I have seen – more frequently than I thought would be possible – memes on social media encouraging women to lift each other up, stop demeaning each other, and so forth and in the very same day, the very same women commenting on how another woman looked.
“OMG! Did you see what Margie wore to the baby shower?”
“I Knoooow! Doesn’t she have a mirror?”
“Right? She’s way too big/small/tall/short/old/young to wear that!”
Now, aside from the hypocritical nature of the observers – you cannot lift someone up and tear them down at the same time or on the same day or in the same lifetime without being a hypocrite – it begs the question on whether or not “Margie” views herself the same way that the hypocrites do. What I mean is, does she have a mirror and what does she see when she looks into it?
When we develop a character, we know how they look, what they think, why they think that way and so on. But are your characters self-aware? Do they know that they like the color blue because the sweater their mother wore when then they were little was blue and the color makes them feel warm and safe? Probably not. When they look in a mirror do the see that they are too big/small/tall/short/old/young to wear those clothes, or that hair style, those shoes, that jewelry, that make-up? Probably not. Or maybe…
So, when does a character need to be self-aware? What if Margie doesn’t know that a mini skirt is just not the most flattering article of clothing for her to wear. Would she be hurt by the comments whispered behind her back and/or posted by her “friends” on social media? Why doesn’t she know – what’s her self-perception? Doesn’t she see her chicken legs/elephant legs/varicose veins/whatever? What if she does know? Does she not care? Is she so self-confident that she doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks? Is she wearing it on purpose to call out the hypocrites?
Self-awareness can be tricky with characters but it is something we have to determine when we develop our characters. Are they aware of their triggers and tells? If not, are they victims or aggressors? If so, are they manipulators or fragile and clinging to self control? Each time we can look into the depths of our characters from our point of view, we can make a richer character. But, if we can turn it around and see our character from her point of view, we can make a more sympathetic character.
P.S. This isn’t just for women.
In the meantime, we are accepting submissions for our May/June Issue. The theme is “Three Wishes.” What wishes would you grant if you could? What wishes would you never grant if asked? Would you relinquish the control of your wishes to someone else? To whom? What would you wish for? Send in your stories, nonfiction, essays, poems, recipes, artwork soon! Deadline is April 16th.