Tag Archives: character

Making Up Friends…Charles Dickens Quote.

“It is the fate of most men who mingle with the

world, and attain even the prime of life, to

make many real friends, and lose them in the

course of nature. It is the fate of all authors or

chroniclers to create imaginary friends, and

lose them in the course of art. Nor is this the

full extent of their misfortunes; for they are

required to furnish an account of them

besides.”

― Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers

For those of you who have written novels, how have you felt when you’ve reached the end and your relationship with your characters is over? Or, worse still, when you’ve killed off one of your favourites?

I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

A Festival of Red Doors…Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors

This week I’ve decided to keep it simple. It’s absolutely bucketing down outside, and although I took a few photos of doors while we were out shopping last night, they were a bit too ordinary. So, this week I’ve taken the easy way out. Dredging through the archives, I’ve brought you a delectable palette of red doors. Indeed, seeing all these red doors amalgamated together has seriously raised my heart rate and the excitement is almost too much.

Have you ever wondered what inspires someone to paint their front door red when all the doors around them might be painted more conservative shades of grey, heritage green or even beige? I haven’t really give it much thought before. However, seeing all these red doors bunched together made me wonder about the people living on the other side of these doors who call these places home. What makes a red door person?

“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”

― Maya Angelou, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes

Red is my favourite colour. I’m an extrovert, passionate person. Moreover, I not only drive a red Alfa Romeo 159, I view this car as an outward manifestation of my self. It is me. Well, to be honest, it’s more of an idealized version of myself these days as I spend too much more time in the slow lane.

A red rose is not selfish because it wants to be a red rose. It would be horribly selfish if it wanted all the other flowers in the garden to be both red and roses.”

Oscar Wilde

However, despite my passion for all things red, our front door is heritage green and really much more of a conservative, blending in colour. However, you could say that’s quite in keeping with my husband’s personality. He’s quieter, more conservative and tends to blend in. However, that’s not why we have a green front door either. It’s simply what was here when we bought the house almost 20 years ago. The door also has a stained glass window which suits heritage green. We have given some thought to painting the house and we’re thinking of replacing the door and painting is something of a blue slate. We live right near the beach so I thought a more beachy look would suit.

“The long and winding road
That leads to your door
Will never disappear
I’ve seen that road before
It always leads me here
Lead me to you door…”

The Beatles – The Long & Winding Road

However, while I don’t have a red door now, I did have a red door growing up. Our house had this little outdoor structure, which was very much like a grannie flat except it is very basic and didn’t have bathroom or kitchen facilities. Indeed, it’s probably more like an artist’s studio. It was a great place growing up, and I turned it into my bedroom for a few years as a teenager. It was fantastic, and I must admit it enabled me to sneak out a bit too. Not usually to get up to too much mischief, but I had a friend who used to roam around during the night and she would tap away on my window.

Oh dear! This was supposed to be a quick post and now I’m turning it into a confessional. Just forget what you’ve read. Strike it from the record. I’ve never done anything wrong. Made stupid decisions. Taken unnecessary risks EVER!!!

Anyway, before I make any further confessions and do myself further in, I’m heading off. Indeed, you could even say I’m closing the door.

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0 Please pop over and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

K- Know Your Characters…A-Z Challenge

“You never really understand a person until you

consider things from his point of view… Until you

climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird 

 

Welcome to the latest installment in my series of Motivations Quotes for Writers and Creatives working on a big project, especially writing a book. This is my theme for the 2019 Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

Today, we’re up to K, which must be around halfway. So, I can let out a loud cheer for getting this far, because I almost didn’t take part this year as I’m deeply immersed in working on my book.

I have a background in sales and one of the things they really used to hammer into us, was to know your product. As writers, we also need to know our product in addition to our craft and that includes knowing your characters and knowing them well.

One of the tools I’ve used on and off has been the Proust Questionnaire. The Proust Questionnaire was originally a parlor game, which was popularized although not devised by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist. Proust believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature. As writers, asking our characters these questions can help us develop more interesting, dynamic and effective characters in our work.

If you’re interested in checking out the Proust Questionnaire, you can explore the Vanity Fair version Here.

