Isabel Costello ‘s latest blogpost concerns character in fiction. It is the characters in any book that hook us, perhaps even more than a plot. We want to empathise with them , even love them a little. And in order for us to do that, the writer must convince us of the credibility of their characters. We will suspend our disbelief if we recognise something true. (Although if you check out Jake Barton ‘s latest blog post you’ll read an interesting case to the contrary)
We know ourselves to be a mass of inconsistencies and contradictions, no one is straightforward. But we aint art. As writers, we just have to do enough to imply all this psychological baggage, unless of course we are writing Mrs Dalloway.
‘We all come and go unknown/ Each so deep and superficial/Between the forceps and the stone’
It’s so simple. Yes, we can be and mostly are both deep and superficial. As always, I was impressed by her elegant concision and the absolute truth of the statement.
Getting back to the purpose of this exercise, Isabel crazily put herself forward as an example of character and Susan Elliot Wright followed, as did Janet O’Kane, and Kristin Celms. So despite the fact that I hate exposing myself, I feel I owe it to you chaps who have read my blog and said such nice things about it, to do the same.
I am the youngest of five children brought up in a Catholic family in a village in Kent. So ‘Catholic’ was my experience that not only did all my brothers and sisters go to Catholic schools, but our house served as the local mass centre for the parish. This meant that every Sunday we had Mass said in, what was laughingly known as, ‘the billiard room’. Even worse I had three aunts who were nuns and two uncles who were priests.
Despite the fact that hordes of people trooped to our house on a Sunday, our family fostered a weird bunker mentality of ‘us’ against ‘them’. My father never wanted any of us to leave home and most of us agreed with him, because he had made it such a very nice place to be. My mother was a consumate carer of children, cook, gardener, always putting everyone before herself.
I live in the country with three dogs, two cats, chickens, my husband and a lot of dog hair.I have to live in the countryside. I need nature and feel that it feeds me, keeping me sane. I love to go to London for the day and soak up all that energy, but if I had to stay overnight, I’d get very depressed. Man-made ugliness oppresses me terribly, mind you there is a bit of that out here in the countryside too. The bad side of living in the country is finding compatible people. I am not ‘horsey’, I am not posh, nor do I vote Tory, like most of my neighbours. When we first moved here, I kept getting invited to ‘Coffee Mornings’ and assumed them to be ironic ‘Coffee Mornings’, then was sadly disabused of this notion.
I am a little bit chaotic. I have a tendancy to stop doing ‘my thing’ in favour of other peoples’ things. When I was young that meant dropping education or jobs in order to follow men. In the last twenty years it has meant devoting myself to my kids, who are grown up now.
I have to write or I get miserable. I am interested in everything and am therefore constantly distracted by the radio and TV, books and papers. However, spreading myself so thinly, I have ended up with a great deal of muddled knowledge, spread across a lot of topics but only veneer deep. This does not, however, stop me from pretending I bloody know everything.
I am shy but I love talking, although I can’t do small talk. Years ago I used to dream of having perfect dinner parties where important and fabulous conversations took place. My attempts to make these a reality were always a disappointment. That’s why I love Twitter; at last, one can make inconsequential remarks or even attempt profundity and there are people out there who might understand and perhaps respond. I used to love parties, but now I hate them and my daughter has told me that, even worse, I have become socially awkward. It’s true, I don’t know what to do with my arms!
I don’t fit in, anywhere. I never have. I like the company of women as well as men, but I can’t do the girly thing. I always was a bit of a loner and a tomboy. I am irritatingly cheerful and have a compulsion to crack jokes that I laugh at heartily myself, to others dismay, while all the time thinking how I’m wasted on these people!
I love wild weather and the sea.
I consider myself to have been a sensitive/pathetic child who was traumatised by the Catholic church, big time. I have wounds, let me tell you and they still show. I apologise for myself all the time, feel guilty about even the good things I do (which are rare) And although I have been a confirmed agnostic since I was thirteen, I love church music (not hymns). I’m with Alain de Botton on this one, the good things that flow from religion can be enjoyed without signing on for the dogma.
I’m a good cook and I can garden pretty well. I think I’m O.K. at listening to my kids and trying to help them. I used to sing in a band but
can’t play a musical instrument and I wish I could.
And one more thing…
I was married to a Canadian, for visa purposes only, on a trans-Canadian train by a punk musician (lately of the Sex Pistols) who was a licensed preacher of the Church of the Fiery Pillar, Georgia. The marriage wasn’t consummated and it didn’t help me stay in Canada but it was the best wedding reception ever. We fused all the lights on the train and brought it to a halt in the Prairies.
If you’d like to take part in #realcharacter, just blog about yourself as we have, then tweet a link, using the #realcharacter hashtag. You’ll be found and retweeted.