What does your main character do when someone dies? How does she cope with the loss of someone close to her? Someone she knew and cared about, or even loved?
Does she crumble and fall, curling up in a ball and drowning in her own sorrow until she feels empty and numb? Or does she bottles everything up, allowing herself to shed not even a tear, tightening her jaw and putting on a mask and getting ice cold and hard on the inside because that’s how she’s able to keep it together and go on?
Someone I cared about died today and I couldn’t cry. I never did, not even when my best friend’s mom, or my grandma, or my other bff’s dad, or my teacher, died. I’ve been told I have a very Japanese way to cope with strong emotions, especially negative ones: I simply don’t show them. As if they were embarassing, not decent, not dignified. They’re something private, for no one else to see. But not only don’t I show them, no, it’s even worse: I ignore them, as if they weren’t even there.
I don’t know how I manage to do it and I’m aware that is an extremely unhealty way to deal with negative feelings, because they’re going to come back to bite me in the ass months or even years later, in a different form, such as depression and anger issues (that I still won’t externalize, obviously. I’ll just let them eat me up from the inside). Been there, done that.
This is a trait of mine that inevitably will be reflected in my characters. If I have a very strong connection to my main character, and I usually do, she will have huge trouble showing her true emotions. Not because she’s secretly hoping and waiting for someone to notice them, not because she wants to be seen through and commiserated. She absolutely doesn’t want to be seen. She doesn’t want to be commiserated. That’s the point. She’s almost ashamed of her emotions. She’d become invisible to everyone if she could. She doesn’t want to be and be seen as weak. Self-control shows strength of character. The more she feels, the more she hides. Just like I do.
(Rationally speaking, I KNOW feeling pain DOES NOT mean being weak, at all. On the contrary: people who are able to face their true emotions are brave and I should totally learn from them.)
I have to say though that I do the same thing with extremely positive emotions: I’m reluctant to show them, although maybe not for the same reasons. I had difficulties in the past admitting I was happy about something, because I thought if I did I could get used to feeling that way and that was not a good thing, because nothing lasts and I didn’t want to suffer later. I still have troubles showing love and affection to people, no matter how much I actually care about them, and even showing how good I feel when someone loves me and cares about me. That’s kinda twisted, isn’t it? Well, my childhood wasn’t 100% normal and carefree and I might have learned too much too soon, what can I say.
I’m working on myself to learn how to deal both with positive and negative emotions in a healthier way. I really am, and I have already got better. But my characters will probably embody the worst of me in that sense. But maybe it’s not always going to be a bad thing, is it? Maybe they’ll be more realistic, or even more intense, more raw.
They’ll love others “as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.”
They’ll will not “stand at my grave and cry; I am not there. I didn’t die.”
Self-control will be like a law for them. At least at first. They will unravel at some point, because sometimes you just have to tear your characters apart and have them crumble in a thousand pieces, don’t you?
ps. CampNaNoWriMo started yesterday! I plan to finish the second draft of my novel, Echo (first in the Black Hood Chronicles), by the end of the month. I love the direction this thing has taken. I love Noumi, and Wayne, and Akio, and Blythe, and Aleshandre, and all my other characters. I’m excited and I can’t wait to finish their story.
Good luck everyone!