Writers are people. And like all people, we’re complex, with lots of interests. This post today is to remind myself how important it is to pursue those other interests too, because they develop us into full, healthy people with numerous facets.
Being a full person who pursues multiple goals and interests is important for reasons that have nothing to do with writing. That said, having multiple facets never hurts when you need to develop a variety of characters.
It’s always fun when some of those facets don’t line up in an expected way.
FOOTBALL AND THE ACADEMIC
I’ve always loved learning and viewed learning as an adventure, so I did great in school. Totally overachieved. Had a good long-term memory with lots of knowledge of trivia. (I was even captain of my high school quiz bowl team back in the day. Good heavens, 10 years ago!)
This is the side of me that is probably most obvious when you meet me, especially when our relationship is an academic one, such as professor-student.
Well, my last year at Bama (Roll Tide!) I was enrolled in a course on narratology. It was a blast. The prof was a lot of fun. Really off the wall in his style and super-informal, which made all of us comfortable.
After class one day, a classmate and I were talking about the upcoming SEC Championship game against Florida. I had gotten tickets. We hadn’t realized “George,” the professor, was behind us, and he looked at me with this expression I can only describe as stupefaction.
“You like football?”
I told him I had grown up a fan of the New Orleans Saints, with a mother who was a rabid Saints fan, and I that I also loved the school team. (One of the best in the nation, historically speaking.)
George looked as dumbfounded as ever. I will never forget what he said next:
“It’s just not often you link the hyper-intellectual with the football fan.”
I still don’t know whether to consider that an insult or a compliment. But I will never forget the comment.
I guess you don’t link the “hyper-intellectual” with the football fan if your idea of a football fan is the stereotypical beer-guzzling, blue-collar worker who shouts obscenities at the team.
I happen to love the team spirit of rooting for “our boys.” And I love the strategy involved in American Football. Compared with some other sports a lot of strategy goes into each play, both on offense and defense.
THE SIDES OF ME THAT AREN’T ACADEMIC
So, there are lots of facets of me that aren’t connected with my fiction.
They keep me sane and help me approach my fiction with a wider horizon and a larger base of knowledge and personal experience.
I feel that they deepen my fiction. They make it more real and make it more of a personal reflection of who I am.
- One of my favorite characters in my books grows up to be an academic and essayist. He is awesome. (I joke that if he were real I would totally be in love with his adult self, except that I know him well enough to realize I’m not the kind of woman he would be attracted to. I’m nothing like his wife!)
- Learning Spanish and traveling to Spain influenced everything from Herezoth’s magic language to its architecture.
- I’m one of those crazy cat ladies. No shame about it, either. One of my favorite characters in my first novel has a cat, and he features pretty prominently in a couple of scenes (one of which I totally ripped off from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Yeah, there’s a reason that book’s not published.)
- I wrote a short story about football. And football being as militaristic as it is, it kind of helped me play-by-play some skirmishes in my fantasy novels. It helped me think about the importance of blocking when you’re trying to make an offense move, for instance.
- I’m a very faith-filled person, and I’ve studied a lot of theology. This not only helped me craft some kind of a religion in Herezoth, but really helped me flesh out one character in particular, a woman who exemplifies what I try (and often fail) to live as faith.
- I love, love, love little kids. The time I’ve spent with my nieces and nephews, watching them grow and develop, observing the way they talk and act, has really helped me develop kids as characters.
CHARACTERS NEED MULTIPLE FACETS TOO
On a related note, don’t forget that your characters, like you, should have multiple goals and pursuits. Multiple strengths and weaknesses.
Some of those facets can definitely be things people wouldn’t put together: like an academic bent and a weakness for the home team.
Some of the best moments in fiction are when different interests and goals enter into conflict. When one threatens another.
Striving to achieve a balance between life and work, between relationships and hobbies, is something we all struggle with. Why should your characters be any different?
So, what are some facets of you that those who have only known you a week won’t know? How have other interests influenced your writing?