Full of Character: Your Characters and Character

Over the last several weeks I’ve used Full of Character Mondays to showcase the characters other authors find compelling. Some have chosen real people from biographies. Some have chosen to take their inspiration from characters created in the minds of authors they enjoy. Whether real people or the products of someone’s imagination, the characters we love can challenge, encourage, or inspire us. Sometimes a single character can do all three.

While they’re busy showing us who or how we want to be in our own lives or telling us how to avoid the pitfalls they’ve become prey to, these people tug on our emotions. Even those who don’t exist outside the pages of their books have the power to make us both laugh and cry with them. For the time we lose ourselves in the pages of their books, we allow ourselves to treat them as if their stories are real. We allow them to impact us. That’s why they touch us in this way.

If people from the past who we’ve never met and people who aren’t even real can touch us in this way, how much more power to touch others is contained in each of us. Think of those in your life who have left a lasting impression on your life. Was it their kindness that moved you? Their strength and faith in times of testing? Or was it the joy they passed on to everyone around them?

What part of their character stood out so distinctly that it reached into your life and changed you?

Now think about your own life. When other people look at the story of your life what do they see? If we’re honest with ourselves this can be a scary question. There are times in my life that what others would see would be the last thing I would want them to see. In the most difficult times in my life, I’m not sure they would have seen strength, faith, or peace. Instead, would they have seen exhaustion or anger or even depression?

I wish with all of my heart that I could say otherwise, but I’m afraid I can’t. When we read characters’ stories, we get to see the whole picture. We don’t have to wonder why they act out. In fact, because we’ve seen the root of their pains we can even understand where their behaviors are coming from. We see what they overcome, and the character they portray in the end has even more impact.

Often, when people look into the story of our lives it is only for a few short chapters. They see only the part that directly touches their lives. It’s sad. When they see only the beginning or middle of story, they don’t get to see the finished product. They don’t get to experience the end results of how our circumstances shape our character for others to see. They miss the part that should have the biggest impact.

It’s a lesson we should remember when we consider the people who come into our lives. We may not be present for the beginning of their story. We may not see the circumstances working in their lives. We only get to glimpse the rough stuff of the character building process. We see the results of the refining fire they’re going through. And what we see at that time may be ugly. But it’s important to remember it may not be the end of their story.

We don’t have to like or excuse people’s bad behavior, but we aren’t powerless either. We can pray for them to grow through whatever circumstance is trying to shape them. We can pray for God’s truth to guide them into the character He desires them to exhibit. And sometimes, God can even use us to come alongside them for a time to help encourage them in the way they should go. We may never see the end result of their struggle, but we can pray that God uses their current situation to bring about such a strong, godly character in them that those who come into their story at a later time can see the beauty of their character and be touched by it

Write Stuff Wednesday: I am an Author

“I literally cannot remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer.”- J.K. Rowling
I relate to this quote in a very real way. Like Rowling I always knew I wanted to write. And now that I am not simply a writer but also a published author, when people ask me what I do, I say without hesitation, “I’m a receptionist.”

Why do I answer this way? I’ve never aspired to be a receptionist. It was never my goal in life. It’s what I do to pay the bills. It’s not a bad job. I enjoy the people I work with. But it isn’t what I’ve always dreamed of doing.

If being a receptionist isn’t what leaves me feeling fulfilled and writing is, why does the phrase “I’m a receptionist” slip out so easily? Why wouldn’t I jump at the chance to proudly proclaim, “I am a writer”? Maybe it has something to do with paying the bills. As an author just beginning her writing journey, I don’t make a lot. My income comes from my 8-5 job. The bills I pay are done so with the money earned doing the job I never intended to do.

Or maybe it has to do with the amount of time and energy I spend as a receptionist. I don’t bring work home with me, but 10 hours a day, five days a week are spent going to and working at a doctor’s office. With 24 hours in a day and 7 of those spent in sleep, only 7 hours a day are available for writing. Those 7 hours are whittled away making meals, cleaning house, or spending time with my family and friends. A majority of my waking hours are spent doing the things a receptionist does. Maybe the old saying, “You are what you eat” translates into “you are what you do most”.

Whatever the reason for my hesitancy, it’s false. Words are my passion. My ministry, my purpose is to encourage and challenge other believers through what I write. Whether or not my income is generated through it, whether or not I spend every hour in my day but 1 doing other things, I am a writer. I am an author. I need to own that identity. It is who I am.

I’m also a Christian. Scripture says as such I’m an alien to this world. I don’t belong here. Yet the same struggles can happen in my spiritual life that happen in my writing life. I have to live in this physical world. I have to deal with the messes created by my sin and the sin of others. I need to eat, sleep, and have shelter of some kind. I have to interact with and relate to others. My life is lived 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on this earth.

But this day to day life isn’t who I am. My struggles don’t define me any more than my successes do. I do the things I do because I have to survive. Living my physical life demands a lot of my time. Sometimes, the everyday becomes so demanding I forget that scripture tells me this earth is not my home. I forget that I am more than a conqueror, victorious over sin, forgiven, a child of God, an ambassador for Christ, and every other description in scripture of those who God has redeemed. The knowledge of all these things is in my head and hidden in my heart, but I fail to live like it sometimes. I forget to be who God made me to be even living in the middle of the mess.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. I think maybe it’s a struggle for a lot of us. We find ourselves getting world focused instead of God focused. We give so much to the physical side of life that we forget to honor and grow the spiritual. Even though we’re still living according to our beliefs, we become wrapped up in who this world says we are instead of claiming the truth. It’s time to remember that we belong to God with all the truths that belonging includes. It’s time to make the truths of God the identity we cling to and proclaim every day.

