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message 1: by Pat (new)

Pat Bertram (patbertram) | 43 comments Mod
In The Art of Creative Writing, Lagos Egri states:

"Whatever a character does, it is for one basic purpose -- to strengthen his position in life and his security; all the chameleon-like changes for one reason only -- to remain alive, to be secure (overcome insecurities), to be happy, and most of all, to be important.

"Never overlook the importance of being important.

"Man has nothing more precious to defend than his self-declared importance, and he will defend it with his last breath."

This sounds like a good start to developing a character, or at least a character’s inner conflicts. In fact, this is one of the themes of the grieving woman book I want to write. With her husband gone, so is her sense of self, along with her sense of importance. She might not have been important in the world’s eyes, but she was important in her own eyes because she was important to him. She tries to find importance through other people, but in the end realizes she has to find it in herself.

So, in the book you are now reading (or writing) what makes the character feel important? What does the character do to defend his or her sense of being important? How does the character strengthen his or her position in life? How does s/he struggle to remain secure? What insecurities does s/he have to overcome? Is the character happy? What does s/he do to remain alive, both physically and mentally? Does s/he find happiness? Does s/he find importance?

Let's talk.

message 2: by Tara (new)

Tara (goodreadscomtara_lynn_masih) | 4 comments My character comes from a recent story collection I published, Where the Dog Star Never Glows. I decided to respond to this thread because she brings up many different emotions in my readers. Her name is Bridgitte, and she lives in some vague small urban town in the Northeast. While walking down the road one hot day, she encounters and then seduces a telephone repairman. The final scene is her writing her name in the dirt where they lay. She is trying to establish her importance.

Why I bring this up is because it's been interesting to hear the various reactions. Women tend to either relate to the story and love it, or have a very negative opinion and are disturbed by it. Men, on the other hand, all seem to like and relate to the push and pull need of both characters--woman wanting one thing, man wanting another. Can the man provide what the woman wants beyond sex?

My intention was to try to find some reasons and empathy for why a young girl might be promiscuous (this story was based on a distant relative in the early part of the last century). It's meant to shock a bit, disturb, and then hopefully enlighten a bit.

Bridgitte could very well quote that line herself, Never overlook the importance of being important.

Great question! I look forward to other responses.


message 3: by Colleen (new)

Colleen (colleenct1) | 5 comments I am reading "The Beans of Egypt, Maine" The main character I am using to answer this question is Earlene Pomerleau. They live in a very tiny town and the nearest neighbors live in a trailer.

Earlene feels more important because she lives in a house, is God fearing and she makes it a point to prove that her family and house is cleaner then any of the neighbors.

Her mother is in an aslynm but her father has a very active role in her life. The neighbor woman has about 6 children by different men and there is no male figure to take care of them.

Earlene seems happy but I am only about half way through the book. I will have to let you know what happens.

message 4: by Nicholas (last edited Oct 22, 2010 02:05AM) (new)

Nicholas (Erbocker) | 22 comments

As a practice, I try to avoid dissecting any of the particulars concerning the works of others. In this case I don’t think Nicholas Sparks would care.

In his latest book, Safe Haven, the main character Katie is in a Sleeping with the Enemy sort of situation. Katie’s first interest is escape and her second is to avoid capture at any cost. Twice she has escaped her abusive husband who twice tracked her down using the resources of the Boston P.D. where he is a detective. Captured twice, she is returned home only to face tighter confinement and severe punishment doled out on a hair trigger temper. A clear-cut case of self-interest survival. Her third escape puts her on a collision course towards a fate uncertain. Since the book was just published, I won’t spoil the outcome.

As far as wide sweeping generalizations are concerned, like the one depicted by Lajos Egri quoted at the outset of this discussion, requires all characters to operate within strict self interest boundary. What drives the human spirit in my eyes certainly defies those boundaries. Too Freudian for me. Self interest is not involved at the moment a parent jumps into a raging river to save their child. Dissecting the event later, one might successfully argue the parent jumped for strict self interest to avoid criticism the child wasn’t watched close enough to avoid the whole mess in the first place. Or one could argue they leapt to avoid a life time of agony and regret. In that split second, without thought or self focused interest, any parent would leap.

Lastly, characters depicted in The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd) illustrate every kind of behavior motivated by self important interest (learned prejudices) or behavior allowing someone to be helped where there is every reason not to help them and lastly where years of angry and resentful behavior fueled by mere habit are washed away. Despite how difficult it can be, I learned from this story we are better individuals putting self interest aside.

message 5: by Sheila (new)

Sheila | 51 comments Can what makes the character feel important change during the book, for example if they find what they wanted isn't what they need?

message 6: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne (jeanne_voelker) Sheila,

I think it's best if it does change. We want our characters to gain some insight and grow.

message 7: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisarosenbergsachs) | 6 comments I have to disagree with that statement. Most of the time, people are motivated by their need to survive and thrive. Sometimes, however, people are motivated by something larger than themselves. Examples are conductors on the Underground Railroad, people who helped smuggle Jewish refugees into Palestine, the Civil Rights movement, and many other such movements. Human history would have never advanced without such examples.

message 8: by Pat (new)

Pat Bertram (patbertram) | 43 comments Mod
Sheila, that's a good question, and and Jeanne said, it is best if what makes them feel important does change. What makes us feel important is a facet of character. A character who sees herself in terms of wealth might find more worth in giving of herself to a good cause.

Lisa, if someone is motivated by something bigger than themselves, doesn't it give them something in return? A feeling of worth? A feeling that they have a place in life? A feeling that they made a difference? Self-importance is not about puffing up the ego -- it's about what makes us feel we have some importance to the world.

message 9: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisarosenbergsachs) | 6 comments Yes, that's true. They get the intangible reward of having lived a life that was meaningful, that they did what they could to leave the world better than they found it. They might have done it with no concrete reward in mind however.

message 10: by Pat (last edited Oct 23, 2010 06:51PM) (new)

Pat Bertram (patbertram) | 43 comments Mod
Lisa wrote: "Yes, that's true. They get the intangible reward of having lived a life that was meaningful, that they did what they could to leave the world better than they found it. They might have done it with..."

I think this sense of importance is subconscious most of the time. It's just the way we deal with the immensity of life, a way of making ourselves matter. It in no way negates the unselfish way many people go about their lives.

message 11: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisarosenbergsachs) | 6 comments Yes, I agree.

message 12: by Sheila (new)

Sheila | 51 comments I find myself remembering that long college conversation--late at night, over pizza--about how everybody's selfish at heart... We just have different things that make us feel good or important.

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