Characters who engage us strongly, whether we agree with them or not, share a characteristic — commitment.
The commitment might be to a cause (saving the world/ruling the world), a person (protecting a loved one/destroying the family of someone who’s wronged them), a job (an assassin, an agent, etc.). But they have a purpose, and they follow that purpose with “steely determination”. Part of the reason we stay with these characters is because they are MORE than we are, better (or worse) than we are, and that unswerving determination, the ability to overcome obstacles and setbacks, no matter how daunting, give us something to hold onto. We might admire it. We might distain it. We might fear it.
Because most of us don’t have that kind of commitment.
However, we can learn from these characters. We can learn to make choices, make commitments, and keep them.
How many people do you know who say they’d write a book “if they had time”? The truth is, they wouldn’t. If they wanted to write a book, they’d put the butt in the chair every day and write the book. They’d make the commitment. There’s no such thing as “no time to write.” There’s a choice to write. There’s a choice not to write. They aren’t willing to do that, and therefore, they won’t write the book. They like the idea of HAVING WRITTEN, but they don’t want to make a commitment to the actual writing. Those who write only when it’s convenient don’t build their craft and build a body of work. Those who make a commitment of time and work find they grow and improve, and eventually, with a combination of commitment, persistence, and craft, they can succeed.
Good actors spend years honing their craft. They pay their dues in no-money and low-money theatre, always seeking out good projects that challenge them and make them grow. Those who make the commitment, even when it’s rough, keep working and working, and eventually earning their living at it. They might not ever be “stars” — but as someone who’s worked with actors for many years, most working actors who aren’t stars have a much happier and more balanced life. They’re committed to the work, they keep working, striving, but it’s about the work, not about the fuss around the work.
Painters, doctors, engineers, accountants, astronomers — whatever someone’s passion is, without the commitment, there is no achievement. Even those who pretend that they were “discovered” while just puttering around — still, they put aside the time to putter. They made time for the work.
If you claim you want to write, then write. Create the time and space to write. If you’re going to sign up for a workshop, you are in someone else’s playground, with someone else’s rules. Respect that. Follow directions. Meet deadlines. Take risks. Commit. You might surprise yourself.
Or, you can spend the rest of your life on the periphery, reading/watching characters who commit deeply, and separate from their creators, who do the same thing.
Devon Ellington publishes under a half a dozen names in fiction and non-fiction. She writes the Jain Lazarus adventures: http://hexbreaker.devonellingtonwork.com, and her paranormal romantic suspense, set backstage on a Broadway show, ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT (as Annabel Aidan) is available from Champagne Books. Her plays are produced all over the world. She offers a wide variety of business writing and editing services, and teaches both online and in-person. Her blog on the writing life is Ink in My Coffee (http://devonellington.wordpress.com) and her main website is www.devonellingtonwork.com.
Blurb and Links:
Detective Wyatt East finds himself the primary suspect when hex breaker Jain Lazarus disappears after their romantic weekend in Vermont. In spite of the suspicions, Jain’s boss, Maitland Stiles, hires Wyatt to track her down, forcing him to face aspects of his own painful past and revealing more about hers.
Saddled with two rebellious runaway paranormal teens, he’s embroiled in a shapeshifter pack disagreement, and must learn to work with both a caustic dragon and a cantankerous mermaid to not only find Jain, but help her help an old friend who’s in over his head. Wyatt learns he is not without psychic abilities of his own, although he prefers old-fashioned detective work.
Releasing on March 4, 2013 from Solstice Publishing:
Direct Buy Links to follow as available
Excerpt from OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK, the second Jain Lazarus Adventure:
“Again, Mr. Collins,” said Wyatt. “What can I do for you?”
“When did you last see Jain Lazarus?”
“We spent a four day weekend together about six weeks ago in Vermont.”
“Have you spoken to her since?”
“I left a few messages on her voice mail, but I haven’t heard back.”
“Yes, we know that. We have her phone.”
Wyatt felt a chill run down his spine. “Why would you have her phone?”
“Was she in good health when you parted?”
“We went skiing in the morning. We went back to change. She got a phone call – on the landline, not her cell, and said she had to go. She left before I did.”
“No one’s seen or heard from her since that weekend in Vermont.”
“Are you looking for her?”
“Yes. She was due in our office the very next morning to get briefed on a new assignment. The proprietor of the inn tells a different story.”
“What do you mean?”
“He says the two of you left in the morning, but you came back alone.”
“That’s not true.”
“And there’s no record of a call going through to your room.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“Did you argue with Jain that weekend?’
“No. We had a great time.”
“Don’t lie to me, Detective. I’m every bit as capable of discerning a liar as you are.”
“Then you know I’m telling the truth.”
“Either that or you’re even more talented than Jain believed. You are the last person we know who saw Jain before her disappearance.”