The Lead Role

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…

Yes, we all play many roles throughout our lives. We change, we grow, we experience, and we change again and again. But through all the different parts we play, there is one that remains constant.

In our life story, we get top billing.

We are each the star of our own tale.

Remembering this can help in writing and everyday life.

First, the writing. When making side-characters or minor characters, it adds so much depth to just remember that nobody sees themselves as the side-character. That “throwaway character” is the star of his or her own book. They have their own origins and backgrounds, their likes and dislikes and moral compass (or lack thereof). They have their own hopes and dreams and their own feelings about what is going on.

That may seem difficult to bring to the page, and it’s not like you want to spend pages on every single person that enters the scene, but visualizing a full character can help nail that instant impression.

We all label and judge others off of our first impressions of people – despite how many times we are wrong. Even if we aren’t racist or sexist or elitist or any other -ist, our brains are. Our brains like to categorize and organize.

That big guy over there? Looks like a dumb meat-head. Probably works out all the time.

That prissy looking girl there? I bet she’s never known a day of hard work in her life. Gets her money at the Bank of Mum and Dad.

Quiet kid with the bad hair and cartoon-ey something on his t-shirt? Socially inept and probably out of touch with reality. One of those video gamers.

And that type of snap judgement – that’s okay for a story. The main characters can show that they’re human and flawed if they judge someone wrong. If it’s correct, then it’s a quick way of saying who a minor character is. Yes, they’re basically stereotypes, but the reader is going to categorize and judge them as soon as they can anyway.

It even works with main characters. Get the stereotyping out of the way quickly, and then allow the character to grow beyond those bounds. That’s the progression we make with real people, so it only makes sense to do it with the characters in a story.

Speaking of real life, we’re not going to just stop judging and stereotyping others – despite our good intentions. But we don’t want those initial impressions to dictate how we treat others. Remember, everyone is the star of their own story.

And everyone has a story.

We need to remind ourselves that everyone around us has all sorts of pressures and stresses and hopes and dreams. We are all human beings. We could all use a little more empathy.

Take the time to just people watch and try to imagine what part of their life story you are witnessing.

I suppose I might have an advantage in this respect because I am constantly seeing people on some of the worst days of their lives. Sometimes it’s a close call or second lease on life, sometimes it’s the last day of their life.

It’s amazing what people can survive, and surprising just how fragile we really are.

We are each our own comedy and tragedy, drama and adventure.

Try to look beyond just the cover.

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