I’ve been having a little fun with fiction. I’ve been trying on different personalities in the form of characters I’m writing. First person narratives are so different from third person. Getting into the character makes me feel like I really know him or her. Well, her. So far I’ve been working with female characters, probably because they’re what I know best.
Maybe it’s time to get a little bolder. I’ve written a few women, and they’ve been young. Far younger than I am. I suppose it’s because in my head I’m far younger than I am in my body. Teenage me is still alive and well, but fortunately she’s not in charge. Can you imagine? That would be a disaster.
Can I write older? I suppose I can try it, but it will be quite a bit more difficult. After all, I’ve been younger than I am now, but I’ve never been older. Of course I know older people, and I have my entire life, but it’s not the same as having that first-hand experience. Still, I think I’m going to give it a go.
Then there’s gender. At the moment I’m thinking in terms of simple binary, that is male and female. Again, these are the ones I’m most familiar with. Yes, I have met transgender people, and yes, the people I’ve met have been lovely, but I don’t know nearly enough about their experiences in the world to pretend to be able to write a convincing character at this point.
I’ve written characters from different backgrounds, from a former child soldier in South Sudan to an undocumented Mexican man full of machismo to a little girl living in foster care unsure of her future. None of these characters have been in first person, though. I think it would be enlightening to go back to some of these people (yes, I know they’re imaginary, but they’re still people) and write from their points of view. What is that scared little girl seeing and hearing in the dark in a strange bedroom far away from her family? How does his past haunt the Sudanese “Lost Boy” and does he feel survivor’s guilt? What, and who, did the Mexican man leave behind when he crossed the border? Was it worth it? Will he ever voluntarily go back?
It’s a fascinating exercise in empathy and creativity. At our core we share undeniable similarities. How these manifest, and how our differences separate us, are topics of unending wonder. I’m so lucky I can write my way into whatever personality I feel like choosing.