The recent announcement from a Twitter favorite of mine that she was trans filled me with an unexpected sense of joy. Obviously it has absolutely nothing to do with me, and yet reading about her shopping excursions and seeing her new profile pic with lovely, tasteful makeup made me happy. Not just happy for her, but happy.
So of course I had to poke at it it. To unravel it thread by thread. These emotions are important; these emotions bond us to our readers. How do we evoke them? Why do they happen?
After a bit of reflection and a bit of coffee, the answer came to me. It was the light that comes from someone settling into her authentic self. Someone becoming, completely, the person she is meant to be, without the concern of molding to others’ expectations.
When we start crafting characters (if we craft them; sometimes I feel as though mine live in a parallel dimension) we don’t know everything about them. We might know where they are at the beginning. We might know what they want in that moment. In the words of the incredible Kurt Vonnegut:
Whatever that thing is, it should lead to greater authenticity of your characters. They should be, by story’s end, more of who they are then they were to start. Without this kind of depth, characters are flat. Authenticity is the layer that adds humanity.
And it doesn’t always have to bring the reader joy to see a character become his or her authentic self; the inevitability of some types of authenticity form the basis for tragedy. You know where they’re going. You know who they really are. And this reveal of character will take them there.
Whether you’re currently writing or squirreling away for a writey day, collect these moments. Examine them for clues.When you can pinpoint the source of your emotional twings, you can do the same for your readers.
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