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Who Are You Once I’m Not Wanting? by Paula Messina


Please welcome fellow member Paula Messina to the weblog right now…


Who Are You Once I’m Not Wanting?

by Paula Messina


Two sisters of their early thirties got here by
the checkpoint at Logan Airport the place I labored for the Transportation Safety
Administration. One of many sisters, “Merriam,” opted for a pat down. It fell to
me to display her. I turned to her sister “Sarah” and, in my sternest voice,
mentioned, “Stand over there and don’t transfer.”

I gave Merriam the identical command. “Don’t transfer.”

I adopted correct procedures. The pat down went
easily, and the sisters have been shortly on their approach.

Once I screened a wheelchair-bound, aged lady
with cognitive points, I bent on the waist in an effort to keep eye contact and
chatted cheerfully the entire time. That screening additionally went easily, and the
lady was shortly on her solution to the gate.

I reacted in a different way in each cases as a result of
the conditions and people required it. That is hardly shocking. Adapting
to completely different conditions and people is one thing we do instinctively. After
all, we’d be in sizzling water again and again if we weren’t adaptable. As
circumstances demand, we even alter our habits when coping with the identical

We put on many hats, however we neglect we’re carrying
them. We modify these hats extra skillfully than a juggler preserving a dozen hats
within the air. We’re masters at altering our habits to suit the state of affairs and the
people concerned.

You would possibly ask what these two sisters and the
aged lady should do with writing. They relate to character growth. In
order to be nicely rounded and imitate life, our characters should adapt as nicely.

One in every of Blake Shelton’s songs is “Who Are You When
I’m Not Wanting?” Shelton sings that he needs to know what a good looking lady
does when he’s not round, when he’s not wanting. Even when we may maintain our
family members, associates, and colleagues in fixed view, we are able to solely know a
portion of who they’re. We will by no means know what they’re like once we’re not
wanting. That’s not true once we write. We create the various worlds our
characters inhabit. We get to see what others can’t see after they’re not

Laurie Schnebly, writer of Plausible Characters: Creating with Enneagrams,
says, “We have all skilled altering our habits to suit the individual we’re
with. It is sensible to behave in a different way round your four-year-old niece and
your organization CEO, round your school roommate and your aged neighbor. That
does not imply you are placing on a false act. It comes naturally based mostly in your
relationship with every particular person.”

In my work-in-progress novel, Donatello, my shy
foremost character, turns into tongue-tied when he meets stunning Rosa. He tugs his
cap down over his eyes to cover his purple face. This similar shy man verbally pins
his parish priest to the wall for accusing Donatello of homicide. When his
preliminary efforts to cease Luciano from committing suicide fail, Donatello resorts
to humor. Luciano dissolves in laughter and lives.

Completely different characters. Completely different conditions.
Completely different reactions.

In my first move on the suicide scene, Donatello
spouted trite phrases to persuade Luciano to reside. Luciano wasn’t shopping for it.
Neither was my writers group. I placed on my pondering cap and went again to the
drafting board. I requested myself how would Donatello react on this state of affairs? The
reply was humor.

As soon as I had the important thing to how Donatello would
work together with Luciano, the suicide scene labored.

However there’s one other aspect to that story. Effectively, in
this case, three extra sides.

Donatello’s shyness might need postpone one other
lady, however Rosa is charmed by it. She’s as smitten as he’s. A special priest
would have thrown Donatello out on his ear, however Father Quaranta realizes he, a
man of the material, has sinned. And if Donatello’s humor had bombed, he would
have been attending a funeral. Humor was the best response for Luciano.

Our characters must be as adept at juggling
all their hats as we’re. And simply as we alter hats instinctively in our
day-to-day dwelling, we writers is likely to be unaware that our characters are doing
the identical factor.  Whether or not we spin our
characters’ completely different traits consciously or not, it’s a good suggestion to remember
of how differing personalities and occasions change characters and in the end
dictate a narrative’s course.

Stephen D. Rogers says, “As soon as I realized about
utilizing characters to spherical out the principle character by exposing different traits, the
strategy turned: What persona traits has this character not exhibited? What
sort of different character would deliver a type of out? For the principle character, I
repeat the cycle a number of instances.”

Rogers, whose quick story “Sensing the Fall”
seems in Black Cat Weekly #54, repeats the cycle for main characters
a minimum of as soon as.

“Whereas the rounded character just isn’t
one-dimensionally constant, the character needs to be constant throughout the
completely different particular relationships,” Rogers says. “For instance, the principle
character is just imply with one sure individual, and that imply streak seems
each time they work together.”

Veronica Leigh, whose story “My Brother’s
Keeper,” seems in The Saturday Night Publish, says, “I
often have a plot line in my head first, then as I am outlining the story, the
characters come into fruition (their names, personalities, histories) and it is
through the course of writing the story that I observe how my characters

To get again to these pat downs talked about on the
starting, that isn’t fiction. They actually occurred. Why did I act that approach?

When the sisters got here by the checkpoint
each couple of weeks, I patted down Merriam, who was present process most cancers
therapy. Every time, Merriam appeared sicker, weaker, extra determined, however she
couldn’t fly except she was correctly screened. The sisters have been uncooperative.
Their troublesome habits solely extended their agony and mine.

The reality is I recognized with Sarah. I knew what
she was experiencing, and I ached for Merriam. If it had been in my energy, I
would have waved the sisters by with none screening. I couldn’t do this.
By being dictatorial, I really made a horrible state of affairs simpler for the three
of us. Kindness and sympathy wouldn’t have labored with the sisters.

Leigh says, “Usually my characters who’re acquainted
and cozy with each other will present their closeness in dialog or their
demeanor. If there’s stress or a sophisticated previous, nicely, that too can be
apparent in how they deal with one another. It is a delicate stability between
propelling the narrative ahead and displaying character growth, private
arcs, and character interactions. It is a problem to not neglect one or the

“The character’s interactions with others –
whether or not they’re shut or strangers or enemies, should complement the
protagonist’s progress and contribute to the story arc,” Leigh says. “My
protagonists are by no means in the identical place by the tip of a narrative. The
circumstances, the plot, and the characters they encounter and work together with,
drive them to evolve. That is how it’s in life too – individuals and circumstances
drive us to vary.”

Schnebly notes that writers are “all astute
observers. We all know how our protagonist feels about each different character within the

We will’t all the time management the people who come
and go in our lives. One of many issues that makes writing so scrumptious is that
we’re the masters of our characters’ fates. Schnebly says, “If their
relationship is already outlined, it’ll be straightforward to inform how they’re going to
behave with every individual they encounter. If it’s not but outlined, right here’s a terrific
probability to point out what you need or want it to be just by describing how they
behave round one another.”

If we writers by no means step into the identical river
twice, our characters don’t both. In every scene, they step into a brand new world
with a brand new forged and new challenges. It’s how they react to these challenges
that brings them to life.


Paula Messina ©2022 

Paula Messina’s “Indiana Jones and the Horse Bit Cheekpiece” seems in The
Ekphrastic Evaluation
. She is writing a novel set in Boston through the Nineteen Forties.

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