Make Them Human

@elissa.johnston-3

You will fall in love with my protagonist. She is beautiful, she is smart, she is popular, she is wealthy, she is successful, everyone wants to be like her. In short, she is perfect. Which therefore makes her completely un-relatable and makes the reader want to throw the book into a burning fireplace. Your characters are human and therefore they have flaws. Of course you love your characters, even the unlikeable ones, but it is easy to make your protagonist too perfect in an attempt to make them the hero. Particularly if on some level they are a reflection of you. But it’s the imperfections that allow conflict to occur in the first place, which is the only way a story progresses. Think about the people you love, they have a suite of traits you adore about them. Yet they also have a handful that cause you to complain to others, to want to bang your head against a wall and to make you pick fights with them. It’s the same with your characters. What are their weaknesses? What annoys you about them? What faults do they have that causes them to trip up again and again. In thinking about your characters remember to make them human.

Sunday Meditation – Hibernate

Hibernate. Take a moment to pause, to consciously step away from the world and retreat. Make this an active decision, our bodies know when it is time for us to reflect inwards. Ignoring this advice will lead us to exhaustion. It is ok to stay home, to say no, to be alone and to rest. When we take time away we are able to process what has been going on and use that to strengthen ourselves, our passions, our purpose. The world continues to spin, life keeps going even when we take these moments, a day, a week, an hour, to hibernate. Often we are not aware of how hectic life becomes until we take the opportunity to withdraw from it. When we rest we renew and our mind and body settles, releasing tension and centring itself. Then we may proceed forward, reinvigorated and wiser.

What’s the Point?

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What a clever writer I am, waxing lyrically about something that is completely irrelevant to the plot. It may be beautiful prose to admire as the writer, but as a reader, you are left puzzled and closing the book to find something more interesting to do. Every scene must have a point to the story and it must move the plot forward, whether that is with action, or insight into a main character, or to highlight the relationship between characters, or to show a key piece of information. After each scene ask what is the point, if your response is not immediate, don’t search for the point because it’s not there. It should be glaringly obvious to you, the creator, of why it needs to be included and less so for the reader. Yes cutting entire scenes, especially the wonderfully sculptured ones is painful, but reading your story with trivial scenes is agonising, and costly.  If there is no point, cut it.

Sunday Meditation – Change

Change. A constant of life. Sometimes we seek it out, other times we fight it, clinging to a situation, someone, something. But change always wins. Whether we go with it or it pushes us with force, it happens. Change is neither good or bad, yet it does move us forward. If it takes us somewhere we don’t want, it will crystallise what it is we do want and we can use this as motivation to actively make a change towards what we desire. If it brings us closer to our goals then we hold on through those moments of pain and ride through. Occasionally it turns up unexpected and spins our life around, more often for the better, leaving us wondering why we didn’t take that direction sooner. There is no point using resources to stop it, it is inevitable. Embrace it.

Find New Words

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If my lead character smiles one more time I’m going to have to kill her off. Editing is that beautiful process that highlights (among other things) the laziness that every writer falls into. Becoming lazy means you become repetitive. Those small actions, the smiles, the walking, the frowning, the sighs, the laughs. When you read your work with few pauses for air, you become pained at the repetitions of these actions. There is only one solution which is to create new actions and observations. Now and in the future. Stay awake. What else is going on in the scene at that moment. Look beyond the initial response in your minds eye and focus on what else is happening. What is behind the smile. Maybe her nose crinkles, or his shoulders relax. Is there a noise? A feeling? Observe in the real world and bring that into your created world. Seek new. And if they have to smile (again) find another way, like a grin or a beam or perhaps a smirk. Finding new words will always enrich your writing.

Sunday Meditation – Patience

Patience. Some things simply take longer. They surpass the deadlines we assign them, present problems we failed to anticipate and highlight how poor our effort has been. We often expect to be able to bend and control for speedy results. Yet sometimes the work we do isn’t ready. This is the point many give up. They move on to the next project, building up a collection of unfinished or rushed works. But this is the moment to choose and to decide to learn from what we are actually undertaking. When we toil for the work, giving our best effort each day to it, our patience is rewarded. We have a finished project that has shaped us along the way, moulding our core and equipping us with a wealth of new skills and understandings, and we receive the benefit being lifted from amateur to professional.

Sunday Meditation – Try

Try. We hold back too often from fear of not being perfect, of getting something wrong, of not having all the answers. We stay silent and still and face the regret after the moment has passed. Without making an effort we will never get better. When we try we get rewarded. We gain an understanding of what we have learnt and what we need to work on. This is the reward of stepping forward and fumbling with a new skill. We are surrounded by people who have mastered what we are aiming for and they are willing to help us move forward into new territory. Yet until we try, casting aside all self doubt, the information we need to continue on will not be given. So be brave, step forward, try. Learn, improve, try again.

Sunday Meditation – Fear

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Fear. The only cure is action. There is no way around that. We can allow fear into our lives, crippling us and our dreams. Or we can face it head on and go through. In fear we sit and watch others, with envy, accomplish what we long for. But with action, we can join them. What we fear almost always never comes to pass. What we think will happen, those scenarios we play on repeat in our heads, fails to be the reality. When we face fear, stand it down and walk all over it we realise it was only in our heads all along. And with one victory comes more success. We want to tackle more of what we fear because with courage we know we will win and those boundaries we thought were holding us back, we can see them as the excuses they are. Have courage, take action.

Sunday Meditation – Happiness

Happiness. We are responsible for our happiness. No one else can make us happy just as we cannot make another person happy.  We can contribute towards another’s happiness with the power of our relationships. Those people we think of when we think of being happy, but happiness has to be there to start with. It is internal and seeking it externally in people or things will only lead us further away. Stop running and strip back the layers the world coats us in and embrace who we are and the values that speak to us. That’s where we find it along with honouring those values. This is an attitude and therefore we can wake up and choose happiness regardless of the emotions we may experience that day.

Sunday Meditation – Thankful

Thankful. For those people who believe in us before we believe in ourselves. For their consistent support, reminding us of what we have done already. For assuring us of our capabilities by encouraging us to follow through. For reminding us of our vision in those moments when we question why. For allowing the sacrifices that we make, which often involves our own time with them. For stepping up when we need help. We never accomplish anything on our own. There is always a team of people who believe in us, our strengths and our dreams. Who get behind the scenes to remove obstacles out of the path we are carving out. They make our journey easier and we would never reach our goals without them. May we be thankful each day for those people and may we be fortunate enough to have the privilege to join someone’s team and bear witness to their greatness.