Characters & Complexity

Recently, I had a bizarre moment. A person (we’ll call them Person #1) who has largely been kind to me–even going out of their way to be so–was portrayed by someone else (Person #2) as having a completely different, far less amenable side.

The tricky part of this was that I totally buy Person #2’s take. I trust their opinion, believing them when they say they’ve had this bad experience. But I also don’t think the kindness shown me by Person #1 is totally fabricated.

So it was throwing me for a bit of a loop, trying to square Person #1’s very-opposed-but-apparently-equally-genuine qualities. I kept thinking: “How can they be like this to me, then turn around and act like that to others?”

Here’s the truth, though: People are complicated, complex, mysterious creatures with shades of motivation, perception, and desire that can be difficult to impossible to untangle. Sure, some universals exist (at least among those not tormented by serious psychoses): We’re all selfish. We all want to love and be loved. We’re all afraid of something. We all see ourselves as the hero of our own story. But we can never entirely know what it’s like to inhabit another person’s shoes, because each pair of shoes is so marvelously unique. What to me looked like dissonance within Person #1’s character made perfect, logical sense to them.

I sometimes feel badly because I’m prone to the writerly habit of seeing the living, breathing people around me in character-terms. I pick up this person’s quirky gesture. I crib that guy’s unique cadence of speech. I tuck people into categories: courteous southern gentleman. Friendly, fun-loving party girl. Brash, bullying Type A father. Continue reading “Characters & Complexity”

Advertisements

In Character

Writing professionally necessitates the performance of linguistic/syntactical/genre-ic acrobatics, as you have to be able to write in a variety of modes, producing products as varied as reviews, articles, instruction manuals, press releases, and SOPs. It requires the creation of quality, well-communicated material, even when you aren’t particularly excited about the project at hand.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t have a favorite genre. In my nerdy little writer heart, it is the novel which stands unequivocally enthroned as the beloved. I was thirteen when I wrote my first one. Years later, now in my early late twenties, I’m writing them still.

But not every season can be one for storytelling. For a variety of reasons, this particular moment has me working exclusively on non-fiction projects. For the next few months, I’ll need to eschew my passion for fiction and devote my active writing time to less-fanciful projects. Continue reading “In Character”

Calligraphy & Character

This week at the Consulate, one of the local Chinese staff complimented my handwriting. She said it was beautiful, then added (incredibly sweetly): “Just like you!”

I’m not sure such glowing praise was warranted, but it led to my friend sharing with me one of China’s ancient idioms:

Zì rú qí rén.

Or, in its more stunning native script:

Character Like2Translation? “The character is like the person.”

In other words: Someone’s writing, the physical style of their words, is a reflection of the author’s being. Beautiful writing evidences a beautiful psyche; strained writing is the exterior reflection of a tormented interior. Continue reading “Calligraphy & Character”