Friday, January 22, 2021

I GOTTA BE ME (Patty Blount)

 This month's blog post really had me scratching my head for ideas. Whose shoes would I most like to try on for a bit? One of my own characters? Or characters in beloved books I've read over my lifetime? It's really hard to narrow this down. 

I thought about Nancy Drew, the first character I'd ever wished to be. She lost her mom at a tender age and I would never wish for that. But the convertible? Yep. The best friends? Yep. The intelligence and the beauty? Yep and yep. 

In considering which of my own characters with whom I'd like to trade places, I almost gave myself an anxiety attack. Too many things have happened to these poor characters, things I'd prefer not having to experience. 

And that gave me an epiphany...I ALREADY HAVE walked in their shoes. There are lots of horrible things in this world. Bad news, bad people, bad luck, bad decisions. Exploring these horrible things through reading, through writing novels, provides a safe environment for us to develop compassion needed in the real world. 

I've never been a teenage boy, but I could write one in SEND by imagining how a bully so consumed with what he did could haunt him in every aspect of his life. 

I've never been a foster kid, never volunteered for the junior fire fighters squad, and never lost a brother, but I could empathize with one in NOTHING LEFT TO BURN. 

I've never been raped, but have been the victim of molestation by a neighbor, so yes, I believe I can write characters like Grace (SOME BOYS) and Ashley (SOMEONE I USED TO KNOW) with the proper levels of fear, guilt, anger, and disgust at certain family members' reactions to the crime so that I could elicit those same emotions from readers. 

When young adults pick up one of my novels, I hope they feel those emotions in ways that will change how they respond to similar situations in their real lives. I WANT teens who read SEND to stand up when they witness bullying. I WANT teens who read TMI to think twice before they reply to an unknown profile. 

So... to answer this month's question: there is no one with whom I WANT to trade places just because it's fun. But there are dozens of characters I have left in me whose stories I need to tell. I'll imagine myself in their shoes for just a little while, so that I can write their stories in ways that will allow YOU to trade places with them and hopefully, emerge from their stories with a deeper appreciation for what you already have. 

4 comments:

  1. nicely put. Every time I imagine being someone else, I think about who I am today and how I got there. Nope, not trading places. I'll leave that for my next life.

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    1. It's odd how we talk about trading places with people all the time, but when faced with choosing whom, suddenly we're perfectly fine continuing on in our own shoes!

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  2. Man, this is so right-on. Stories are powerful for this very reason.

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