Nothing New Under the Sun

How am I supposed to create unique characters when I’m not even sure I know unique people?

Seriously, in my brief and all but halted experimentation with facebook, that was my take away lesson. None of us are unique. Everyone (mostly) works so hard to craft the most clever status updates, charming list of interests, and surreal photos, and yet each one has a twin even in my meager friend list.

Blogging generally gives me that feeling too. Hundreds of thousands of us would-be writers out here toiling away into the ether, pulling up the same ideas, same struggles, same issues. Each mom blog churns out variations on the same mom observations of the same classic kid foibles and fun.

If actual people are this predictable, how can I possible create charactes that are outstanding? Fact is supposed to be stranger than fiction, right?

Whoa. I’m really not trying to be a downer here. I’m feeling practically jubilant about the cast of Upturned Stones. I’ve spent significant time with each of them over the past couple of weeks, and three of the four biggies are alive enough to push back when I try to cram them into subplots or situations that don’t fit.

I’m hopeful that they are not two-dimensional cliches. My vision of them certainly isn’t. I’m not sure how to convey it on the page. I imagine the very thing that disturbs me about the facebook/blogger/twitter portrayal of humanity offers a lesson.

The common bits, those things that keep reappearing in everyone’s status updates and blog posts, exist because people within one culture share many experiences, and social networks are disgned to share those common experiences. Everything else, the detail that isn’t showy enough to list under interests, the inner turmoil that isn’t suitable for a status update, that is where real life is lived, and that is where an interesting charater starts from. The details beneath the window dressing. And from what I can see, internet personas, sadly even mine, are just that, window dressing.

Wish me luck as I furnish the complete houses of my characters. An at home mom, an out of work engineer, a feminist icon, and a retired sorceress with a dark secret all need my full attention.

5 thoughts on “Nothing New Under the Sun

  1. not a Facebooker, but is there a lot of angst, that which lies underneath? or are the statuses fairly upbeat or farcical?

    most of the ones my husband leaves are ridiculous. :)))

    my first notion is that in this Facebook world, interesting characters, like yours, would shine more readily.

    secondly, what lies within YOU is far more than a status, lists of interests, surreal photos. heart, truth, love; those I get from you by the bucketload. also an edge, and this is the sort of mind that creates great fiction.

    I'm looking forward to hearing how Upturned Stones develops. don't allow outside hoo haa to sidetrack that which you hold inside!

  2. Do you think the fact that I agree with you only strengthens your argument? I've often struggled with a similar concept – only life's most fun, interesting, glamorous moments are posted for the world to see (typically) which can easily make viewers feel that their own lives are somewhat lacking. When did it become unsatisfying to just feel… satisfied? Don't get me wrong, I like window dressings – just not the lacey, ruffled, bright colored kind that make/try to make you forget there's a window underneath.

  3. Anna, thank you… you are always so motivating! And Audrey, I'm a fan of how you boiled it down:

    When did it become unsatisfying to just feel… satisfied?

    Check out my mom blog post "On Nothing" (the link is on the right) for a post I did on that sentiment.

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