Tuesday, 25 March 2014

RECOGNITION

RECOGNIZE: a word with several meanings. Take this one.
To admit as one being entitled to be heard.

The female protagonist in my novel, The Testing of Miss Taylor Jones, is a reporter who longs for recognition. For one thing, she is stubborn and is prepared to hang in there no matter how long it takes. Which we possibly might admire, or feel irritated with.:)

But as I delved deeper into her character she made me feel uncomfortable. And I never knew the reason at first. It didn't come to the fore until I had worked on my M/S for the umpteenth time. She was my leading lady and had every good reason to act the way she did. Especially in the 1890's when quite a few brave females, even Christians, were struggling to find their identity in a male dominated sphere. Therefore I couldn't lay the blame on this young woman, so I had to look elsewhere.

Only then did I realize that longing for recognition was deeply ingrained in me. Uh-oh. I was writing myself into the poor girl whether she liked it or not! I am not one to put words into the Lord's mouth, but I am sure the Holy Spirit gracefully challenged my heart at that point. In the sphere of my writing was my motive recognition of myself? Or was I, through my characters, pointing my readers to the Lord? That is what I have always set out to do, but sometimes my old self nature worms its way in. Not into my writing as such, but the REASON for my writing. This is a personal heart attitude I am dealing with.

I wonder if any of you authors write things you are dealing with into your protagonists' lives? Or maybe even into that of your antagonist? Hmm. Perhaps it might give the characters a more honest flesh and blood reality.  That is one reason why revealing a character's motives usually explains the homing in on the goal onto which they have locked their heart.

Maybe it's that confronting Bible verse telling us our hearts are deceitful that makes us delve into why we do what we do. So I guess that should also be true for the characters we create. We all want them to be more than make-believe cardboard cutouts.What think ye?




Author Bio:   Rita is currently a scriptwriter and co-speaker on a five minute Christian radio program, Vantage Point broadcast throughout Australia. She has contributed to several U.S. non-fiction anthologies for Adams Media and has two historical romances traditionally published. She belongs to several writers’ organizations and her weekly blog, http://inspirationalromance.blogspot.com, shares personal stories and author interviews. It has a good number of international hits. She and her evangelist husband also minister together in special presentations.


23 comments:

  1. Thanks for this honest, insightful blog, Rita! And yes, I will freely admit some of the main characters in my novels struggle with the very same issues I struggle with, or at least that I have struggled with in the past. With my most recent novel 'The Inheritance', I found it personally interesting that I really enjoyed writing the scenes where my male protagonist was very angry and bitter!! Hmm ... what could that say about me? I think, as you mentioned though, that this does give our characters more depth and integrity and allow them to be more than just 'cardboard cut-outs'.

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  2. Hah, so you enjoyed writing your male protagonist's anger Jo? Me too. I think actors also enjoy playing the role of villain. Maybe our writing is cathartic. I'm sure I'm learning more about my attitudes since struggling to find the reasons behind my characters' mind sets and actions.

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  3. Rita, I'm a firm believer in the remark by George Macdonald that a person may well discover truth in what he wrote. I vividly recall one of my characters being told (to my surprise) in a novel that she had problems with forgiveness - and that she had, in fact, never forgiven anyone. This was startling since one of the themes of the book was forgiveness and she was supposed to be the 'most forgiving' character. But as I wrote on, I discovered the truth about her (and me). She excused people and rationalised their behaviour, rather than actually forgave them. One of the great joys of writing, in my opinion, is the revelation God constantly gives me about what areas of my own life need healing.

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    1. "a person may well more from writing about attitudes than discover truth in what he wrote." A great quote, Anne. And that's what I'm learning as I flesh out my characters. And I'm glad it's not just me "navel gazing," but it can feel strange making such personal discoveries, can't it? And yes, God uses our own words to point out certain things we really didn't know about ourselves.

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    2. Rita, I don't think it's navel-gazing at all. I think it's a very special way God talks to us. In an autobiography, we tend to be blind to - or at least minimise - our own faults but in fiction, we are more likely to hold up a mirror to ourselves and see a bit more clearly.

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    3. Thanks Anne. I was hesitant to write this post and a couple of times I nearly took it off. I felt like I was opening myself to criticism, instead I have received kind understanding. We are all very human after all and the Lord knows our weaknesses, but He's also the One who can help us live in more honest and open ways before men.

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    4. I've been privileged to read a draft of The Testing of Miss Taylor Jones, and I very much enjoyed both the story and the heroine. Reading this post, I suspect I liked Taylor because I can see parts of myself reflected in her ... which now makes me wonder what God wants to tell me through Taylor (or other fictional characters).

