Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Characters, My Teachers

What do your characters have to teach you about yourself?  About God?  About life?

I've spent a lot of time lately creating lesson plans for a Creative Writing class I'll be teaching for preteen homeschoolers this spring.  

As a homeschooler, it comes naturally for me to see events, people in my life, books, and even my own stories as my teachers.  

So when I reflected on a recent question Casey asked about our motivations for writing, learning is what primarily came to mind.

What have I learned from my main character?

I'm a people pleaser.  Although I already realized my sinful tendency to place other's opinions too highly, watching my character Rachel only reinforces this conviction in my heart.  As my main character makes the choice to enter into an ill-advised relationship I realize the times in my life I have faced the temptation to place man's opinion before God's.

Resilience.  My main character, Rachel, escapes a cult.  As she enters the outside world she must face many pressures.  As she bravely weathers each of these I am inspired by her perseverance which reminds me I too can stick through tough times.

Courage.  Rachel continually shows bravery whether its escaping the cult or finding a job for the first time with little education.  Her life reminds me that with Christ's help I can find the necessary courage to fight fear and complete all the tasks he has for me.

Be thankful for those who help you along the way.  Without the help of rebellious Aunt Alice and a godly widow named Lily, would Rachel have found the courage and resilience to not only leave the cult but to seek a life of faith?  Rachel reminds me to be thankful for the "helpers" in my writing life, in my family, and in my church.

What have you learned about life or God from your main character?


Sarah Forgrave said...

Isn't it funny how the things we're learning in life come through in our writing? As I'm plotting my next book, the main character will probably learn to quit overcommitting herself, and um, yeah, I might need to learn that too.

Laura S. said...

I'm in the planning stages of a new novel and stories, so we shall see!

My mom homeschooled one of my brothers. That's really awesome you're teaching a creative writing class for homeschoolers!

Wendy Paine Miller said...

I love resilience and courage in a MC. Such wisdom, to pay attention to how we act and throw that into our characters.

I learn to keep fighting from lots of mine.
~ Wendy

Saumya said...

My Main Character and I are both people pleasers as well. Haha. I love how much I keep learning about myself and others through this process.

Julia M. Reffner said...


Oh boy, that is something God is teaching me now big time, too. I've had to "quit" several commitments since I started homeschooling. Odd how our characters can convict us :)

Julia M. Reffner said...


Thanks! I'm looking forward to it. Kudos to your mom, homeschooling isn't always easy...but comes with its own rewards :)

Julia M. Reffner said...


My writing is kind of like teaching Sunday school. God always manages to have me utilizing something I most need to learn myself.

Sticking-to-it is a great skill I need to learn from some of my characters as well. :)

Julia M. Reffner said...


Your name is beautiful, BTW. Sometimes its good to hear that others struggle with the same things as we do. Isn't it great how we can keep learning all through the journey?

Casey said...

What is also an interesting experience is when you give your characters traits you yourself want to have. I guess that is what makes fiction so relateable

Is that a word?? ;) Great post.

Mary Vee Writer said...

And when my character displays a quirk I have, I see, through them, how I could deal. God knows my mind works in weird ways:)

Julia M. Reffner said...


Yes, most definitely. I think I want to have more courage and that weighed in my creation of Rachel. I like the new pic, BTW.

Misha Gerrick said...

Great post!

I can't actually tell you what it teaches me about my relationship with God. I'll have to ask Him first.

Still, my characters give me an opportunity to explore the extremes of my personality without messing around with my own life.


Angie Dicken said...

I have learned so much from my characters in my recent wip! Just the fact that my life is so cush and I don't have the physical hardships they face (in the Amazon basin) as well as teaching me to honor and respect my husband for the kind of person he is (Romance novels aren't all about lovey dovey stuff! HA!! Love that I can learn about my own marriage through writing romance!)
Good post!

Gia Cooper said...

I've learned how incredible stubborn and impossible I am. It's true. I'm the kind of girl that will dig my heels in, cross my arms, and defy that anyone try to change my mind about anything. But, at the same time, I am the opposite of all of those things. I often have characters in my novels that represent both.

AS I write, I allow God to reach into my character's lives...show them how He loves them...no matter what they've done, how they've done it, or what they will do it in the future. In the process, I accept that love, as well. God reveals the same truths in my life, as He does in those people breathing on the page.

It is kind of strange.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

My character teaches me to be bold and unafraid. Courage to rely on God, even when the road is rocky.

Nice post, girl!

Debra E. Marvin said...

You know what? I really need some time to think about this. Great questions, Julia!

Julia M. Reffner said...

@ Mary,

My mind works in strange ways, too. Glad I'm not the only one here. :)

@ Misha,

I love the idea of exploring your personality through your characters.

Julia M. Reffner said...

@ Angie,

I agree with you there. I have several times learned things about my own marriage from READING romance novels, although I've never attempted writing one.

@ Gia,

I love this "God reveals the same truths in my own life." How true this is and isn't it neat the tools he uses to do it?? Strange and awesome.

Julia M. Reffner said...

@ Sherrinda,

That's a lesson I definitely need to learn, too, Sherrinda.

@ Debra,

I'm glad it "sparked" some questions about your own characters.