Friday, November 20, 2009

Today's Random Thoughts and Ruminations

Within each of us is the dichotomy of who we really are and who we think we should be. I suppose in terms of character development, this would be considered "conflict." The key to finding this "conflict", if you will, is through self-examination. Writers often start with what they know; themselves or those they are fascinated by. Who we really are is sometimes who we do not fully allow ourselves to be because somewhere along the line in our life, some external force told us it was not ok to be that way. So, we learn to contain it. The exception is when we are by ourselves, alone, with no potential for outside judgement. That's when our true self gets to play, come out of the box, express itself freely. Sometimes, if we're lucky, we find someone else or a few others that we instinctively know will not judge us. We instantly feel comfortable with this person, as if they have known us all along, as if they are already part of who we really are.

If I were to admit to one of my "conflicts," I would have to say that there is a disconnect between the intensity of my feelings on the inside and my outward expression of them. I learned at a very young age not to express what I was really feeling, to masquerade it, even disassociate from it. In other words, I learned to act as though I was not feeling anything at all. The problem begins when you get too good at it; you actually begin to not feel. Not in the moment, not after.

Exploring and displaying the struggles that a conflict or dichotomy poses to a character throughout a story reveals whether they choose to attempt to overcome it or submit to it. The dichotomy often can become the central focus of the plot or it can play a supporting role against the main thread. What's even more fun is to take the conflicts of two characters and play them against each other.

The dichotomy of my main opposing character is something I am still researching, but perhaps it is the struggle between wanting to be who they really are versus who they feel they have to be. This character feels shame about who they really are because they were told that being this way was not acceptable, that it didn't work in the "real world," that it wasn't good enough. This person has adopted an outward identity that is in fact opposite of who they truly are in order to survive. They create appearances which are meant to prevent others from seeing somebody they wouldn't understand.

Now it gets interesting if we explore the repressed character who is suddenly able to reveal their true inner presence to the other because that is how they are too. The opposing character expresses this aspect of themselves, they are not ashamed of it, they see no reason to hide it. This becomes the meat of the relationship between the two. They travel in circles, learning something about themselves from the other, switching places in their perspectives and motivations. Somehow the opposing "repressed" one gets her to feel, to bring her to a point of wanting to express those feelings, while she gets him to express the side of himself that he usually doesn't.

That's when we begin to see the dance of two souls. Sometimes that dance is brief, yet pivotal. Sometimes that dance goes on for a lifetime and it's not near long enough. Sometimes we're not aware that it happened at all until our ears are filled with silence and our feet have stopped moving.


  1. The internal conflict. Thats the big one for me. It seems like it has always been a struggle between the two side most of my life. Mostly the what I feel I have to be side wins out. Sometimes the who I am side is able to get out but that is rare and usually winds up causing a big knock down drag out fight. Its getting a little better but there is still a long ways to go.

    I understand what you are talking about with the disconnect between the feelings on the inside and the outward expression of those feelings. You are right. You wind up not feeling anything at all. Ive wound up not feeling for a long time and now that sensation seems so unnatural when I think I do feel something.

    Maybe the person who I am will win out for good someday and the struggle between the two will no longer be an issue.

  2. Your description of the dichotomy between the intensity on the inside and the calm exterior is so eloquently true. I look forward to reading more of your posts.