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  4. Thanks for this honest post Rita. I know I often have my characters working out problems I have had to work through or am still trying to work on. I love how God makes us see the things we need to work on.

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    1. It seems our busy minds are working constantly, Dale. And if it helps us work out certain situations and problems, well hurray for our writing gifts!

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  5. Thanks for such an honest post Rita. I'm sure it's true for me that as I write about my character's inner musings and struggles, I'm exploring my own issues. It's very cathartic, but also makes for real characters, because we all struggle with similar human issues - different scenarios, but the same human battle with self centredness. I'm sure God uses our writing as well as our reading to touch our hearts and minds and give us the opportunity for transformation.

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  6. "I'm sure God uses our writing ... to touch hearts and minds and gives us the opportunity for transformation." I'm glad of that reminder, Carol. If our writing reaches people on a deeper level then we have succeeded.

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  7. I have always endeavored not to write about myself - even to not fictionalising incidents from my life - but I'm going to re-exam my characters in the light of this post, particularly in relation to Anne's quote from George McDonald!

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    1. The funny thing is at the time you may not realize you're writing your own experience. But if it is then perhaps it'll ring true to your readers.

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  8. Rita, great post! Thanks for sharing your heart with us. Sometimes the hardest characters to write authentically are the ones who are the most like us. In my current wip, my fifth book, I'm redeeming my bad boy hero and exploring judgmentalism questions in a faith context. I can tend to have a cynical attitude regarding whether or not people can be significantly transformed through coming to faith, in particular how fast that change can take place. This book is pushing all those buttons, which is a good thing because it's challenging me as I work through the editing stage of the book.

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    1. Sounds like a good read! I'll be looking forward to that one, Narelle.

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    2. Sounds like we're all becoming regular psychologists! Just kidding. But truly this is why some books really touch us because we can so readily identify with the characters. Narelle I think we all have that judgmental problem deep inside, but must learn to deal with it. Someone once said "when you point the finger, four are pointing right back at you."

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  9. Hi Rita, I've found journal writing the best help in understanding myself and my circumstances better.

    Like you and many other authors, I see the issues I grapple with appear in the hearts of my characters.

    And yes, I will admit, those who've messed with my real world, make appearances as antagonists in my story world. It's great therapy to write a well rounded antagonist or villain. Not for revenge, but to incorporate their motivation and backstory and process what we know about humankind in light of who God is in the midst of the darkness.

    We'd be foolish to ignore what God allows us to learn and not weave it into our stories. And I guess that's what will keep us at the keyboard for a long time. :)

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    1. I like your idea of journaling Dottie. That'd be like a genuine text book on attitudes and emotions you can consult whenever needed. Sometimes we can forget things we've gone through which were awful at the time. And then there's the answers to prayers when we're at our extremities. That is always uplifting.

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  10. I've really enjoyed reading your blog, Rita, and all the comments. It has been a problem to me that I have never been able to write adult fiction, mainly because I myself and real people I know as I see them get in the way too much. I seem not able to put myself into the shoes of other people, see things from their perspective..

    I am able to write children's fiction and surprise myself with working out some childhood issues in retrospect. Whether these stories are publishable is yet to be tested. Perhaps I'm still the new kid in the playground (I went to eight schools in 12 years) not knowing the local rules, trying to keep out of the way of the bullies and thrilled to find one friend.

    Do you have any hints as to how one can see other people objectively and mold them into credible characters?

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    1. I felt that way also when I first began, Marion. But it's always a great help to first know what your characters' goals are. Then their motives driving them to reach their goals. And that becomes the plot-line for your story.
      He wants to do this...Why? Because this happened in him in the near past or his childhood. She wants to do such and such but this clashes with his goals etc. That way you can flesh out your characters. And why not use your own experiences of how you felt at things that have happened to you?...but colour them up.

      I hope these few hints help a little. You are a master at research as I found by reading My China Mystery!

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    2. Sorry, that should be 'mould'!

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    3. Thanks Rita. I'll meditate on this!

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  11. Encouraging post, Rita. Yes, a bit of ourselves always manages to creep into our characters at some point, but I believe that brings realism and validity to our otherwise fictional people.Strangely enough, I find writing argumentative dialogue a load of fun and yet I don't enjoy it in real life one little bit! Not sure what that says about me, but I'm working on it! Thank you for your insightful post and for letting us get to know you better.

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