My first creative writing professor reduced the grade on my first writing assignment, citing that while the plot of my story was all that it needed to be, one of my major characters was comically unbelievable because of the lengths to which I went to portray all that was dark and evil within him.
My immaturity welcomed the ensuing offense and issue I took with my professor’s evaluation. While the need for an “A” compelled the rewrite that was graciously offered, it did not sufficiently motivate me to admit that he was correct in his assessment. That would come the following fall semester, after spending a summer taking the advice that Kurt Vonnegut gave to an audience of aspiring writers of which I was included. He essentially said that good writers…read.
I spent the summer between a full course load, work and mothering reading an exotic cornucopia of literature; 217 books in all (not including my required course reading). All the while, my professor’s correction whispered to me among the pages: “your characters, no matter how diabolical, must have redeeming qualities in order for them to be believable”.
Every person on this planet has redeeming qualities; saving graces that are the culmination of truth and experience that shape motivation and choice. These characteristics are subjective to the observer. We necessarily judge what is real and feigned through the skew of our own reality. And more often than not, we are harder on the subject than we have to be. For that, I owe much of the universe an apology.
I have come to realize that in my endeavor to exorcise certain personal demons through the writing process, I have burdened the characters of my imagination with unnecessary layers of harshness. I have been severely and wickedly critical of the persons upon whom my characters are based. And I have been entirely too hard on myself. The circle that forms and informs my universe is a victim of a damn near impossible self-imposed standard.
Subsequently, I am going to let my friends, my characters, my truth and myself off the hook. I am loosening the strings of my heart and my sensibilities in order to bend to the will of the Creator...without breaking, thereby recognizing that the universe and all of her inhabitants are redemptive, capable of consciousness and worthy of infinite forgiveness.