During some brainstorming (where that takes place is a topic for another post!) for another one of my books - the spy one (the many books I have running around belongs to yet another post!) - I realized that I didn't know much about one my main character.
A Quick Summary: Anne was a normal high school student with several impressive basketball scholarships coming her way as she approached graduation. Yet all that took second fiddle to the international, life-and-death situations she found herself in after a fire claimed her house. The adventures she has change the entire course of her life - now she's constantly watching her back, CIA instead of NCAA. Really, all she's asking for is a somewhat normal life, in a normal neighborhood, with kids on bikes instead of assassins with guns.
(I'm not actively working on this book, so the plotting is still a bit disjointed, and the writing shaky. Just so you know - it's a "someday" book. Oh, and this summary was completely off the cuff and turned out a lot better than the book is right now...)
Yeah, I know, what she "wants to be when she grows up" seems pretty obvious. She's a State Championship MVP, she loves the game; basketball is her passion. But here's the thing - I know both high school athletes and college (some scholarship) athletes, and they have other dreams. One scholarship track star friend has a stellar voice that should really be more famous than it is. (Someday...) Another one quit track halfway through college and now wants to start a large camp for underprivileged youth. A scholarship volleyball friend is now going to be a bi-lingual teacher of elementary kids. And a scholarship soccer player friend of mine is majoring in computer programming with a minor in geography.
I'm discovering that the sport really isn't everything. And so, if I'm to include any sense of reality, my Anne must have had some other desires before she became a spy. (The spying really wrecked her old life; it's not one of those stories where you can go back and pretend everything is normal. It's years...yes, it's a series...)
I don't know what they are. I was envisioning a scene in which a little girl asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. And I didn't have an answer for Anne to give. I mean, she's too old for college basketball at this point. What's her thing?
So, if you think you know your characters, ask them what they want to be. Not just their obvious gift - what do they want to do long-term. For a lot of us girls, even though we'll never admit it out loud, it's just to be married and be a mom. (Maybe that was Anne's dream. I don't know...yet.) Or maybe it was something else entirely.
But before you rip them apart from their perfectly normal life for some grand adventure, figure out what that normal life was, all the way down to the twenty-years-in-the-future-plans. Because, you never know, some little girl may walk into your story asking what they want to do when they grow up. :)
So - what does your main character want to be when they grow up? Do you know? Do they? Or, if you don't have a forthcoming character, what do you want to be?
I want to be a wife, a mother, a YA novelist and, maybe, a worship leader, and/or working with Jr. High kids. As for Anne, well, we're still working on that...
Interesting thought! I agree, the more I writer and the deeper I get into the story, the more crucial those tiny details become because, let's face it, they drive real life. So if our characters are going to be real, they have to be driven too....
Thanks for the thought nibbles :)
This is a good point, though I feel that your description of your own "I don't know" actually sounds pretty accurate to how a lot of teens and early twenties would feel. I am nearing the end of a loooong education myself, and I have NO CLUE what I want to do when I "grow up". Apart from writing. But I probably will need a day job. When people ask me what I want to do when I finish I always talk my way out of the answer, because I have no idea. I know a lot of things I don't want to be, though. Perhaps that can be your starting point? ;)
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