A critique group I belong to met last Tuesday night and like always, the feedback I got was insightful and will make my work stronger. In other words, they nailed me. But one thing keeps happening there that also happens in every crit group I’ve ever been part of. Someone says something like this, and then the other heads nod:
“This (man/woman/child) is just not believable to me. A character you paint as so (rich/weak/stupid/religious/black/white/old/thoughtful/shameless) just wouldn’t (do that/say that/think that/eat that/try that).”
Point taken – partially. Unless I’m writing a farce, I can’t tell you about a quadriplegic who wins the Olympic 100-meter dash unless it’s the Special Olympics.
But people are quirky, and truth really is stranger than fiction. If I can’t make up people who are full of contradictions, none of them will be interesting. If I challenge some of your stereotypes in the process, good!
So, meet my son. I’ll call him Jim to protect his identity. He’s my life’s greatest challenge. We adopted him from an orphanage in Eastern Europe, and he is a bundle of contradictions. He’s a shrimp next to all the other third-graders, and he struggles mightily with some daily tasks that other kids have mastered. But put this kid on a soccer pitch, or in a martial arts studio. Or sit him at a piano. Magic. The little dude dominates his bigger peers. Or put him in a room with other kids – even much older kids, even teenage girls. They reject him, he persists, and in the end they all know his name and can’t wait to see him again. I’ve seen it happen more than once and I marvel. His social skills and confidence are off the charts. I’m jealous.
So thanks, Jim, for the privilege of sometimes being shocked by your baffling mix of struggles and triumphs. You remind me of some of my characters – or is that the other way around?