With the advent of Christmas, I’m reminded once again how important family and friends are to our emotional health and well-being. Without them, we’d be flat characters with little social interaction and personal development.
Even those who populate our lives in a negative bent lend something to the flavour of our life. They teach us lessons we can’t learn on our own. They teach us patience, or how to deal with conflict. They teach us restraint, and sometimes simply how NOT to behave toward others.
Family and friends come in all colours, personalities, and bring with them a whole host of view points. They help shape our concept of ourselves and the world surrounding us, which is of tremendous benefit to overall growth. The most loving and supportive of family and friends enrich our lives with love and feelings of worth, and we can reciprocate. By learning the positive effects of love and support, we are given a chance to echo it back, not just to those who’ve given it to us, but outward in an ever widening ring of touches.
Family and friends also become sounding boards for thoughts, feelings, and our actions. We use their reactions to gauge whether what we think, feel, and do is appropriate both within the secular setting of that immediate circle, and in a wider social sense. We seek approval, or we don’t, but we’re always aware of other’s reactions.
When confronted with disapproval or negativity within these sacred circles, it gives us the opportunity to re-examine our thoughts and motives. We may or may not change our course or thinking, but it does offer the benefit of a second opinion.
Now, imagine a life without all these people, both the negative and positive. Imagine not being able to talk to a trusted family member or friend. Imagine facing your worst fears, or health issues, alone, with no one to talk to or share your burdens. Imagine not having someone to tell you when you’re doing right, or wrong. Imagine yourself as an island.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds like my worst nightmare; lonely, isolated, and flat. When writers begin a story, they start with the main protagonist(s) and add from there. They have to create secondary characters to interact with the protagonist(s). By peopling the stories with characters who serve this purpose, they increase the interest, and the lives, of their main characters. The goal is to breathe life into a story that would otherwise be flat and dull. Even the villain adds an important element to the story that can’t be overlooked. Conflict is often the catalyst for change in any person, and secondary characters in the form of villains, family, and friends allow the story to move ahead. These other characters sometimes even provide differing points of view for the reader to consider, and give insight into the main character’s background and/or motivation.
Secondary characters also provide the reader with a sense of the main character’s life, aside from the story line depicted. We can begin to see the outer edges of the character, and experience all facets of their nature. As in the real world, this is important to ensure a well-rounded personality and life.
Family and friends also give us different perspectives we may not see ourselves. I learn something new all the time from those closest to me, and from those within my sphere of influence. I learn to think about things in a new way from many, many portals, including social networks, television, radio, news reports, and so on. Through them, I’m exposed to new thoughts and ideas, new developments, and world events that change and enrich my life experience.
I recently stumbled across a great blog, My Book Therapy, written for and by authors, and wasn’t surprised to read their own version of what I’m saying regarding the creation of strong, interesting book characters. In a novel, the characters, both primary and secondary, must be exposed to the world around them, outside their own thoughts and feelings, and be allowed to interact with others. When writers encourage their characters to develop and grow in these ways, they make them more easily relatable to the reader. Giving characters flaws, even minor ones, shows a level of humanity we can all identify with. By understanding the forces that have shaped the character from a variety of sources, it allows the reader to connect to the motives behind what the character is doing or thinking, and why. After all, we are all motivated to thought, feeling, and action by what shapes our world, and our closest family and friends contribute in very large part to how we view ourselves, our lives, and our potential for the future.
I’m blessed to have been born into a loving and supportive family, and to have secured a few close friendships over the years. I’ve had my really difficult times, and I’ve struggled to understand who I am and my purpose in this world, but I’m confident I’m on the right path. My writing has allowed me to explore thoughts and feelings from many, many view points, and in a way, is a reflection of my experiences or those I’ve been exposed to by others. Everything I see, everyone I know, everything I do is teaching me something about me, my world, and the people in it. As I continue to write, I hope to be able to build on my skills as a story-teller and share something of what I’ve learned. In turn, readers will take what they will from any story, interpret it in their own way, and perhaps be entertained for a while. Maybe they’ll think of something in a new way, or learn a new fact they hadn’t known before. I guess it all comes down to the human connection that is so vital to our lives. I believe most of us seek to be understood and heard, and for me, writing is one medium of achieving that goal.
I’d love to hear your stories about how you feel family and friends have helped shaped who you are today. Please do share your comments below, and forward this post along to others in your social networks who might also enjoy it.