During the past few days on Claudsy’s Blog, discussions have risen about many issues. Definitions and roles began this journey of the week. A killer interview with Walt Wojtanik kicked over a massive rock to cause a landslide of hits and comments for both Walt and me.
I announced a guest blog that I’d done over in Pat McDermott’s kitchen, and took on questions about illiteracy in America yesterday. Sort of looks like I’ve been spinning the wheel of subject chances, doesn’t it?
The idea of subject chances sums it up very well. Claudsy’s Blog has always been a morphing kind of place. Like most people, I have whims. At present I’m redefining parts of blogs, types of writing projects, and future possibilities. I’m exploring both the writing world and myself.
My explorations have created a need to jump hurdles of my own making. Trained as a sociologist, with degrees in psychology, etc., my vision of the world tends to be a bit more esoteric than some people’s. I can’t look at something and see only one aspect. Too many factors go into the overall impact of each subject’s aspects.
Character building, for instance, by my current definition, refers to characters created for my stories. Developing a teenager for a short story or novel, as one example, requires knowing how a child is likely to live in a specific region, with specific types of parents, living with specific limitations, boundaries, etc. Every good writer builds a character with care and craftsmanship.
Finding character traits and circumstances doesn’t always take vast amounts of time. This afternoon a story came across my news feed, which carried one of the strongest characters I’ve seen in a very long time. The young lady in question was perfect for an idea that I’d been working on for a while.
A 15 year-old girl suffers from a rare, debilitating disease that has determined her entire life. She cannot eat as others do. A combination of an autoimmune disease and severe food allergies forbids her to eat anything by mouth other than potatoes. Sounds fictional, doesn’t it?
Her hurdle of choice is to become a professional chef. This lovely young woman wants to cook for those who can enjoy the food she’s denied. And she’s well on her way.
Talk about character. This is the type of model that makes for exquisite story characters. They are real, living and breathing in the world.
You might ask what kind of story can be built around such information. Here are some of the plotlines already under consideration.
- YA—female lead enters cook-off where one of the requirements has the chef sampling her own developed recipe concoctions
- YA—female lead suffers from condition which forbids eating—must come to terms with the social ramifications of the condition
- Woman in late twenties who’s never gone out on a dinner date of any kind finds herself in a mandatory situation where she must attend such a function—perhaps work-related–and she either eats and becomes violently ill; or refuses to eat but must explain why to the other attendees; or she attends and explains her situation and proceeds to show everyone how she eats through a feeding tube. I know, drastic but doable
- YA—female lead who develops a close friendship with a boy, and then must disclose her situation when she won’t eat his birthday cake at a party.
- Additional scenarios can make for uncounted possibilities
Choosing the most viable scenario for the proper market is the key to succeeding. If this type of character is used wisely, several stories could come from it without having to change many of the social details. I would change quite a few of the personal details for reasons of sensitivity. Believe it or not, I don’t like exposing real people to unwarranted scrutiny.
The original story, I believe, was released so that other possible sufferers of this often misdiagnosed condition could check into its possible connection to them. I have nothing but the highest respect for this young lady and the struggle that she faces in coming years.
“Characters” like her keep my faith in human kind from sinking into the abyss of cynicism. I thank the heavens each time I find such a model for some of my characters. The next time you read a book with a character in it who keeps flashing through your mind for days or weeks afterward, stop for a moment and contemplate. Who was the model for this unforgettable character; what was the whole of her/his life?
Share your thoughts on this question of character hurdles and what they represent. Comment with your ideas, methods, and formulas.
Until then, a bientot,
For the story of Samantha Pecoraro and EoE (eosinophils of the esophagus), follow the link below.
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