Here are a few other quotes I found about developing characters:

“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.” 
― Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

“Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.” 
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

“Sow a thought, and you reap an act;
Sow an act, and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit, and you reap a character;
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.” 
― Samuel Smiles, Happy Homes and the Hearts That Make Them

“I don’t know where people got the idea that characters in books are supposed to be likable. Books are not in the business of creating merely likeable characters with whom you can have some simple identification with. Books are in the business of creating great stories that make you’re brain go ahhbdgbdmerhbergurhbudgerbudbaaarr.” 
― John Green

Lastly, while I was trawling around the Internet in search of quotes, I came across this fabulous quote about knowledge, which kind of touches on developing our characters but I feel also adds an important quality to our writing:

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

After all, if we really care about our characters and their wellbeing and what’s happening to them, that will draw the reader inside that vision which is what great writing is all about. It’s not just about us fulfilling our ambitions. Indeed, for the person paying good money for your book and not someone else’s, you don’t factor into the equation.

Do you have any tips for developing characters? What works for you? 

Thank you for joining on this journey through the alphabet and I hope you are feeling encouraged psychologically while hopefully also taking some action steps.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Mohammed Ali…Hero and Villain.

In a tribute to In a tribute to the late Muhammad Ali I am reflagging this excerpt from my book Rope Burns, which is to be republished in September 2016. By now you should not be remotely surprised to learn that one fine evening back in 1980 I somehow conspired to find myself perched on […]

via Muhammad Ali: Hero and villain — ianprobertbooks

Proust Questionnaire: Bullying is the trait I most deplore in others.

Today, I’m finally moving on to Question 4 of the Proust Questionnaire: What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Humph!

Working through this Proust Questionnaire is really challenging my brain.

Think! Think! Think! Think! Think!

“For I am a bear of very little brain, and long words bother me.”― A.A. Milne, The World of Winnie-the-Pooh

I can almost hear it ticking and there’s this jarring movement between the question which is ticking very fast and my brain, which is very slow..ly plod..ding a…lo..ng…

Back leaning over my keyboard late at night, I’m wondering whether this is all too much. Have I done it again and set myself yet another overly ambitious target and perhaps I should slow things down a bit? Perhaps, it’s also yet another procrastinating, delaying tactic distracting me from simply writing the book instead of doing more “research”?

I’m also wondering whether this Proust Questionnaire is relevant to the 21st century and if is it asking the questions I want to ask my character?

However, this is what happens when you embark on any new, intensive project. You have second thoughts, doubts and if you’re anything like me, you also like to put your own stamp on things and have trouble rigidly sticking to the rules.

Well, in this case, I set myself this challenge and the schedule so I could stop of change this at any time but part of this is also starting something and getting it finished. I also see merit in answering someone else’s questions to add depth to my character in ways I wouldn’t have considered. There is merit in not always beating to your own drum.

Meanwhile, it’s late and the dog’s have left the back door open and a cold wind is wrapping around my legs instead of their warm furry coats. I’m still awake because it’s school holidays and the kids are staying at my parents’ place for a few days and I ended up sleeping much of today. I’m pretty much back on deck after recent bronchitis but get fatigued easily. Besides, it was a cold, windy day and it felt so good sleeping with my electric blanket switched on and the world outside switched completely off!!

I’m not going to mention yesterday’s train trip with the kids to Sydney either but suffice to say that I was relieved to drop them off and meet up with Geoff and have a quiet dinner out.

This brings me to question 4: What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Humph. This is quite a hard one.

After throwing a few ideas around, I’ve found it…bullying.

Bullying doesn’t need any introductions or definitions  because it’s all over the web.

The reason I’ve nominated bullying as the trait I most deplore in others is that involves the misuse of power to intimidate others or to get what you want no matter who or what stands in your way. While this might be perceived as determination, it can also be a form of bullying and should be treated as such.

I was brutally bullied when I was at school. I wasn’t punched, kicked, scratched or even stabbed with a knife but for 6 years I was brutally bullied with words, ostracism and just plain cruelty, largely for being different.Being different, as most of us appreciate, is a serious crime at school and even though the world might open up like a flower once we leave, it’s like being stuck in a lift for six years and for some it becomes too much.

What none of us knew at the time was that I had a serious medical condition, which accounted for these weird and wonderful symptoms. Mum had a very difficult birth with me and that was probably how I ended up with hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain, which wasn’t diagnosed until my mid-20s.

The shadow of bullying can haunt people for years.

The shadow of bullying can haunt people for years.

