Conduit

I have this main character named Jacklyn.  As I delve into who she is, I find I love her more and more.  She is a strong woman, vulnerable but bad ass.  She is confident in her sexuality.  There is never a question of whether or not she thinks she’s pretty.  She knows she is.  She is foul mouthed, sarcastic, and a bit of a geek.  Her logic?  “If I’m going to be a superhero, I want to be just like the ones I grew up with.”  She’s dramatic and romantic, believes in fighting the good fight and, as her character grows and evolves, she begins to see the guns she carries as the only source of power she can truly rely on.

Whoops!  Where did that last bit come from?  There are plenty of things about that description of Jacklyn that feel like natural extensions of portions of my psyche.  There are some, one more decidedly than others, that I don’t feel terribly comfortable exploring.

Guns scare the crap out of me.  I view them as death machines.  I hate them.  HATE. THEM.  Which is why it’s so weird that one of my favorite characters to write loves them so much.

So how do you write a character with values so different from your own without completely endangering your belief system? Well, for one, you can create a counter balance.  The story’s co-lead character is Kyp.  He refuses to touch a gun, thinks they are instruments of destruction.  He feels that if a tool can only be used for destruction, it should not exist.  He is not against violence to protect others, but he understands the danger of relying on it too much.  He prefers to use his supernaturally-gifted strengths to find another solution.  In this way, he is my voice in the story.  In many other ways, he is nothing like me – there are moments in which he can be an emotionless drone, and he often behaves as though everything is a game of strategy and not the lives of other people.  But he provides that ability to speak my views on the topic within the story.  Is either correct?  No.  They are two characters, disagreeing as people do in real life.  There isn’t always an easy yes or no answer.

You can also try to understand the reasoning behind the value in question.  Jacklyn likes guns.  Why?  They make her feel like she has power.  Why?  Because her own personal supernatural powers were taken away from her before and she feels like guns are a more reliable, more concrete, source of strength.  Does she struggle with this?  Yes.  She isn’t entirely comfortable. But she isn’t entirely uncomfortable either.  Do the guns help her out of situations Kyp’s “alternative methods” may not?  Yes. But other times, Kyp’s method is smarter.    Is Jacklyn’s gun toting a departure from her core personality?  Somewhat, but it also plays into her need to be dramatic, to be showy, to be the next Lara Croft.  Does it matter?  No – Jacklyn needs her guns.

There’s a danger in opening yourself up to that method of thinking.  You can actually develop sympathy for the other side of an argument – an interesting journey, and one that might frighten you.  But the important thing is that you remember your role as a writer.  You write what you need to write because it’s what the character dictates. You never ask yourself what you are okay with writing, what would embarrass you.  You never ask yourself what would make the plot easier.  You never ask yourself what other people will think.  You write the thing based on the characters you have created.

You are the conduit through which your character reaches the world.  You truthfully ask yourself how a girl like Jacklyn would cope with a loss of power that led to her own injury as well as the deaths of others.  And when you find your answer, you don’t question it.  You simply write.  The rest will, hopefully, fall into place.

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12 thoughts on “Conduit

  1. Ooh, this dual personality type issue comes up for me in one of the books I’m outlining. The story I’m working on is about two girls. Allyn is an outcast and an atheist (sort of like me). She gets paired for a school project with her exact opposite–a girl raised in a fundamentalist Christian household. It’s going to be interesting balancing my strong beliefs with the beliefs of a character so unlike myself. It should be interesting and I’m kind of looking forward to how I develop the characters and their friendship.

    1. That sounds very interesting! I want to read it. The first thing I would do (as crazy as this sounds) is get into a lot of (probably heated) discussions about religion with people who believe very differently. It is always an interesting activity, and you get to clearly see the other side of the argument. You also get to see the really badly drawn arguments people make on a subject. Which…well, just because somebody believes something, doesn’t mean they know how to defend it, right? It’s a character building exercise! 😉

      And also, HI JEN!!! 🙂

      1. Also hi!

        I have a friend over at livejournal who is a conservative Christian (although the most liberal one I’ve ever known and we get along great). She’s already offered help in background of the church’s beliefs and family life, although my character’s family is going to be a little more extreme.

