Saturday, January 16, 2010

People Can Surprise You

I just had a laughably petty experience--more petty, even, than anything I might have witnessed in junior high school--and it got me to thinking about characters and how they can surprise.

There are people we know who seem powerful and pulled together but who collapse under the slightest duress. Level ground is all they can handle, but they handle it well. And there are people--humble, unassuming people--who, when conditions demand, stand and deliver in shocking ways. People who don't display their greatness until serious trouble arises.

The latter is a rare breed, but it's a glorious thing to behold. It reminds me of the North Carolina state motto, To Be, Rather Than to Seem, which I love.

It's not fun to be shocked by the clay feet of someone you respected, but it is interesting.

And, more important on a writer's blog, it's valuable to think about with respect to the characters you write. I've never really taken advantage if this real human character trait. But you can bet I'll try to exercise this option in a story very soon. I imagine there's actually a great spot for it to play itself out in my current novel.

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