Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Monday, June 24, 2013

Tip O'Day #439 - Dig in Your Own Garden

Guest blogger Pamela Foster on herself and her characters.

At the recent Northwest Arkansas Writers’ Conference, someone asked me, “How do you keep all your characters from being nothing more than parts of yourself?”

“I don’t. And why on earth would I want to?”

The essence of the joy and pain and addiction of writing is exploring parts of myself that I keep hidden. Sometimes these treasures are buried deep, covered with false memory and justifications. Sometimes they exist within me for one brief moment of joy or terror or comprehension.

I’m not telling you I don’t base characters on individuals in my family or my friends or the guy in line behind me at Walmart. What I’m saying is that the quirky or evil or selfish or saintly characteristics I am attracted or repulsed by in others, are within me. If these emotions were not within me, I would not be drawn to them in others.

Jesus told us, “Do not say to your brother, ‘here, let me remove the splinter from your eye,’ when you have not yet removed the plank from your own.”

Or, as my grandma was fond of saying, “Go dig in your own garden.”

Let me show you what I mean.

I’m writing a western with two point of view characters who are mirror opposites of one another. Jeremiah is an emotionally deadened, haunted civil war veteran. Adeline is a naïve, innocent young girl. Jeremiah rides up a hill, kills three men, reloads his weapon and gets on with another in an endless series of dull, gray days. Adeline nurtures an abandoned baby, cares for a wounded man, and wakes each morning to a new dawn.

Both of those characters reside within me, everything beautiful and everything ugly in each of them.

Creativity demands I dig deep, find and then expose myself to the reader, in all my emotionally naked glory. The trick is the balance. Nobody wants to read 80,000 words of an author wading through muck; I certainly don’t want to write that book. Very few people will tolerate an entire novel of sunshine and roses; I certainly cannot pretend the world is always a joyful wonderland.

So, all my characters are me. I bleed all over every page while recognizing the beauty and joy within myself, as well as the darker side. I struggle daily to find the balance, to share all of myself with my readers, in the guise of my characters.

Pamela has written Redneck Goddess and co-wrote Bigfoot Blues along with Chris Simpkin. You can learn more about her at her Wordpress page found at http://pamelafosterspeakerwriter.wordpress.com/.

1 comment:

  1. Wow...this is so true! I never really thought of "where the characters come from" before, and I've even had a few people who really know me, say that some of my characters ARE ME, (of course I tended to disagree) But you've spelled it out so clearly now, I totally get it! Each one of them has at least a bit of me in them!

    I love your grandmother's saying...and plan to use it next time someone's digging in MY garden!

    Thanks for a very enlightening post!
    (Hi to Dixon too)