My husband recently insulted me. He didn’t mean to, and I’ve come to the conclusion that he was correct, so I’ve forgiven him, but at the time, what he said insulted me. He called me weird. Let me give you the background.
I came upstairs to bed crying. He was already in bed, half asleep, and he rolled over to me all concerned and asked me what was wrong.
“Nothing. I’m making revisions to an emotional part of my novel. Dodie just turned down Chris’ proposal.”
He snapped on the light. “You’re crying because of something two FICTIONAL characters, in a story YOU made up, did?”
I grabbed a tissue and wiped my eyes. “Yeah.”
He turned the light back off and rolled over. “That’s just weird.”
OK, so he didn’t say I was weird, he said I did something weird, but it all amounts to the same thing in the end. And I took offense at it. I asked why it was weird. He said they weren’t real. I told him they were real to me. He said that was why it was weird. When he realized he’d hurt my feelings, he tried to back peddle.
“I didn’t mean weird. I just meant that it was unusual. Maybe eccentric. ”
“I don’t think so. The author cried in ‘Stranger than Fiction’.”
“That’s because she knew that a real person was going to die.”
“OK, the author cried in ‘Romancing the Stone’.”
“Well, movies paint authors as eccentric, then.”
“The other authors on my forums talk about their characters doing things they weren’t prepared for. I think it’s natural for the characters to take on a life of their own.”
“Well, then all authors must be weird.”
That’s about where I gave up and decided he was right.
Of all the art forms in the world, the art of story-telling, whether it be orally or with the written word, comes closer to the true definition of “creation” than any other. We truly make something from nothing. When we weave our tales, our characters come to life, not only for us, but for all who hear or read our story. They become real because of the emotions they stir in us, and because of the way they change us and our behavior.
When I read the story of Job in the bible, I react differently to Job’s character depending on the stage of life I am in. As a young person, I could not relate as well to Job’s struggles. Once I became a mother, the grief Job must have felt at the loss of his children became very real to me. I could not relate to his financial losses until I suffered a bankruptcy and lost my home. I could not relate to his health crisis until a heart condition meant I could no longer enjoy all the activities I once did. As individuals with unique experiences and perspectives, we each relate to characters in stories differently. Never having been in the military or been touched by it in my family, I cannot relate to the soldier or the soldier’s wife the way another woman might be able to. But my unique experiences will give me strong emotional reactions to other characters that woman may not understand.
As a story-teller, I may be weird, but I’ve decided that is ok. It’s my job. I have to live in a dream world where fictional characters become real, because if they aren’t real to me, I can’t make them real for my readers. And if they aren’t real for my readers, I can’t reach my readers in that deep emotional part of their spirit where my characters become teaching tools or catalysts for change. After all, isn’t that what story-telling is all about?