Despite the troubles, I had at school, I attended my 10 year school reunion only weeks after brain surgery and half my hair had been shaved off but no one could tell because they’d left a layer a “curtain” of hair over the top. The reunion went really well and I even made new friends and connections. We’d all grown up a lot, which was really reassuring and there was none of that trademark bitchiness we’d had at school.

Most of the time, I don’t think about my experiences of being bullied at all these days. I found my peace and moved on…right on. However, my daughter recently talked to me about being bullied and said: “You don’t know what it’s like”.

Well, that was time to share a bit of my personal history only I can’t remember very much. No doubt I shut the door on all of that and don’t want to go back. The only reason I’d go back there at all would be to help my kids. Show them that you can go through being bullied and come out the other end being strong, a survivor. I ultimately found my niche at university where I had plenty of friends and was even ran for election for the student newspaper.

The other thing, too, about when I was being bullied was that while it was obviously going on, as I mentioned before, there wasn’t a lot that stood out that you could actually mention. No physical scars or proof and just words. We didn’t use the term bullying at our school. I guess a bully was stereotyped as some kind of thug of a boy and I was at an all-girls’ school. If you were picked on or bullied at our school, you were just a “loser”, “reject” or “Nigel No Friends”. There was no way of pointing the mirror back at the bully, so they could see their own ugly reflection. There was no “portrait of Dorien Gray” either. I don’t think there was any kind of of punishment or action taken by staff. You were just crushed…and your parents paid a fortune for the privilege.

These days I still see bullying and I’m not talking about kids. Parents slaughtering a teacher’s reputation without any evidence or a second thought. Parents judging children, judging other parents and just speaking their mind without any kind of filter whatsoever. I’ve heard these parents described as “gaters”. Not just because they hang out at the school gate but because they’re as brutal as a pack of alligators and show no mercy.

It seems to me that bullies grow up.

While I’m not always good at minding my tongue either, my grandmother, who was a very wise woman, used to tell me: “If you can’t say something nice about someone, say nothing at all”! That is very sound advice, which would prevent a lot of heartache and worse.

Would any of you like to share the trait you most deplore in others?

Just to get you thinking, a few of the other traits I considered were: anger, superficiality and arrogance. I obviously couldn’t mention running late, staying up too late or eating too much chocolate without pointing fingers back at me.

xx Rowena

Proust Questionnaire: Making Mistakes.

As you might be aware, I’m working my way through the Proust Character Questionnaire as background research for the Book Project.The journey started here:

Continuing right along with the Proust Questionnaire, we’re now up to question 3:

What is the Trait you deplore most in yourself?

Addressing this question in 2015 well beyond the Victorian era when it was posed, I’m a little taken aback.

Aren’t you supposed to be asking me about my strengths before we get stuck into the weaknesses? Isn’t that how this thing works? Don’t I get an opportunity to shine before I hang out all my dirty laundry?

Smile!

Smile!

Well, I guess you could say things were a little different back in 1890 when Proust responded to the questionnaire as a teenager. This was long before phrases like: “Greed is good” and “looking after Number 1” came into vogue.

Indeed, dare I mention the Seven Deadly Sins:

  1. Wrath
  2. Greed
  3. Sloth
  4. Pride
  5. Lust
  6. Envy
  7. Gluttony

I might be wrong but it seems like the Victorians were more concerned about what they were doing wrong than doing right. After all, this seems the era where you constantly renovated yourself, rather than your house.

However, when it comes to the trait I most deplore in myself it has to be making mistakes. I really don’t like making mistakes and often feel like a bumbling idiot.

Sponge Cake

Sponge Cake

Take yesterday’s sponge cake for instance. I probably took it out of the oven a minute or two too soon, which meant that the top was still a bit too moist. There I was staring at perfection one minute and then the top stuck to the wire cooling rack and just like a skinned knee on bitumen, it was savagely ripped off. While it might have looked funny for the blog photo and made me look endearingly human, I didn’t want to be human. I wanted perfection. I wanted to swan around at home as if I’d just won Best Cake in Show at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show.

Violin Concert 2013.

Violin Concert 2013.

The same goes with playing my violin. I cringe every time that jolly instrument squeaks, even though violins are legendary for being difficult, temperamental and just plain nasty. If you think a two year old child can throw the world’s greatest tantrum, you haven’t met a violin and yet, they can sing like an angel too!

