Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Stupid Human Tricks

A friend of ours just got caught embezzling. This is one of the nicest people you would ever know and intelligent. This person worked up the ladder to a position of responsibility and has never received less than the best evaluations. Why? To pay the light bill. I'm not going into specifics about the Stupid Marital Tricks that brought this on. I just want to use this situation as a springboard for thinking about character development.

No matter how good one of your characters is, they will never take on a real personality until you discover their tragic flaw(s). We all have them; it's the nature of humans to be imperfect. The most Holy Saint that ever lived had something they never showed the rest of the world, something slimy, possibly even evil, that they dare not admit to, even to themselves.

And that gives me a clumsy segue into the epiphany I had this afternoon about one of my characters. Maggie has always been a favorite of mine. She has always been squeaky-clean and an absolute paragon of virtue, somewhat of a Virgin Mary figure. I found out today that she is more akin to Mary Magdalene or maybe Guinevere. She does have a flaw, and it's a big one. As a matter of fact, this is the trigger that sets off the chain of events that leads to her death and John's conversion.

See, the problem is that Maggie, too, is human. She is still relatively young (early 40's) and as healthy as a horse. John is gone a lot. For long periods. He is also intensely devoted to his work. Maggie gets lonely and feels ignored. She also has hormones and instincts to deal with. Up to this point, she has been able to get along through having a rich fantasy life and masturbation. Being a non-liberated, non-enlightened woman, she is consumed with secret shame about this, but rationalizes it by telling herself that it's better than actually having a sexual encounter with another man.

Enter Thomas, a vampire posing as a psychologist doing research on ministers who wants to interview and study John, who is unfortunately out of town and won't be back for another 3 weeks. He is devilishly handsome and this somewhat hypnotic way of talking.

I don't know what to do,
and I'm always in the dark.
I'm living in a powder keg
and giving off sparks.
--Jim Steinman "Total Eclipse of the Heart"

The slide to Hell is greased with human failings. God help us, for sometimes we cannot help ourselves.

The Plan

Thanks for the encouragement, Debra! In my admittedly biased opinion, I think I have an excellent idea going. One of my biggest hangups the past few years has been the idea that I can't do justice to it. The more I write and the more I learn the craft, the more confident I have become. I think I'm ready now, but there's still that voice way down deep that keeps saying: "You only have one chance at this. If you blow it, you'll be a complete failure and the laughingstock of the world. Who do you think you are, anyway?"

It catches me off-guard sometimes and throws me into a funk, and I have to climb back up into the light. I hope it will shut up one day. In the meantime, I argue with it sometimes, but mostly try to ignore it and concentrate on realities. I am a good writer and getting better. I am, I am, I am! :o

I did get some work done on The Plan today, which I'll post to the Web site tomorrow. The feeling that I'm getting organized is really helping keep my optimism up, and assigning actual dates to the steps along the way and committing to them publicly helps as well. Instead of being an amorphous lump of goo that grows by the hour, this is turning into a doable project with a timeline. Mo' better.

Rant. Definitely not PC. Turn back now while you still can!!!

The Ten Commandments issue raises its ugly head again. To me, this one is a real no-brainer. The First Amendment not only gives me and every other American citizen the right to practice our religions, it also gives me the right to be free of other people's religions. "But this country was founded on..." Bullshit! "In God we trust" is not the founding principle of the United States of America. This country was founded on the idea of individual freedom.

No one has the right to force their religion on me. If we post the Ten Commendments in our public buildings and town squares, will we also give equal time to Hindus, Buddhists, and Moslems? What about Satanists? Pagans? Wiccans? Yeah, That's what I thought. What about the rights of agnostics, atheists, and the undecided? Are they also second-class citizens who have no right to express their views or enjoy their freedoms?

Tolerance and respect are major parts of the foundations of civilized societies. I exercise tolerance and respect for other people's beliefs, even when I don't agree with them. Even when they are downright offensive to me. We all have the right and the freedom to choose our own paths to Hell or Salvation. To all those who will not extend me the same courtesy, I say: "Keep your mind on your own business and your nose out of mine."

Can't we all just get a lawn?

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