Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Dipping the Quill Deeper; The Three People You Are


by Eva Marie Everson @EvaMarieEverson


“You are three people,” I say as I stand in front of my fiction workshops, whether at writers conferences or one of the many day-long events I’ve been asked to attend. “You are who you are when you are in public … at work … with a group of friends … at church. That’s the first person. Then, you are the person you are when you are at home … with your immediate family—mother, father, sisters, brothers, spouse, children—and your closest friends, who are like family. That’s the second person. Finally, you are the person you are when you are all alone. Just you and God. No one else. Just you.”

The first person is the easiest to tell others about. If I were to ask you, right now, to tell me about the first person of who you are, you’d be almost vivacious in the telling. Even wallflowers come to some semblance of life once they are in the presence of others. They may not like it, but they at least attempt conversation. They may wish they were anywhere but where they are, but there they are … and they are putting on, for them, some sort of show. Of course, those who are the life of every party … well. They’re even more so when they are out and about. But to get an adequate explanation of the first person, I’d do best to query your coworkers. Your friends and neighbors. Your party people.

The second person I’d have to ask your family about. Too often we kid ourselves into believing we are the first person and not the second, but our family knows us for exactly who we are, and they love us anyway. Typically. Or, at the very least, let’s hope so. 

The second person is who you are when you stop smiling for the sake of keeping people at bay. The second person is who you are when you take off your makeup (if you wear any) or remove your belt and hat. The second person collapses on the sofa, eats in front of the television, may or may not use a napkin. He leaves the toilet seat up or closes it, leaves cabinet doors open or closes them every time. The second person gets angry and, by golly, everyone in the house knows it. He or she wakes up grumpy at times. Other times the world is their oyster. They practically skip out of bed. They plan for the family and see those plans to fruition. The second person worries about finances and the future … and cries even when everyone is looking.

Ah, but the third person. The third person is for you alone to tell me about, but I’ll grow old in the waiting. Because the third person is who we are when we are stripped down. Vulnerable. Quiet, for once. The third person is a culmination of all our insecurities and beliefs. Our raised hopes and squashed dreams. Our potentials and our inabilities. The third person is, quite honestly, the real us. 

And so it is with your characters.

Do you know why so many books these days (at least too many that I have started never to finish) have one- and two-dimensional characters? Because the writer (that’s you) got to know only one or two of the “persons.” They can tell you exactly who their character is at work. At a party. Outside chatting with the neighbors. They can probably tell you a little about who their characters are when they are at home with the family. Or out shopping with a best friend. 

But by themselves? The darkest part of themselves? Not too often. 

Why, I wonder? 

Well, I think I know … just as we avoid getting to know ourselves too well, we also avoid getting to know the darkest, brightest, most awful, most wonderful parts of our characters. We skip right to the surface and stop. Because to get to know their third person may require that we get to know our third person.


Yet … when I read those characters who have been so carefully crafted, so painstakingly understood, I know it. And so do you. They leap off the page. We cry with them. Laugh out loud at their lines and action. We want desperately for them, so much so we’re willing to crawl between the chapters to make it happen.

Why, then, should we give anything less to our readers? We shouldn’t. How, then, do we accomplish this? I believe we begin with finding the third person of ourselves and I believe that comes, often, from journaling. From being honest. As Christian writers, from asking the Holy Spirit to uncover anything about us we need to know. Then, we write about it. We plot our own course. And, in doing so, we lay a path for plotting the “persons” of our characters. 

Search me, O God, and know my heart, the psalmist wrote (Psalm 139). 

May we say—and mean—the same. 

TWEETABLE

Eva Marie Everson is the multiple award-winning and bestselling author of over 35 books, both fiction and nonfiction. She is the president of Word Weavers International and the director of Florida Christian Writers Conference and North Georgia Christian Writers Conference. Eva Marie and her husband make their home in Central Florida where they enjoy a lake view, their children, and grandchildren. They are owned by a very small dog.

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