There I was two years ago practicing for my preliminary exam with my accompanist and it was so hot that my fingers were sliding down the strings. After all those months of practice, to have my performance compromised by the heat was almost the last straw. I could’ve hurled that violin straight of Sydney’s most famous suicide spot The Gap without a second thought.

Indeed, my aversion to making mistakes on my beloved violin was so intense that I arrived at the examination rooms an hour early to warm up (despite the heat). When there was nowhere to practice, I went downstairs onto Sydney’s busy York Street and set myself up in an empty bus shelter practicing away as bicycle couriers, buses and cars whizzed past. I didn’t care what anyone else thought. I was going to get my A…and I did!

So, as much as I hate myself for making mistakes, I do admire myself for those times where I keep pushing through, persevere and finally reach victory!

A family photo Mother's Day 2007.

A family photo Mother’s Day 2007.

When it comes to making mistakes as a parent, of course, the list is endless but at least I never left the baby at the bus stop or failed to pick the kids up from school. Most of what I term mistakes are actually more funny incidents in retrospect. Such as the time, our newborn son was still crying at 2.00AM and my husband put him in the pram and took him for a walk through the local shops and his screams were apparently quite deafening as they echoed through the empty streets. There was also the time we completely freaked out because he’d turned orange. We’d thought he was dying but he’d simply eaten too many orange vegetables. There were also his explorations which took him on top of the back shed at 2 years and looking like a scene out of Dead Poet’s Society, he marvelled at the “mountains” and how different things looked from up there. Another time, he fell off the back shed and Mummy caught him. He also got stuck exploring under the house and did I mention anything about climbing trees? Our daughter cut her finger when she was 3 and needed surgery after that.There have also been many hours where my children have had to occupy themselves as the ravages of living with my auto-immune disease took over.

Our Family 2014- Byron Bay Lighthouse, Australia.

Our Family 2014- Byron Bay Lighthouse, Australia.

I’m sure this list of parenting mistakes is only going to extend now that our son’s about to start high school and we’ll soon be embarking on the teenage years.

What I hate most about this fear of making mistakes, however, is not the mistakes I’ve actually made. Rather, it’s all the things I’ve never tried because I anticipated failure and gave up before I’d even started. This list is so long and very humbling but I have started working on it. I am moving forward with the book project and while attempting complex recipes I’d put off might seem a relatively trivial thing to overcome, I disagree. Baking can be a very non-forgiving science. When making sweets, you usually need to be very precise and precise isn’t my strength. I’m much more slap dash and intuitive. Moreover, due to my medical conditions, strictly following procedures and getting things in the right order isn’t always easy for me. So baking can actually  be quite challenging. Of course, these challenges multiply expediently when I’m cooking with the kids. Of course, they add a whole extra layer of distracting confusion, as much as I love cooking with them. It can be quite hard when I’m making something new and I don’t know what I’m doing and they can step in and add all the wrong things at all the wrong time, all with good intentions of course. Unfortunately, this is when my aversion to making mistakes rears its ugly head and I might snap at the kids, morphing into something of a Gordon Ramsay disgusting myself completely and it’s tears all roun.

Thank goodness for “Sorry”!

Fortunately, most mistakes aren’t fatal.

We can have another go and seriously who expects to get things right the first time? Yes, I know we all do.It would be great but it’s not realistic. It takes practice. trial and error. More error than success but giving up is a guaranteed fail.

When it comes to stuffing up our relationships, “sorry” is a good start but change is always possible and alongside sorry comes forgiveness. Not always possible but I’m talking more about garden-variety crimes than the big ones. We all hurt each other unintentionally possibly more so than through intent.

How could she do anything wrong?

How could she do anything wrong?

Although as a parent these days, I’m more focused on my parenting crimes, I still tend to gloss over those crimes I committed as a child. That same sense of entitlement I don’t like seeing in my own kids…a lack of appreciation to outright rebellion.

There was a certain party I had when my parents went away for the weekend but hey at least hordes of gatecrashers didn’t turn up along with a Police helicopter. As great a crime as it might have been, having a handful of trusted friends over could have been a hell of a lot worse. Moreover, the effort that went into devising a story to tell my Dad was worthy of an epic novel and gave us all quite a lesson in creative writing. Being a writer himself, he should have appreciated that but he had his “Dad” hat on at the time.

