Wednesday Wanderer: Developing Characters

Have you ever known someone who gets blamed for everything? Or, even worse, a person who blames other people for everything?

I’m currently wrapping up a standalone book, An Amish Buggy Ride, that has hit really close to home. It deals with a family member who constantly blames his older sister, Kate, for all of his problems. No matter what happens in his life, David can manipulate every situation to point the finger of blame at his sister. This has been going on for so long in Kate’s life that barely a shell of a person remains.

In the book, David has a drinking problem. Rather than face the issue (and consequences resulting from his trysts with alcohol), he manages to find a way to blame Kate. True to the typical victim, she takes the mental abuse, absorbing the impact and eventually believing that he might actually have a valid point. It takes Samuel Esh to show Kate that she bears no guilt for David’s situation resulting from his alcoholism.

Writing this book has been extremely interesting. When developing characters, a writer has to know everything about them…what makes them happy and sad, how they will react to situations and conversations, their weaknesses and their flaws. I recently read a book on plotting story lines and developing characters. The author said that writers tend to pull not just from their own experiences but from their own personalities to create main characters. 

I paused when I read that sentence and thought about David and Kate.

In both my professional and personal life, I have run into many Davids…people who cannot look at a situation to see how they may have contributed to the outcome (which is usually not to their liking if they are complaining about it). It’s always someone else’s fault. The finger is pointed at anyone else who is out to get them or to make them look bad. At least, that’s how they see it. In the case of David in my story, he wasn’t supposed to be drinking…not just from a legal perspective but from a cultural perspective. Yet, the bottle was found and the results of his drunken behavior triggered a chain reaction.

Of course, I have also known people like Kate, too willing to take more than their fair share of the responsibility to the point that they are blamed for everything…bad grades, poor finances, gambling debts, substance abuse, parenting issues, relationship woes, job troubles, economic crisis, global warming…you get the picture. In the case of Kate in my story, her willingness to permit this mental abuse at the hands of her brother has been a progression. You see, it never happens overnight but is drawn out over a period of time. It’s to the point that Kate doesn’t even realized that it has happened.

And then along comes Samuel…the person who gives her the strength to recognize and understand what is happening. With his help, she faces it head on.

The idea for this story came to me at a Writer’s Group. Just simple brainstorming over a writing activity with other authors and writers. The exercise involved free-writing about snow falling. For some reason, I immediately envisioned an Amish buggy covered in snow. When I left the meeting, I kept thinking about the idea. It wouldn’t leave me. When that happens, I know that it’s a story that must be written.

As with all of my books, it’s a team effort. Brainstorming, writing, editing, rewriting, more brainstorming…there is a team of people who flesh out the story. Truly, anyone who writes alone without the help of a team is missing something. But the characters spoke to me from that snowy night on a backroad in Lancaster, PA. Before you knew it, the story created itself and, upon reflection, I noticed the different themes emerge. Interestingly, these themes resonated with my team in different ways. They, too, had felt like Kate at different points in their lives…whether from an employer, friend, or spouse! Kate’s situation may be framed in an Amish setting but clearly it is a universal problem.

This book, to be published in October 2014, is different…a little edgy…a challenge to write and…from my pre-readers…a story that doesn’t leave when the book is over. I’ll keep you posted on its progress. 😉



5 thoughts on “Wednesday Wanderer: Developing Characters

  1. This sounds like it’s going to be another best seller for you. I can’t wait for it to come out and be able to read it.

  2. Best of luck with the bookThis story will resonate with many people, especially (but not only) women, who often find the personal experience being played out in the workplace where master manipulators are blamers and bullies. Often they rise to the top levels of the organization because the organization enables them and/or rewards them for exploiting and abusing others. Why? Because the organization lacks integrity. Here is an example: a woman has worked for an organization for 35 years. She is on disability for a head injury. She returns to work after 6 months in rehab. One Friday afternoon they tell her to clean out her office because she has been terminated. Oh, and she is not old enough to collect social security. Terminating employees when they become ill or disabled is just another type of workplace violence. This dysfunctional culture is quite common in colleges and universities.

    1. That’s so ironic! That happened to me, too! Only my disability was breast cancer! Once my long term disability kicked in because of complications, I was terminated…even though I had offered to work online in my role as a faculty member three months before! And, as you said, it was at a college.

      Bullying, harassment, violence…it’s all one and the same!

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