By the Book: Think about your favorite description of who you are in God. I’d love it if you’d share it in the comments. Then, spend some time in scripture finding out who God says you are.

Full of Character with Beth Wescott

welcomeToday I have the unique opportunity to introduce you to an author whose journey is only just beginning. It’s a chance for each of us to get to know her and even a little about her characters before we get to read her book. Let’s welcome Beth Wescott, author of Meadow Song. Please check back for more information on the release date and genre of the book.

What character from the books you’ve read has impacted you more than all the others?

As a member of the Dutch Underground during World War 2, Diet Eman risked everything to help Jews escape death or imprisonment by the Nazis: her identity, her life, her freedom, and the man she loved. Her true story is told in the book Things We Couldn’t Say.  She wrote in her diary, “…When you are a Christian and profess that God is almighty, there is no single area of life from which you can eliminate God.” Her faith, courage, and sacrifice touched me deeply.

I think you may be the first person to answer that question with someone from a non-fiction book. It’s a great twist on the question, and after reading the quote I can see why you find her inspirational.

What character you created was the easiest to write? The hardest?

I think that Blythe Chambers, the little girl in my upcoming novel Meadow Song, was the easiest. As to the hardest, male lead characters, Jack Chambers in Meadow Song, making them strong, yet vulnerable and realistic.

It is a hard balance to achieve sometimes. I can’t wait to find out more about them. Scripture is full of real people who had character to spare. Which one do you most relate to or enjoy reading about?

In recent years I’ve come to appreciate Nehemiah. He had the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt in fifty-two days! A strong leader and man of faith, he let nothing distract him from his purpose. He committed each step to God in prayer and stood firm against his enemies.

We tell kids all the time to chase their dreams and work for their goals. But how often do we encourage them to seek to make God’s purpose/plan their dream? I think we’d do a lot better is we were more like Nehemiah, seeking God’s will in all we do and then following it with tenacity. Great answer to the question!

Do you plan your characters and their backstories before you begin writing or are you as surprised by them as your readers?

I’ve done both and see value in each. A character’s backstory is a tool to use in directing the character’s actions, reactions, and relationships. But like real people, a character may do the unexpected. I view an outline the same way, as a tool to help structure your novel. As in life, the unexpected happens. In my opinion, planning gives you more flexibility. The backstory and the outline are not written in stone (I know that’s a cliché). Sometimes I’ll begin writing, and then do a backstory on the characters.

I always enjoy seeing the different paths writers take to get to the same destination. Sounds like your story development path may twist and turn from time to time. I think that makes the process more fun! 

If someone wrote a movie about you, who would you like to play your character? Why?

A movie about me? I read books more often than I watch movies, so I’m not familiar with many actresses. I suppose I’d prefer an actress who understands the Christian worldview. I’d like to meet her, get to know her.

Thank you for sharing about yourself and your writing process. I look forward to being able to share more information about your book as it becomes available. 

Write Stuff Wednesday: Grow

grow“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Stephen King

Reading is my superpower. With the current fascination with super heroes, statements of an individual’s superpower aren’t unusual. Everything from hobbies to activism is touted as superpowers. But in this case, it’s a little bit true. For a writer, reading has power.

In order to grow as a writer, all the successful writers agree, you must read. Currently tucked in amid a plethora of Christian fiction is a book by Brandilyn Collins on creating characters. I want to read it not because I know nothing about creating characters but because there is always something new to learn on the subject. There’s always a tip or trick or different perspective that I can incorporate into my writing to make it better. As I writer I read because I want to grow. There will never be a time when I’ve learned all there is to learn.

And my lessons aren’t only found in books on the craft of writing. I find inspiration in addition to pleasure in the pages of fiction. In reading well-written stories, I expose myself to writing techniques without conscious effort. I’m not trying to learn. I’m simply enjoying the story, and my brain captures lessons on technique and style and characterization I don’t realize it’s taking in. Even an occasional poorly written story isn’t a total waste as it drives home the things I want to avoid in my own writing.

In accepting the idea that I don’t have it all together as a writer, I create the environment and drive to become better than I was yesterday. I don’t stop with reading and understanding concepts about writing. I apply them to what I write and in doing so, my writing is strengthened. Reading becomes my superpower to better my writing.

But reading is more than just a superpower for writers. It’s also a spiritual superpower. There’s a whole chapter in Psalms (119, in case you’re wondering) dedicated to the benefits of God’s word. The New Testament tells us scripture is good for teaching us, correcting us, and training us in the ways a righteous person should think and act. Scripture is our way to get to know God and understand our relationship with Him. Scripture gives us direction, encouragement, strength, and conviction (both the “I know I am wrong” kind of conviction that leads us from sin to forgiveness and the “I shall not be moved” kind of conviction we need to stand strong in our beliefs).

As believers in 2018 we have an unheard of number of ways to grow in our relationships with God. We can listen to godly music everywhere we go. There are numerous Christian books and movies. Christian speakers and teachers pack conference halls to hear their messages. These are wonderful tools we have in our lives as Christians, but they can’t compare to the word of God. They are the tributaries, but God’s word is the source they spring from. It is what gives their words meaning and power.

Scripture also gives meaning to our actions and power to the way we live. It transforms us into something new, something closer to the image of Christ, as we let each word soak into our souls. Time spent reading God’s word is more than a mere superpower. Reading scripture is a believer’s supernatural superpower.

By the Book: As a writer, do you spend time growing through reading? Feel free to share a favorite book in the comments. As a believer, do you spend time through reading God’s word? Feel free to share a favorite verse in the comments.