|Image by Clive Hicks-Jenkins from Thaliad|
(Phoenicia Publishing, 2012)
I'm thinking about someone I know, someone I hardly noticed for a long time because she was very quiet and modest and also there was nothing to call attention to her appearance. She did not put herself forward in any way, and clearly did not think particularly highly of her own gifts, though she often admired others and their abilities. Yet she grew on me over time for the simple reason that she seemed to have a lovely quality of goodness--a steady, shining light.
Such a character is entirely out of favor as a subject for the literary mainstream in our time, and no doubt would be considered unbelievable or sentimental by many critics. Mere inclusion of such a figure would be difficult; could a writer even get away with it? And yet it is as true as many another character, and a wonderful example of noiselessly bearing up under life's slings and arrows and witnessing to the nobility of human beings.
This person shed light elsewhere on other characters as well, and is a good example of how many fictional and real people bump up against each other and illuminate one another. (If fictional characters do not collide and illuminate in a story, well, the tale is less true to how we live and learn.) That is, when I finally began to notice and admire her light-bearing character, it struck me how quickly a newer acquaintance of mine had been drawn to her, and how he had seen in her a lovely, tender light it took me years to perceive.
And that understanding told me several things about character. It told me that my newer acquaintance was a person with a delicate, discerning sort of mind, and that he had no care for what the world thought in establishing his friendships. I admired both those qualities. It also suggested to me that I was often a little too busy to pay attention and that I was not as discerning a person as I might like to be, no matter how many paper characters I had created in books.
It also suggested to me that I might like to pay a little more attention to the more subtle ways that light (or dark) is shed from one character to another in my books. It suggested that I might want to be a little more alert to these linkages in real life. Suddenly I knew myself better, and almost felt myself to be a character in a story, one whose world had suddenly turned a little faster on its axis and who had come to a greater self-knowledge.