I Like to Collect…

Sunday, January 09, 2011

I like to collect…


I like to collect characters—and they can be found anywhere!

Often, they appear in books. Stories of fantastical lands with dragons and fauns, wizards and princesses, priests, orphans, and talking beavers expose me to a world where folks do exactly what I think they can’t! So of course I must collect books. They are my constant friends each night before I sleep.

Characters also appear in music. Did you know that? Characters can be the subject of some piece of music (My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean!), or the voices of the instruments making the music (can you tell a flute from a piccolo?); but even greater, the musicians who interpret the music and make it their own—like your Aunt Maggie.

The characters we often miss are those all around us every day. The people in our families, our friends, our teachers at school—even people we don’t necessarily like—all are characters in some grand story. That’s why journaling is so important to me: it helps me to recall those characters who have never found their way into a piece of fiction or music, but who have lived great (or at least interesting) lives nonetheless.

So that is what I collect: books, music, journals…

…and, of course, I collect nieces and nephews.

All my love,

Aunt Sarah


Food for thought.

If your life were a novel, would you be the protagonist (the hero) or the antagonist (the villain)?

Life is a collection of stories. Each one of us plays several roles at once–the main character of our own story, the villain of someone else’s, the supporting character of friends’ and family’s stories, a passerby character in the stories of people we meet but don’t get to know, et cet. The possibilities are literally endless.

That is one of the problems of fiction, in my opinion. One character is typically made out to be a good guy or a bad guy–black and white, good and evil. But real, living beings are not this way. We are some sort of conglomeration of good and bad and random and supporting roles. Probably more of us are Boromirs than Aragorns. We struggle with right and wrong, and if the situation is dire enough, we will probably choose poorly. There aren’t many of us who just pop out [of our mother’s womb] with an innate determination to do what is right. Maybe there are none of us. I’m not sure. I’ll let the philosophers and theologians argue that one.

But about one thing, there can be no argument: We are not flat characters. We are motivated by fears, passions, responsibilities, relationships, economics, culture, religion, and a countless number of other things.

That is what fiction needs–characters who have logical motivations. It was logical for Boromir to try and take the ring from Frodo. His people were dying. His father was expecting him to save the day. Right or wrong, his choice to pursue the ring in his moment of weakness was absolutely understandable. It was not a random literary wrench that Tolkien used just to stir the plot. It was a logical result of the character of Boromir (note: logical, not necessary).

So who are you in your life’s novel? Good guy or bad guy? And are your choices logical to your character?