Real people: a story and a study

You see that quote up there under my header? I put it there because it’s something I’m reminded of every day. As people, we can be very unfair to other people. We put them in tiny boxes and compartments where we scrawl their name on the label and put the lid on so they can never come out.

I just went to my welcome class for BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) and I met seven other people. All from different walks  of life, all different ages. I ment a woman in her late eighties named Jerri, who, as the meeting wrapped up, put her hand on my knee and said “Since we probably won’t see each other again once we get put into different classes, I wanted to tell you how wonderful it was to meet you. I knew a Mirriam once; you’re both special girls.” I was so touched that I didn’t really know what to say, except that I had really enjoyed meeting her.

And then she did something I never thought I would hear an old lady do. She suggested we swap phone numbers.

See? I was shocked because I had put her in a box. And then she goes and pulls a practical teenager on me! Of course I switched phone numbers – and I’m actually excited to talk to her. She wanted to know what the best time was to call, where I went to church, etc… she was fun to talk to. I may have landed myself an honorary grandmother.

What I’m saying is, don’t put people into boxes. They may look drab and boring on the outside, but everyone has worlds inside them if you allow yourself to look closer. People are real.

And you knew it would lead inevitably to writing, didn’t you? Yep.

You know my biggest beef with YA characters these days? They’re unrealistic. They don’t even try to mimic ‘real people.’ Every girl is plain and trips over her own feet, as if ‘clumsy’ is the only flaw any girl can have nowadays and it somehow makes her more loveable. Every guy is totally hot and completely perfect and soooooo swoonworthy.

*cue shudder, euuuggh, and a lot of hand sanitizer*

If a character isn’t real, if they don’t have facets and flaws and habits and quirks, they won’t connect at all with the reader. If your character doesn’t connect with the reader, then anything you have to say won’t be communicated properly. You’ll basically have a speech impediment – except worse.

My characters have hard times. Mir was a lab rat struggling with forgiveness and worth. Vey is an emo rocker who knows he has nothing worthwhile in his life and doesn’t know what to do about it. He has a sensitive, sweet side that he doesn’t show anyone because he doesn’t think anybody will want to see it – until a deaf girl comes along and shows him the meaning of eternal love. Eristor was my first real snark – he had a hard past, he was sensitive and bitter and really unpleasant. Also, he was hilarious. Cayne, my NaNo MC, is a wreck.

You know what the key to these people is? They have real souls that have been dirtied by the world around them – and their journeys, though not rendering them perfect people, show redemption. Growth. The ability to rise from their circumstances, to live for more.

I guess you could say that the moral of all my novels, above every other moral, is hope – for real people. Because hope and the grace of God are what make life worth living.


24 thoughts on “Real people: a story and a study

  1. Mirriam, I can’t see the quote beneath your header, unfortunately, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t love this post. Love. 🙂 And I would really like to get to know your characters. I think they and I would get along. 🙂


    • Aw, thank you, Rachelle! Here’s the quote; it’s only showing up half the time and I don’t know why –
      “Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe.”- Neil Gaiman

  2. *Tigger imitation* EXACITALLY! rreer! I don’t read a *ton* of dystopian novels, but when I read YA, that’s primarily what I read – save fantasy. Every single character is tiny and hates it, leaving me going, “What? You don’t appreciate your tiny-ness?? I would give *anything* to be a size 1!!!” Gosh. And while I’m guilty of several pencil shaped heroines, I never make them regret it. It would just be degrading to them. And I don’t think I’ve ever written a clumsy character. Most of mine are rude…and mean…and…annoying…and now I’m wondering if that’s a good thing??

  3. Huh, since I read what you have on Monster, my characters are getting…odd. One has a serious problem with being told what to do by someone younger than him–like, I’m-gonna-pull-a-gun-on-you type problem. I’m writing more and more orphans and depressed teens…sigh. You are an influence on me!!!! Definitely not a bad one, though. 🙂 Example: KPop. 😀

  4. *cue “You Give Love A Bad Name” by Bon Jovi* xD I love you Mirriam. Your posts are always so wonderful and heart to heart. I love it. And this is a pet peeve of mine as well! I can’t STAND cilche, stale, “perfect” characters that YA authors brush the dust off of and plop them into another story. I’m certainly guilty of doing so, but it drives me bonkers. Every character should have a few tragic flaws to them. (Mir, Ben, Judas… ^_^)

    • *cue me jotting down the mental note to listen to that song* I love you too, Hannah =D You’re always so encouraging, even if it’s an email telling me to write more or you’ll kill me. Very motivating. EUGH, yes, cookie-cutter-characters are the PITS!!!!!!! Mir, Ben, Judas….oh yes. XD

      • xD Oh, that song is on my mental soundtrack for Breaking Shadows. Along with Blaze of Glory, Never Gone (Colton Dixon), Mess of Me, Monster, Why, Hey Jude, Dying in Your Arms, A Little Fall of Rain, Do You Hear the People Sing, On My Own, Little People, Never Alone, Beautiful Ending, and far too many others. xD But I also refer to the chorus of that Bon Jovi song when someone makes a hard-hitting point. “Shot to the heart, and you’re to blame, darlin’ you give love a bad name.” And that reminds me… WHY AREN’T YOU WRITING MONSTER?! I NEED MORE NAOW!!!!!!

  5. Wha–?? What happened to the rest of my comment! the middle got eaten up! O_O *reposts and hopes it works*

    Nice post Mi– *breaks off and gets distracted staring at the picture for the following 4 minutes*

    *sigh* Now I’m wondering if everyone will hate all my characters because I don’t know if they’re real or not… (I don’t know… I’m too close to see them really, so I don’t know if they’re fake or real because they’re real to me but probably not to anyone else)

    And no, I should not be on the internet… >.> *pretends was never here and whisks off to work on writing more Tare like I should be*

    • *hahahaha* “What on the prophet’s good earth could have DISTRACTED you!?” Oh, from what I’ve read of your characters, they’re awesome. Just….just awesome. From Tare to Small Ocassion.

  6. Boxes are mean. Well, not real boxes, I like them, just the figurative boxes that we get crammed into. And, I’ll admit it, cram others into, too. I’m guilty of it as much as — if not more than — anyone else. But I don’t like doing it. I try not to.

    My characters are slightly (very) messed up. I think yours have mine beat by a long shot, though. Yeah, your lab rat escapee makes my (will be) reformed assassin look like, well, I don’t know, but something rather pathetic. Ah well, it is my first attempt at writing. But, at least (hopefully) none of them are anything like those irritatingly “perfect” characters that I dislike so much.

  7. That was a really sweet story. 🙂
    I agree with how characters should e in order to connect with readers…that reminds me of when you or someone else was talking about Elsie Dinsmore and how her being “too perfect” prevents a close connection with readers (I heard part of one of the books in the series and read the back of another and think it sounds incredibly boring – and even my sisters think it’s dull). I know what I want my characters to be like if I ever get around to writing a novel.

    Thanks for sharing this post; it is helpful for me to remember to not put people in boxes as well. 🙂

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