Just in from Australia – Happy Father’s Day Pop! Next was a call from Portland, OR, wishing a Happy Day and much love. It sure warms a father’s heart to hear from his daughters. My daughters grew up knowing their dad as a photographer. They were steeped in the life of lights, camera, action as well as the work that comes before and after the razzle-dazzle. I took them with me to drop ﬁlm at the lab and they saw me sorting rolls of negatives to be
matched with prints. Being surrounded by male and female photographers, art directors and clients was the norm for them.
Along the way ﬁlm changed to pixels and prints became digital ﬁles. Our children absorb who we are and what we do. We believe they are not paying attention, only to ﬁnd years later that they had stored it all away for possible use at a future time. We show them by our example how we view and deal with life and other the people around us. Both of my daughters have moved on into their own professions and yet both are photographers as well.
While reading Origin, a biography of Charles Darwin, I was quite taken with a section describing one of Darwin’s sons asking his father a question. The boy explained that he’d been at a friend’s house and the friend’s father had no fossils to work on. Darwin’s son had grown up thinking that all fathers did what Darwin did. In nature it is called imprinting and
takes place by inherited instinct. Humans in advanced societies have, by and large, lost our trust in such instincts.
We are the role models for our children by what we say and do, how we act and, yes, also by what we write. They may not grow up to follow our path, but they will have been shaped by our example in how they approach their own path. These are important matters that should not be left to chance. As parents to the characters we create in our stories we must strive to help them grow into the needs of the story itself. We need to act in a very precise and conscious manner.
Every trait and sense each character displays must be a real and true part of them. If a reader thinks some action a character has taken does not ﬁt, you will lose that reader. How has the character developed a particular way to think and act? What will their responses be in a situation?
An important lesson I have taken away from Susan Tuttle’s “What If” writing workshops is that a writer must know every detail concerning one of his or her characters: Who they are; how they think; what drives them; how they will react to stimuli in any given situation; are they educated or grown up in slums with no chances to advance themselves?
Even if these things do not come into the light of day in your story, it is important that you know them.
NW Wordsmiths June 2013