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.