Life is About Connection – Supporting Characters

Talk about life teaching you a lesson! Holy crap, lately I have been having a bunch of what Oprah calls “A-Ha!” moments. Some of them have been while I’m running which helps me to work through things. Some of the moments have been while reading an amazing non-fiction book. This moment was brought right to my lap.

I’ve been working on a fiction writing project that started out so easy for me. I decided to make a version of myself the main character so that I wouldn’t have to agonize over what the “character” would say. I made the setting a place I love to be and the writing became an escape to that place. There was, of course, a love interest. He was charming and funny so I enjoyed escaping to hang out with him too.

I was surprised how easy some of it was proving to be since this is the first time I’ve been brave enough to plan out a plot and try to write it… But then the writing stalled. I was able to come up with a general plot structure, but I had no idea what to fill in all the space with. As I thought through it, I realized, “This is never going to work without some supporting characters.”

And that right there was not only an “A-ha” moment for my writing project, but for my LIFE! I guess if I’m being honest, this “A-ha” moment came courtesy of all the routes I listed before. I’ve been seeing this message in everything: Life is about connections with others. Sure, the most fun are the romantic connections, but the kaleidoscope of color is made from all the quirks of the supporting characters.

I began thinking of some of my favorite stories and how their substance is more than just the epic romance. The perfect examples were:

  1. Pride and Prejudice – Can I get a “what what” for silly Mr. Collins and cheeky Mr. Bennett and obnoxious Mrs. Bennett?
  2. You’ve Got Mail – Nora Ephron and Rob Reiner’s romantic leads were more loveable because of what their friends and acquaintances taught us about them.
  3. Gilmore Girls – I literally don’t need to say more
  4. The Mindy Project/The Office – some of the characters seem to exist only as tools to better deliver some jokes. Who would Michael Scott be without his employees? Mindy would fall flat if no one in her office cared that she was being dramatic and watching her character would be the textbook definition of “A bit much” without the relief from a well-timed and well-placed Morgan Tookers joke.

I could go on and on because all my life a written character has been more desirable than going out and finding one that exists in real life. It just takes so much work! Haha. When I realized I needed to brainstorm some new characters I also thought, “That’s a lot of work”. Haha. Instead I spent a couple hours thinking back to characters who were well written and real to me. I made lists of books I needed to re-read so that I could study how they were created and how they developed and all the different ways they could be inserted. I don’t think that’s such a bad idea. After all, if you want to get better at something, observing some masters can help.

Observing is something I’m good at. I am a certifiable introvert. People tend to suck the life and energy from me. To be specific—the wrong people tend to suck the life and energy from me. Even introverts are able to connect with some chosen few who can share in the things that feed our souls. If I had a Kirk from Gilmore Girls in my life I would hide from him like the plague. I would be annoyed by him instead of charmed at the random stupidity of his essence. I would NEVER talk to Babette because she’s your neighbor and I have mostly lived in apartments during my adult life. Rule #1 of apartment living (especially as a single woman) is to NEVER speak to your neighbors.

I think the best love story of Gilmore Girls is the love between Rory and Lorelei (duh). Although they are mother and daughter and literally share the same name, they are Yin and Yang. Lorelei feeds on attention and talking to people. Rory would much rather read and speak to her select few favorite people. They are the same in the way it counts though. They have the same sense of humor and lots of the same interests; as a result they are able to help each other grow.

In life, you are lucky to find a person who gets you but is also different from you. Our default state is attempting to be comfortable. When reading a book and connecting to the characters, if it’s just not happening, the worst you have to lose when you quit halfway is losing the time you invested. If you like the characters, but their quirks or flaws are a bit much, you just have to put them to the side for a bit. Was reading my crutch? (Ooo boy that’s a question for another day, I’m not ready to criticize my favorite past-time)

Isn’t it funny that when I try to conjure a detailed character for my own writing I’m drawn instead to all the characters I’ve met before? Talullah Hipster (a character I just created) thinks, “That’s soooo derivative.” Thanks Talullah…go suck a lemon. I’m ok with that being my knee-jerk reaction because I agree with Paris Gellar and Ralph Waldo Emerson:

I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.

However, for my future books and also, for my future life, I want to create a story in which the main character has a happy ending but the supporting characters bring meaning as well. I guess we’ll see how that unfolds…

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