        I frequent a lot of religious debates (just to read) so I see a lot of crazy stuff on both sides). I don’t plan to make the atheist character perfect either. She’s going to come off as a complete jerk, making fun of the new Christian girl. But eventually they will learn to get alone despite their differences. It’s going to be one of my hardest projects to work on because I do need to do research. I went to Catholic school for 13 years but that was a long time ago and most of what I know of fundamentalist I read at fundies say the darndest things (and some stuff I see in other message boards–they all sound like tools). I want things to be more accurate than that.

        1. Nice! Both characters sound like they will be well rounded “people,” which is probably the most interesting thing you can do with a character. If you read a book and never go, “Okay, I like that character, but that was a little annoying,” the story is probably flat and one dimensional. Everyone, even the nicest people, are a little bit of a screw up. And even the worst people have some redeeming quality.

          I love how much work you’re doing on this and how you definitely want to make sure people are fairly represented. I can’t wait to see the product of this! Keep me posted on your progress!

        2. I feel like I’m stepping into a conversation where I don’t belong, and you may never even see this, but what the heck–here goes.

          At any rate, I am a Christian (although I don’t particularly like the loudmouths who choose to represent the rest of us online). My personal “evangelism” or “proselytizing” philosophy involves a lot more listening than yelling, and I prefer kindness, compassion, and grace to rudeness, intolerance, and arrogance. But, if you want a look into the mindset of the most obnoxious of “Bible thumpers,” I think Penn Teller expressed it best. He is of course agnostic. However, he does understand why people of faith feel strongly about sharing it–even obnoxiously at times. He compared it to someone standing on a road, and a bus is coming. The bus will hit this person if he doesn’t move out of the way. But said person doesn’t believe the bus is coming. So a “proselytizer” might try to reason, or plead, or whatever to convince the person of this oncoming bus. But eventually they’re just going to tackle the guy and knock him out of the way.

          Teller has not been persuaded. He is still agnostic, still doesn’t believe in the oncoming bus, so to speak. But I think the analogy gives an accurate glimpse inside the head of the more obnoxious, outspoken evangelists of the Christian faith–they are shoving people out of the way of the oncoming bus. Hopefully that will help a bit as you shape your fundamentalist–this is what she would believe she is doing, even if she’s doing it in a way that is off-putting.

          Okay, I’ll stop poking into other people’s business now–sorry!

          1. Thanks for the comment. I actually do understand that, although I find it really annoying. I prefer the Christians that “preach” with actions instead of words. I mean, 90% of the people I know are Christian and they aren’t out trying to convince me to change (although the wife of my one cousin comments any time I write anything atheist saying how sad she is for me… but I love her, she’s family).
            Anyway, I was thinking in the story, her parents were the real vocal, save people from the bus kind of people and taught Mary the same but since starting public school she’s realized it’s made her an outcast. With Allyn she’s more subtle as they begin to discuss their beliefs.

            I may tend on the side of mocking religious beliefs but I genuinely do consider their beliefs and understand a lot of why they believe. Like my cousin’s wife–she’s a save someone from the bus kind of person but she’s been respectful when I’ve told her I’m not interested. I know she is genuinely concerned for me so I don’t argue with her. She’s a good person.

            Thanks for the comment–all suggestions are welcome as I develop the religious side of the story.

            1. I 100% agree on the actions over words bit. I find the loud-mouthed and obnoxious to be…simply loud-mouthed and obnoxious. :-p I think it does far more harm than good, really. But I do get the mindset.

              Much luck with your writing! 🙂

                1. I’m wishing for an edit button! I typoed by leaving out the “and” between Penn and Teller. And I think the comments were actually Penn’s instead of Teller’s. Which bugs me. A lot. Why can’t I fix it??? *wails* (I will feel extraordinarily stupid if there IS an edit button, and I just missed it.)

                  Anyway, you didn’t see it as me being pushy and shoving myself into a conversation that was really none of my business. Hopefully Jen didn’t either.

                  1. LOL – the edit is up there right next to the time and date of your entry. But it is very small. LOL

                    I think when a person puts something up publically, they don’t mind others chiming in and discussing. So, no worries. 🙂

  2. The characters you write always end up an extension of yourself. Whether they are exactly like you or the exact opposite, something of you ends up in them. And often times, especially in tales that have clear heroes and villains, the duality of your soul is revealed. Just make sure not to let one take over more than the other or you may find yourself in the predicament of Dr. Jekyll. LOL!

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