You’ve encountered them.
Sometimes they were the most unlikely of folk. Just ordinary people, neither attractive nor recognized as important. They didn’t put themselves forward as special in any way.
Yet they made a difference in your life.
We meet one such person in this month’s short fiction, The Bookery. He owns a second-hand bookstore, rundown and disorganized. But he has an uncanny ability. Through the magic of it he becomes the springboard for dramatic, constructive change in his customer’s life.
Such characters are the essence of good fiction. They are the ones who you remember after the back cover closes on the novel. They perturb the flow of plot and challenge the character who has captured your heart as a reader. In fact, if there isn’t one or more such character in a work of fiction the entire venture becomes bland, or predictable, or just another trope turned out with a contrived plotline using sensationalism to keep the reader hooked.
There is something about these characters, be they real people in our lives or occupy transitional, transformational, roles in created stories. They take us more deeply into what it means to be human. They are equally apt with foibles and courage. They bid us forward to become more deeply who we can be. They love, not lustfully but unselfishly. In doing so, they help us to do so too.
As a reader, as you must be to have gotten this far into a blog, take a few minutes to think about a worthy work of fiction—or if not that, a drama you’ve recently streamed. Who beside the main character, the one whose shoes your feet slipped into, had a profound and deepening effect on that character?
And you also have a life outside of your reading, media scrolling, and screen watching. In that life, who’s eyes met yours and suddenly you had a sense of a real person being there with you? Who is that friend who always seems to bring out a sense of belonging within you? Perhaps, if you were to ask them, they might say that you have the same effect on them too.
But there’s also another side to this. We encounter transitional folk who are but cautionary tales in our lives. In their machinations they illuminate paths that we’re better off not to trod. They steal our energy to use for their own purposes. They highjack our thoughts and bend them to their own obsessions. They demand an acceptance from us that compromises the life force within us. They seduce us into their devices and hold us in their thrall so that our own critical thinking yields to their chaos.
When we can get free of these folk, shake off their spell, we realize we can choose a different direction for our lives. And once we have done so, we can be thankful they’d come along as awful as our sojourn with them had been.
During a recent book club discussion of my novel An Incoming Tide I categorized the evil characters (the ones who propelled the plot of the story) using the objectifying mental health lexicon of professional psychology. Currently, unfortunately, that is the current extent of our culturally accepted understanding of human evil.
Truly within An Incoming Tide, there is that dark flow of circumstances encountered by the strong and the noble characters—Estelle, Nali, and Leanne. But they survived, outlived the evil. One was rescued by unselfish love, and another by the strength of a cobra body tattoo. In the sequel novel (currently in the editing stage) we see them transformed through the healing process.
This is what worthy fiction does—it reminds us to attend to the folk who bring life and deepening to us through their humble engagement. It also nudges us to recognize those who are but cautionary tales of where we ought not to go.
So, now you’re ready to read The Bookery—a study in transformation. I’ll send it to you by email in exchange for your comments on it back to me. Let’s both celebrate what it means to become more complete and true to the self we have within.
Get your copy of The Bookery by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out previous blogs posts by clicking below.
September 2022 - Transitions
August 2022 —At the other end of life's journey
July 2022—The problem with what emerges.
June 2022 — So who am I doing this for anyway?
May 2022 - Wait for it ... wait ...
April 2022 — Someone called me a Nazi.
March 2022 — Shush! Don't tell anyone.
February 2022 — So does life imitate art? Well, maybe sometimes.
January 2022 — The two most powerful lines in the book.
December 2021 — About time and being human.
November 2021 — Not a tidy little murder mystery
October 2021 — Flow versus focus.
September 2021 -- It's beautiful because it tells the truth.