Sunday, July 5, 2009
In stories as in life, characters are revealed both directly and indirectly. An author characterizes directly by telling the reader about a person in the story. Is she lying? Is he evil? Is she genuine? The author tells the reader what to think and how to feel about particular characters. But those same characters are also revealed indirectly by what they say and do, and by what others say about (and do to) them. It's up to the reader to determine, based on those statements and actions, each character's true nature. There are often contradictions between what the character says and does (and what the author says about that character), but hopefully the reader has enough information to form an opinion.
Contemporary authors generally stay out of the way of their characters. The characters' words and actions speak for themselves, and authors are unwilling to step in and impose a narrative.
My dream superpower is invisibility: I want to go in and out of rooms without notice; I want to sit in that empty chair and listen to conversations, filing away details for future use; and I want to be able to disappear from sight when my energy has disappeared. Although I have to say, this certainly isn't the healthiest superpower. There have been times when I've felt invisible, as if I were haunting without notice: I've felt physically and emotionally slight. These were not good times. I was weak and not powerful. And yet that inclination is still there.
Anyway, I was thinking about the fact that a little self-deception goes a long way. When I first started working with the public, I followed the creed, "fake it 'til you make it." By acting friendly and happy, soon I would feel friendly and happy. At some point I started telling myself and others that I "love" meetings - the coming together of minds in order to discuss and reflect on the status of things. Goals, visions, etc. Of course I didn't love meetings. Who does? But somewhere and somehow, this idea that meetings and training sessions are positive has crept into my mind and stayed there.
The same thing goes for weddings. I absolutely dreaded the social nature of them. So many people, so much small talk: I despise small talk, I resent it with a burning passion! Trifles! And eating in front of people; that's never comfortable... Then there's the dancing... But again, somewhere I started telling myself that I loved weddings. I looked forward to them. From picking out a dress to google-mapping the directions, I enjoy each and every part of the wedding-guest process.
This past wedding was special for a number of reasons. My roommate from college, all four years, was marrying a man of whom I approve. For better or for worse, I'm not one of those people who likes everyone - I can see the good in everyone, I can appreciate each person's quirks, but I don't like or approve of a person without good reason. I need time to observe that character, to see if his actions match his words, to see how others treat him and think of him. And the groom has passed with flying colors. This couple represents to me what marriage is and should be: two partners in life, supporting and loving each other with humor and compassion; two people who bring out the best in each other.
The reception was on a boat; it was rainy and gray. While not the ideal wedding conditions, the rain was far less severe than originally forecast, and by the end of the night, the rain had stopped and we got an excellent view of various firework shows along both sides of the river.