Life, like a well-plotted novel, can jolt one from the expected journey along a path never considered nor conceived, a place of pitfalls and pratfalls, of modesty and no time for it, battling fears and anxieties, moving forward, always forward.
And so it should be for our characters as well.
As writers, a large part of our job is describing circumstances and character emotions in a way to help a reader feel the pain, the terror, the indecision, the last hope dashed. A character’s struggle and vulnerability—as well as our own—often dictate personality.
My life’s path recently took me to places I never considered, and through the experience, conflicting emotions tore at me, sent me to my knees amidst tears and crying out. As a writer, my job is to write about such things.
I never thought I would push a long piece of plastic up my penis, and I certainly never thought I would be grateful for the opportunity to do so. When first explained of the eventuality by the urologist, my mouth dried up, hands shook, my mind a tempest.
The experience started out as expected, a simple outpatient hernia operation. I had undergone a similar “procedure” five years before to repair the left side; this time, the right side had broken loose. Nothing unusual expected: ten days off work to recuperate, the first few days fogged by pain medication until the discomfort eased.
Life’s plot chose another direction.
Three days after surgery, my wife, Linda, rushed me to emergency because I could not urinate no matter how much I tried or begged for it to be so (rushed is an exaggeration since the hospital is 45 miles away). Think of the growing urge to go, increasingly uncomfortable until you reach the bathroom and find the only stall occupied. Seconds waiting turn to squirming, when finally, you hurriedly push past the person exiting the stall (or urinal) and sigh with relief. Only relief didn’t happen.
I staggered into the emergency room; immediately the nurses realized my distress, sat me in a wheel chair, and at my request, pushed me to the nearest bathroom. I tried yet again, a dribble of no consequence despite the monumental effort.
An eternity later, a catheter was pushed up my manhood: sharp pain followed by relief as I lay back, knotted shoulders slowly untied, panting returned to normal breathing.
Three days later the catheter was removed, and two days after that I was back at the emergency room, another catheter rammed up my personal parts. Once more, warm relief followed burning pain.
Thoughts of suffering and death played through my mind.
Two days later, I learned to appreciate that sticking a long piece of plastic tubing up the narrow passage into my own bladder every six hours is a good thing.
Anybody who knows me will agree that I am a private person, that I do not share details of personal hardships except in passing or as anecdote to a more appropriate story. Why now with relative strangers who follow my blog?
As an anecdote for the larger picture—your characters must suffer!
As creator, you must climb into the character’s psyche, live their thoughts, and show the frailty of what it means to be human. We have all ran the emotional gauntlet, simultaneously confident and rattled by doubt, excited and terrified at the same time. As writers, our experiences ignite ways to describe and define the actions of our characters. The internal emotional battles we face daily are examples we can use to give our characters well-rounded personalities, traits that make a character real and life-like—it is important we show those competing emotions to our readers.
Dig deep and you will find the dichotomy of your own emotions, and within those opposed feelings, a character can evolve from a mere skeleton to a fully fleshed out person that readers can call a friend.
See you on the next page,