Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bossy Lizzy Rules the Roost

Last night I was talking AT The Husband about something terrible that happened to us, just running off at the mouth, when he suddenly said, in the most heart-wrenching tone, “Are you trying to make me feel worse?” I continued on with a few more defense-laden sentences before I HEARD MYSELF. One last pitiful spurt and I then trailed off, my motor sputtered down.

Did I sound like a pessimist? I pride myself on not being one of those people. The Husband loves and likes me because I am upbeat, supportive, and capable. I’d like to report that my performance last night was an isolated incident but after analyzing myself for a long spell during the wee hours of the morning, I came to the conclusion, I’m developing into a whiner. Oh no. God forbid. I was raised to pick myself up by my bootstraps, to pursuit the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, to show strength in the face of adversity. I haven’t been performing well of late.

Life has a way of beating us down. It’s easy to see how. We pay the price mentally and eventually the mental blows take a physical toll. It’s our choice, how we perceive any particular life event. The well-worn cup half empty or half full adage applies. My cup is truly brimming, when you get right down to it. I know that. Then, why am I letting things bring me down?

I made a promise to Whiney Lizzy last night, I told her that she is still lovable, but she has to get a grip. I read her the riot act. She was listening, Bossy Lizzy rules the roost after all.

Of course, this morning I couldn’t help but consider the characters in my WIP. Are they three-dimensional? Nobody is courageous, idiotic, shallow, thrifty, selfish, altruistic, or beautiful or ugly one hundred percent of the time. Nobody.

Human beings encounter moods, setbacks, accidents, highpoints, death, flat tires, rewards, potholes, irritations, illness, regret, and react to these various incidents in various ways. It’s impossible to know how we will respond at any particular time, we never know. I’ve laughed when I should have screamed.

Do your characters surprise you? I say it’s good when they do, because if they surprise the author, chances are they'll surprise the reader and keep them engaged.

All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.


Helen Ginger said...

One of the best things about writing is when characters surprise you. Those who aren't writers have trouble imagining how characters that you create (make up) can surprise. But they can and do.

Keep smiling, Whiney Lizzie, especially when things are at their hardest.

Straight From Hel

ellen abbott said...

I've been dealing with a version of that lately only it's my husband. Nothing is good or right. Everybody's an idiot. I had to go out this morning and he asked (told) me to pick up some paper towels on the way back which I did, but instead of saying thank you, he complained about my choice of paper towels. Paper towels, fer cryin' out loud.

Jemi Fraser said...

I had one character who was pretty straight-laced and a doormat for her family. When she blew a gasket, left them high and dry, then proceeded to get rip-snorting drunk, it was so much fun to write!! Loved the surprise :)

Stacy Post said...

Don't be too hard on yourself. We all have meltdowns from time to time. I have to agree that adding a note of unpredictability to characters is a good way to make them three dimensional. In my current WIP, my villian unexpectedly shows remorse and reveals the motivation behind his actions. It startled me at first, but I ran with it and it adds an entire new layer of complexity. Chin up, Lizzy! Tomorrow may be a better day. Could be a great day. You never know.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

It's so important to make our characters full-figured. It's too easy to make a flat character--but boring. Thanks for this reminder!

Fireblossom said...

Yes, they do! My second blog, Objets D'art, is written in character, and that character very definitely had her own ideas, sometimes QUITE different from the ones I started out with, about how things should be and what should be said there!

Cloudia said...

If they live, they surprise us!

Aloha, Friend

Comfort Spiral

lakeviewer said...

They do! And they can take off without permission.

♥ Boomer ♥ said...


Say, I really appreciated your thoughts on 'collecting' - thanks for the visit.

Nancy said...

I'm feeling a little half-empty myself. Ghaaa I think it's the after-holiday blues. I get them most years, but this holiday season wasn't so wonderful, so the blues seem worse. Life does wear you down, and I have been giving myself the same lecture. I ditto everything you said.

staceyjwarner said...

the past few months i've felt i'm on an emotional roller coaster, i'm not sure who i am...it has been a crazy ride.

much love

L.T. Elliot said...

You're right. It's easy to get worn down by life and find the positives slipping away. The good thing is, you noticed. And that's no little thing.

As for characters, mine surprise me often. Sometimes, I have to whip them back into shape but other times, I love when they make me laugh.

Joanne said...

That's half the fun of writing, when the characters take on a life of their own, leaving me sitting back in surprise. I hope the reader will be surprised, too! Now, let me share what was said in my house recently, to someone who was whining ... "Do you want a little cheese with that whine?" It put things into perspective with a good laugh :)

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Great point!

Just like *we're* not always happiness and sunshine, our characters aren't *always* a particular way, either.

Mystery Writing is Murder
Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

Lauri Kubuitsile said...

I was working all day on character bibles for my new romance and your advice came at the exact right time. I must think 3 dimensional.

Those words have come out of my husband's mouth before too, I'm sad to say. I do tend to go on and it helps no one. I will try harder- thanks.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I've posted about this same thing. Serendipity lives on.

I admire you were able to actually hear yourself. That's a gift.


The romantic query letter and the happy-ever-after said...

I love the way your mind works and in answer to you question, yes. For my characters are often temperamental lunatic playing at normal so they have no choice really.
You have a lovely day.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Dearest Elizabeth,

What an encourager you are!!! I love your authenticity...but also the way you make me think about the writing craft!! Just brilliant!!! You are such a fabulous friend!! Just what I needed!!! So...methinks you doth protest too much...I would never categorize YOU as a whiner!!! Love you! Janine XO

Journaling Woman said...

Yes, my characters do rule the roost sometimes.

Sometimes we whine because we are tired and beaten down by life. But you'll pop back, I have a feeling.

Debbie said...

I love getting to know the inner workings of a writer's mind! I always learn the best things here.

Mr. Shife said...

You want to get the meltdowns and whining out of the way early in the year so you can have the rest of the year to be awesome. So you did just that and now it is back to our regularly scheduled programming. Hope all is well and it is always nice to get a surprise so yes indeed keep having those characters of yours full of mystery and uniqueness so we never know what to expect.

Crystal Posey said...

I am one of 'those people' and have to keep a constant check on it. The Husband is the one who is upbeat and laid back.

As for my characters, your point is definitely something to remember.