Friday, September 11, 2009

How much do we change?

Can't post on September 11th, without remembering with sadness the heroes and victims of 9/11. My heart goes out to their families and wish for them - all of God's blessings. Proud, as always, to be an American.

On a personal note, I've been thinking this week about how much we change or don't change as we grow older. Thanks to Facebook, I reconnected with a childhood friend recently. I found it interesting the things she remembered about me (and what I remembered about her). I asked myself, wow, am I still that person that hung out during long summers with her and talked about everything and nothing. The same person who cried about life's injustices, the same kid that played imaginative games and watched Luke and Laura soap operas?

On the one hand, yes, absolutely. We're formed by our childhood and teenage experiences and the friends we have. And that shapes the rest of our lives in a way. I'm not sure we ever really "change".

But, we do grow, I think. We come to understand things we didn't as kids. As adults we've had so many more "real life" problems and joys. We've finally gotten control over our lives and have been able to take our lives in the direction we wanted rather than where our parents decided. So I think we end up with layers to our personality.

And this got me thinking, of course, about writing. How the best characters, the most well formed characters are those that have layers (like Shrek - sorry couldn't resist). Characters, like people are not one dimensional. They should be formed by, not one event, but by everything they experienced before chapter one. I hate to spend time with the non-writing part of writing. But thinking about who the character really is, is probably the most valuable exercise I do. I don't bother with those "what's the character's favorite color" worksheets. But I do think and create their history. What they've done, and with whom. Have they been hurt? Have they traveled, gone to school, had children. What was their relationship with their friends, siblings, parents like? Those questions and more like them matter to the development of the character within the story. Thinking about my own transformation from childhood to today, has re-inspired me to make sure that I'm carefully giving my characters a full and complete backstory.

So, am I still the same person I was in the late 1970's and early 80's? I want to say, "God, I hope not." But deep down I know the writer I am today was born back then when I was full of daydreams - so I guess I haven't changed all that much after all.

What about you? Have you changed much from when you were a kid?

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