Wednesday, February 3, 2010


I've been thinking of late, about labels. Or, more specifically, the human tendency to label not only what we come in contact with in the world around us but our very selves. It seems basic to us. In fact, I cannot think of a single tradition of thought that does not label to one degree or another. (I may very well be wrong about this so feel free to point it out ^_^)

I'm not one to knock the habit. If some part of us feels the need to identify and label then I'm all for it. Though of course getting to caught up in that aspect of life definitely has it's downsides, as we have seen proven time and time again.

It occurred to me that I have neglected this urge within my characters. Not every novel needs to have characters agonizing over who they are and what the greater meaning of their existence is but I think it would behoove (yes I just used that word) every author to at least consider the question.

How do my characters see themselves?

It seems so obvious I can hardly believe I've over looked it. I know my characters, I know why they do what they do and I further know why they think they do what they do ( the two are not always compatible). But how would the character define themselves if asked? What words would they use? And, furthermore, why?

We label ourselves by what we consider important: our beliefs, our goals, our tastes, our looks, our heritage. We define ourselves by what we hold as valuable, by what is of Ultimate Concern to us.

What is of Ultimate Concern to my characters?

In pondering this, I've discovered another theme within my writing that I had been previously unaware of. The majority of my characters find themselves living in a circumstance that directly opposes their Ultimate Concern.

I don't mean to say they find themselves in the enemy's camp while their families are being torn apart or anything quite so blatant but that their situation in life is opposite to what they want, what they value. For example: A man who's nature desires freedom and variety but has, by one circumstance our another, been made to live a life of stability, order, and changelessness. He is not a slave by any means but the label he would place on himself (in this case an itinerant wanderer) is in conflict with his life situation.

I'm not sure that I'm explaining this correctly or that I'm entirely making sense. Either way, let me know what you think



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