Dwight L. Moody said, “Character is who you are in the dark.” Story telling is the light that exposes the author. Hardship and disappointment have never been an excuse for me not to improve my own character. They have never been an excuse not to write. Anyone can shine on the happiest, sunniest days, but as Moody implies, character is a thing best understood in the darkness. The places we break, the places we fail, they give opportunity to demonstrate how we put it back together, how we pick ourselves up and try again. Sometimes it is the process and not the outcome that defines character.
Character examination is the true goal of any story. I write horror fiction because I want to examine my characters in the darkness. I don’t contemplate perfect heroes. I don’t examine relationships under the mundane routines of life. I don’t seek out cliche characters and place them in wonderful situations. I don’t want happy endings that are a forgone conclusion or a romantic vision summarized by “awww that’s so sweet.”
I fail. I make bad decisions. I say things I wish I could take back. I am strong, I am afraid, I am happy, I am sad, I am giving and I am selfish. I am many things on many days. My life has a narrative defined by the past and one that predicts some of my future. I make choices, sometimes they are well-informed and sometimes not. My choices have motives. Some I see and some I don’t see. My life’s work is to arrange all those conflicts, decisions and actions into a narrative that defines my character in a way I strive to have it witnessed by others, but mostly as I wish to see it reflected in the mirror. To have my character, when in the darkness, be the same as the one in the light.
And that life’s work is in my stories. I’m not afraid to contemplate people that I am not or one’s that I could never be. But in that character process I try to remain without judgment. I try to see them through them. To understand why they are on the path they are on, not assign my thoughts of what motivates them, but to look into their past and to examine their narrative. To pass on that raw information to my reader and let them decide the nature of the character…and if I’m good or lucky, let the reader find some examination of their own possible choices…the contemplation of his or her own character in the darkness.
Categories: A to Z Blog Challenge