DEVELOPING CHARACTER






In I Sit Listening to the Wind, Judith Duerk wrote:

 “A woman must be very clear, here, in her ongoing task. As she negotiates the voyage from the societal towards the Self her entire experience is transformed.  She can begin to reject the inner patriarchal decrees from the past that judged her so mercilessly … that made her see her own anguish as simply another indication of her inadequacy and shame.”

 After reading this, I reached great clarity about my long struggle for autonomy. Particularly the concept exposed the source of my inner anger. I had spent years accusing them of influencing me toward what I knew, deep inside was wrong for me, while I continued doing the very thing. I never truly identified them. At times I would put a face or name on them – my ambitious father, duty driven mother, my co-author or husband, depending on the circumstances. But always the accusation came full circle, until I held the blame again. Now I realize them is my animus – the strong yang side driving against the inner ying that cries to be freed. Duerk continues:

“With this transformation, a woman can accept feelings inside herself that were forbidden to her before. She can accept, now, her failures, her lacks, her obsessions … even her occasional craziness … as she holds in her awareness all the ways she has suffered in striving to fulfill values that were not her own”.

 I have experienced the freedom of my inner feminine and loved myself best at that time – but liberty was short lived; again that louder, fiercer voice drove me off course and into the wilderness of confusion.

“At last a woman cradles in her arms the woundedness of being herself. No longer casting it out as the impediment that prevents her growth, she can embrace her woundedness as the essence, the soul of her uniqueness … that which has enabled her to become herself.

 With the final acceptance of her woundedness a woman’s perception of her own suffering undergoes a profound healing. What had been the source of the greatest shame, that most loathed in herself, slowly reveals itself to be the seed of her truest gift … her pearl of greatest price, grown from her gravest flaw.  She is released into her wholeness.” J.D.

I searched long for my truths, learning them through pain and illness, compromise and motherhood, failure and triumph. Each learned value, I added to my inventory, building one on the other, interlocking them in a complex puzzle whose solution was known onlyby me. My wounds became the source of all lessons, and, in turn, the lessons pointed out my woundedness. With each value added, as with each block supporting the whole, I grew stronger, more sure. Living my values, my truth gave me focus, simplicity, calm.

“Finally, as a woman matures, she gives up the expectation of reaching a point of bare adequacy and moving on from there. At last, she understands that her task is simply to accept her woundedness … and to walk ahead with courage and compassion  … keeping faith with her own life. This her individuation.”

As I read this page and particularly the second last paragraph I felt a great flood of release and spontaneously broke into tears. I experienced redemption and approved myself. My source of greatest shame is the fear with which I approach all new things. My greatest strength – moving through the fear with courage. All the challenges and all the times I found the courage and triumphed unwound like film across the screen of my mind. I felt validated by the best, deepest part of me … the part that could weep in relief. My tears washed away the anger. Those precious droplets thanked my creator for finally reaching me with this message.

What does this have to do with writing you ask? This is an excellent example of the development of character through life experience. Expansion of values, of psyche of awareness of self. Building the edifice from which you will make all choices, interpret other’s actions, and measure your own.

Character development in a story decides the success or failure of the whole. If a reader cannot find merit in your character, isn’t allowed a below the surface look at morals and motives – at the greatest weakness and strength guiding this person’s life, then the reader turns away. The best pacing and most loaded plot in the world can’t salvage a story if one dimensional characters tell the tale. We do not look deeply into an object whose surface reflects nothing back.

When developing your characters apply your hard won experience. Introduce the weaknesses and strengths you discover in those around you. By examining the turning points in your life, the moments when your truths became clear, you can transfer these lessons to your characters, allowing them to learn at the appropriate time and place in the plot. Your truth adds credibility to their actions and attitudes. The reader believes.

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