So, above all else, I owe my parents a huge bunch of sorries. Most of all for being critical of their parenting efforts and not understanding that everybody makes mistakes. That we’re all human and simply can not walk on water. That’s a hard lesson for us all!

I know we can't just rub out all our mistakes but it's worth a try!

I know we can’t just rub out all our mistakes but it’s worth a try!

The next question on the Proust Questionnaire is: What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Dare I say being perfect? Getting it right the first time?

Ouch! That’s tempting but as I said, I’m only human!

xx Rowena

The Dalai Lama and the Psychiatrist Converse.

In my last post, I mentioned that I’m reading “The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living” by His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Psychiatrist Howard C. Cutler.

Although I don’t usually write book reviews, I’ve made an exception in this case and I’ve been so inspired by this book that I couldn’t wait to finish the book to share my glee. I’m only halfway through and I definitely can’t put it down (except to update the blog and touch base with the family).

I strongly recommend you do whatever it takes to read this book and to read it slowly and carefully. I read such books with my pen and write notes to myself and underline text and use the book as a notebook. For me, I guage how good a book is by how much ink I’ve scribbled all over the pages. So, on this basis, this book is doing brilliantly.

Before I read the book, I must admit that I was a little uneasy getting too engrossed in a different religion. Although I’m a Christian, I do read very broadly but at the same time I wondered whether reading this book and absorbing the thoughts of the Dalai Lama was going too far. That I was crossing over into foreign soil and that when it came understanding happiness, I should turn to my Bible first.

However, while they certainly address Buddist beliefs, the book has been written as a series of life-lessons for a Western, largely American, audience and it doesn’t delve into the spiritual in an overbearing way at all.

Indeed, in many ways it reminded me of Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet” and “Tuesdays With Morrie”.

“The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living” by His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler

As the Dalai Lama explains, “We attempted to present to the reader a systematic approach to achieving greater happiness and overcoming life’s inevitable adversities and suffering. Our approach combines and integrates, hopefully, the best of East and West—that is Western science and psychology on the one hand and Buddhist principles and practices on the other.1.”

“In The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, the Dalai Lama offers a good first step when pursuing any positive goal: Learning. If our objective is happiness, we need to begin by learning about the benefits of happiness. The recent scientific evidence has identified a wide array of practical benefits of happiness extending far beyond merely feeling good–including better physical and mental health, longer life, stronger relationships, greater career success, higher income, and many other personal rewards.

One of the fundamental principles of The Art of Happiness is that cultivating greater happiness not only benefits oneself but also one’s family, community, and society. There is new scientific evidence supporting this principle as well. Such evidence helps dispel our common cultural biases and myths, such as perceiving happiness as a somewhat “soft” or frivolous subject, or considering the pursuit of happiness to be self-centered or self-indulgent”2.

The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama

This book is also about so much more than happiness. It also looks at sorrow and has a whole chapter about compassion, including a meditation exercise. Being part of 1000 Voices for Compassion (http://1000voicesspeak.org/), I really appreciated that chapter. It added quite a lot to my understanding.

The book is also very helpful for writers interested in personality, what makes people tick and how to create really complex, more diverse characters. There’s quite a lot of discussion about what makes people tick…or indeed, not tick. After all, this is more of a book about people than just happiness itself.

I’d also like to add that the Dalai Lama doesn’t pretend to be able to solve everybody’s problems and acknowledges there are people facing very complex problems. He doesn’t pretend to be able to fix these any better than anybody else. However, he does offer a few tools, which might help.

When you consider that one of these tools might say alter your path by 10 degrees and perhaps another by a further 10, you are now 20 degrees away from where you were originally heading. Perhaps, this place is no different to where you were but it could be. There’s that hope. I often think that making these seemingly small changes can make quite significant difference over time.

I must admit that while this book is a new to me, it did spend 97 weeks on The New York Times bestsellers list so obviously thousands, maybe even millions have beaten me to it and that could well include you.

Have you read it? In which case, I would love to hear your thoughts and how it might have impacted on you.

xx Rowena

Sources

1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/experts/howard-c-cutler-md

2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/howard-c-cutler-md/learning-the-art-of-happi_b_374134.html?ir=Australia

3. His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Psychiatrist Howard C. Cutler: “The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living”, Hachette Australia, 2003.