characters support and help the protagonist achieve victory. If not joining the fight itself, they offer compassion and empathy.

Life struggles can kick our butt no matter how hard we fight, or how tough we are. The people and objects creating the conflict are strong as well. However, the taste of victory remains until the person, place, or thing behind the struggle wins. If the protagonist fails, we know it wasn’t lack of moral fiber.

Readers identify with the main character. They identify with struggling through problems, tough times, sometimes making it, sometimes not. They rely on the strength of the character. They feel it. They need it. Many people are either undergoing personal trauma and conflict or know someone who is. They know survival requires strength. It’s fighting the fight, not giving up. Character behaviors are transferred to the reader.

Strong characters give hope. Hope that we can make it through the most basic human conditions.