What makes a character – 1 – The beginnings of a writer

My characters are many, a diverse group of people that are based on people I know, people I’ve known, people I’ve met, or seen, or interacted with. Some of them make up a single character with several traits.

Some are like me, but most are people I would have like to have been rather than the dull as ditchwater person I am. No-one wants to read about dull people, they want someone larger than life, someone who can do the impossible, or at the very least, the improbably.

I’ve always wanted to be someone else. For a long time I never liked who I was, and, to a certain extent, I still don’t. That was a result of the early stages of my life, those years the form who we are going to be.

And, had you asked me 50 years ago whether I would be the person I am now, I’d probably laugh and say it would be impossible. Yet here I am, and it’s nothing like what I thought I would be.

But, for now, lets look at the traits that live in some of my characterisations.

For instance, to understand the influences people have on us, I use my father, a man always voted for a particular political party, and that alone was an influence on who I would vote for when I got old enough, after listening for years his reasons for hating the opposition. For years he aired his grievances, which, at the time, he believed were real and caused by that opposition party.

Politics can be very polarising. There’s also a saying, throw enough mud, some of it sticks. That, of course applied to a great many things. Another was only the rich could afford a University education, and for years I believed that. It was, he said, how the rich kept their influence over, and suppress the poor.

It was a similar case with religion, another polarising topic, and my family were Protestants and therefore didn’t like other religions such as Catholics. It didn’t strike me till much later in life why this was so. But as a child we were sent to Sunday school and, irregularly, to church services of the Presbyterian faith.

Then there were our relatives, none of whom we ever really met. I knew we had relatives, my fathers parents because for a while we used to visit them every month or so where my father would cut their lawn, and my mother had a mother, he father had died not long after I’d been born.

My father had a lot of brothers and a sister. My mother had a brother and a sister. She also had an aunt that I’m sure I met several times before she died. But these are fleeting memories. We saw my father’s brothers and sister rarely, so rarely now I don’t remember them. The same applied to my mother’s sister, of whom I got the impression she was immensely jealous of.

I never understood why. Not then, any way.

But as for my mother’s mother, our grandmother, she was a likable soul who lived in the country, and she never came to see us, we went to see her, but those visits were long after we stopped seeing my father’s parents.

At the time we were young, she lived in the country, and we had to drive there which took time we didn’t seem to have.

Later in my pre teens my brother and I used to stay at her house for a week or two during the school holidays. It was a very large house on a large block, very old with high ceilings and large rooms, and we always had lots to eat, and delicious food at that, and we couldn’t understand why we didn’t have the same with our parents.

Of course there was a reason for that too, but this only became clear a few years ago when my brother started collecting information for a family history. My brother hunted down all of the relatives that were still alive and began to learn why we never saw them. It was not because of them, but because of my parents.

One stark revelation was that nearly all of them were better off than we were.

So here was my early childhood in equally stark reality.

It would be easy to blame parents for everything, but that’s the easy way out, and probably what every child who felt they were deprived of a proper life would do. More than likely, for years, that’s exactly how I felt, and, equally, the reason why I withdrew into a whole different world, or worlds, of my own.

I might not have put words on paper, but in my mind stories were beginning and evolving, stories that I told others to hide what I really was, and what I felt.

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