Never put off a task because of the time it will take…because the time will pass anyway and the task just won’t be done.
I feel this way about my writing all the time – sometimes I don’t write because what I need to do next will involve quite a bit of time to sit down and work through it. And so I don’t. But then that evening, or week, or month passes, and it’s still not done.
Success is the sum of small efforts – repeated day in and day out.
I know it. You know it. Even my 4 year-old knows it.
And yet I infuriate myself but ignoring it, sometimes. Why are we our own worst enemies? Our own antagonists, our own biggest weakness?
Well, before this turns into too much of a self-destructive monologue, I do have a point.
We are all deeply flawed, in so many ways, more ways than we would like to admit, or sometimes even realise. I’ve been thoroughly interrogating my own inherent biases recently, as most of us have probably been doing. Delving deeper within my own character that I feel comfortable with at times.
I think of myself as an overall good person, but the deeper I look, the uglier it becomes. We all have flaws and fears beneath the surface that we mostly put in a mental cupboard and ignore, until we have to confront them.
And so how does this relate to our writing?
Well, this is the same interrogation we should really be putting our characters through when constructing our stories. That thorough analysis of flaw and fear and going way beyond the superficial is so important and essential in developing multi-dimensional characters that ring true and become deeply relatable to our readers.
We can sometimes think upon our characters, like we do with ourselves, too kindly and not dig enough to expose what lies beneath. We present these characters, maybe with a bad habit or two, or with a slightly controversial world-view, but how often do we go further and mine our way into the ‘good’ stuff. The stuff that almost no-one will ever see from you until you’re pushed into a corner and forced to expose it.
And in some ways, that’s all a story is. Digging deep enough into a characters most flawed parts and forcing them to be challenged on those flaws and fears. Asking them to walk along the high-wire, or to dive into the deep end. Making them choose between their wife or daughter, or saving the world or their brother.
So this week I challenge you all to look even deeper within your own soul, and draw out the very worst of yourself. Jot down the worst thoughts and fears that are circulating on the bottom tier of your psyche. Acknowledge your flaws and imagine what situation would force you to act on them, to expose them to the whole world.
Then do the same to your characters. Whatever you find, amplify it. Make them even more deeply flawed, if possible. But balance it with all the great qualities and attributes they posses – and this goes for antagonists too, make sure they have plenty of good too, along with the flawed view of the world.
For example, Anakin Skywalker doesn’t see himself as the villain. From his own point of view, he believes that everything he does is justified in order to save his wife from dying. We can all relate to that. Would I murder a whole Jedi temple of younglings in order to save my wife…it’s a close one, but you relate at the very least to the feeling of wanting to save someone you love. The methods may not be as relatable but in the context of his own life, and his past experiences, you can see why he’s come to develop into the person he is. You can see those flaws and fears, those deeper layers that are not present on the surface throughout the first 2.5 movies, and even the Jedi council doesn’t suspect him until it’s too late.
Dig deep. Draw out the darkness, the parts of you that you’d never want anyone to see. Them expose them in the biggest way possible.
And suddenly your story becomes much more compelling and relatable. And you learn a little more about your characters (or yourself – after all, that’s where those characters come from).
So remember, we are all flawed from ‘a certain point of view’, in the same way that none of think ourselves the villains in our own stories.
Writing can be lonely, but it doesn’t need to be.
May the Force be with you!