Let’s examine the role of brick walls for characters in fiction—and for us.
Everyday people live exciting lives.
If people were to walk in our shoes, they’d surely walk fascinating lives. We may have led thrilling lives. But even if we hadn’t done anything ultra-exciting, we’ve still led deeply meaningful lives, just by the nature of being human.
Author Charles Euchner (2015) says, “The most ordinary people lead rich, complex lives: ministers and teachers, housewives and factory workers, lawyers and accountants, cooks and janitors, scientists and artists” (13%).
It’s the little things that matter most: smiling at a stranger, helping out a child, petting an animal, giving a hug to a hurting friend. What matters most is not a grandiose role as an FBI agent, an astronaut, or a Navy Seal. What matters most is where our hearts reside while doing most any job.
He goes on to ask “How do [we] know when [we] have a character worth developing? ‘I have to be able to defend this character,’ says Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter for The West Wing and The Social Network. ‘[We] want to write the character as if they are making their case to God why they should be allowed in heaven’” (Euchner, 2015)
Wonderful traits can arise in most any character, especially in characters undergoing hardship. These redeeming traits could be forgiveness, kindness, humor, spirituality, love, fairness, generosity, mercifulness, and so much more. To be a true hero, a character should grow more inwardly beautiful. Inner beauty makes any character book-worthy.
But what makes a character mesmerizing? Charles Euchner (2015) advises, “Push … characters hard to discover what they choose and avoid. Put … characters in challenging situations; make life hard on them. As soon as they begin to resolve their problems, throw new challenges their way. Kick … characters; as soon as they get up, kick ’em again. Test their capacity to learn and grow”
If characters respond to brick walls with love, patience, and forgiveness, I believe they can speedily recover. And not just recover, but discover bliss.
Charles Euchner also says, “Don’t just discover the surface facts of [our] characters’ lives; explore the backstories. Don’t just find [our] characters’ names; discover how they got their names and what they mean. Don’t just talk about their jobs; find out what work means to them emotionally. Be complete. Don’t dismiss any ideas as unimportant. Each detail, somehow, matters” (ibid)
Details matter. A person’s job can dictate the hardships he or she goes through. A paramedic is at risk of post-traumatic stress disorder. A cashier may be at risk of not earning enough to support her child. A cab driver may be at risk of assaults, theft, or even murder.
Names, too, matter. I read a study on bias that said elementary school teachers tend to give higher grades to students with common names—and lower grades to those with foreign names. A name like Candy can have a different social impact than a name like Beatrice. And a name like Bob gives a different impression than a name like Archibald.
Every little detail about us matters, even the trim of our nails and the glimmer in our eyes.
Your choices when times are tough define your character.
“We find people’s character in the choices they make in their most difficult moments,” says Charles Euchner (2015, 14%).
I find it quite shocking that horrific events can draw out our greatest beauty. Something traumatic can turn out either devastating or redeeming. Just by refusing to judge another, by loving on everyone, and by forgiving every sin, I believe we can come to a state of bliss.
Most anyone can change from a sullen, defeated state to a charming, loving state. It’s attitude. The trick is to put love in every interaction, as if we were on stage; as if every person we meet, we hope to spend an eternity with; as if everyone is the most important person in our lives.
The next time we hit a brick wall, think of it as an opportunity. Treat that brick wall like a treasured friend—for that brick wall may lead to bliss.