In my mind, if we’re paying attention, life provides more than enough material for writers to craft amazing and memorable articles, characters or plots. The art of “What if” cannot be misplaced if we’re just living with our hearts, eyes and ears wide open.
On Aug 19, 2015, nearly 41 years after his death and 26.5 years after hers, I put my parents’ cremains to rest in the nearest National Cemetery. In addition, the date was my dad’s birthday back in 1916; and it was the date, two years ago, that my brother and only sibling died of lung cancer. If this was a scene in a novel, you’d probably be asking, “What the hell took her so long?” That’s a valid question, but I’m not answering it here.
The sky was glorious, the cemetery a serene, dignified and beautiful setting for veterans from all the wars. The flag flew proudly at half-mast across the water from the welcome building. I fought back tears off and on, unsure where in the world emotion was coming from after all these years. The people at the cemetery were wonderful and kind and reverent for the old WWII soldier who was coming home to rest with his bride of almost 40 years. The honor guard arrived as did a delightful woman from the Ladies, an organization that makes sure the families of veterans know that they too, are cared for by Americans. I thought Taps would be my undoing–and it got me for sure–but the presentation of the flag by the young officer who assured me that my dad’s service to this country was appreciated by so many was what broke the dam. Heck, even my hard-as-nails spouse was looking for tissues.
My characters have a lot of baggage. Some of it is really old baggage. And now I know firsthand, that there is no statute of limitation on those emotions of grief, sorrow, guilt and forgiveness. And I also know, that to achieve a satisfactory ending at the end of the series, those characters are going to really have to have it all processed and released for sure. Saying goodbye in a traditional, respectful and formal manner turned out to be an important thing for me–one I didn’t even know about.
To craft memorable characters, remember to make them experience the hardness of life, to deeply experience the emotions of grief and guilt and whatever else fits your needs, and then, find a way to let them release it so everyone can move on!
Have a great time making your characters suffer – your readers will thank you for it! NQ