Thursday, July 9, 2015

Beyond likeable: Worthy

In addition to crafting well-rounded, relatable, realistic, fleshed-out, believable characters in our memoirs (click here if you missed our recent post), Angela Ackerman asks a thought-provoking question: Will Writers Find Your Protagonist Worthy?

Her post challenged me to re-examine main characters in a memoir I’m writing. Her insights will be valuable to you, too, as you write your memoir.

Angela asks if our readers will consider our key people “worth rooting for.”

You and I need to discover the “true worthiness” of our key figures and then find words to describe them.

True worthiness” is more than being nice or charming or attractive or accomplished or likeable. It’s higher and deeper and wider than those.

Such worthiness has to do with a person’s moral code, principles, standards, beliefs, ideals, values, and ethics.

I’m not necessarily talking about prominent, recognized, lauded people.

Think about this: In most cases, your heroes and mine are everyday common people, living quiet, private lives, maybe even mundane lives.

You and I have the task of showing
how those ordinary unsung heroes
came into our lives
and led us,
cheered for us,
steered us away from foolishness,
prayed for us,
cried with us,
laughed with us,
(and sometimes laughed at us),
changed us,
showed us how to live
and love
and work
and worship.
They modeled integrity
and honor
and faithfulness
and commitment,
and we memoirists
need to flesh out those people
and develop those key characters in our stories
so readers feel they know them
and “find them worthy of rooting for.”

Look over the main personalities in your memoir—not all people, only key figures.

If you haven’t read your rough drafts for a while, you’ll be able read with fresh eyes and ears (yes, read them aloud). Put yourself in your readers’ shoes while you read your drafts and ask yourself if your key figures are “worthy of rooting for.” If not, spend time developing your heroes.

Pull back the layers
and dig deeply,
all the while asking yourself
what experiences, choices,
values, beliefs, 
and/or people
made them into the persons they became?
Get out your magnifying glass.
Then make those characters come alive!
Enable your readers to discover
and appreciate
your real heroes.
The end result
will be worth your time and effort.

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