Second Lives: A Way to Enrich Your Characters (and Yourself)

A Rave About Writing

We spent this weekend at a Piston Power show.

Not my normal habitat, I know, but we were invited to show our airplane. This is a bit unusual because our Cessna 182 Skylane is not a show vehicle. It’s more of a go vehicle, thirty-four years old with original paint and interior. We keep it clean, sure, but there are chips and dings, the result of being used like, well, like a plane.

Here’s a picture. At Piston Power Show

She’s still pretty after all these years, isn’t she? If you’re wondering why the cowling (the part that normally covers the engine) is off, it’s so the gearheads attending the show could check out the size of her pistons.

Yeah, some people are really into motors.

Anyway, we were asked to participate in the event because The Engineer, Darling Daughter and I like to talk about where we’ve been in our plane and how much we enjoy aviation as a family. We also love to invite (nice, well-mannered) children (who aren’t eating suckers or ice cream) to sit in the cockpit.

And that’s what we did this weekend — talked aviation and put kids in our plane — while surrounded by hundreds of cars, trucks, motorcycles and boats, each buffed to a shine so clear I could see my reflection.

It was like being surrounded by mirrors.

And yet, the exhibitors spent much of the show polishing chrome, wiping off invisible fingerprints, and doing everything in their power to keep their vehicles immaculate.

Anyone could see these vehicles symbolize something more than transportation. They represent untold hours spent restoring, rebuilding, and eventually exhibiting.

Calling such commitment a hobby would belittle it. This is true passion, what I like to think of as a second life, a life I would wager some of the car owners’ friends and colleagues know nothing about.

Not everyone has a second life, but those who do are richer for the dimension it adds to their lives.

Fellow writers, consider how second lives can add an extra dimension to your characters. A heroine who’s too sweet to be believed could skate roller derby on the weekends or play goalie on a women’s soccer team. A villain might cultivate a breathtaking rose garden. Someone’s grandmother may have been a WASP or built tanks during World War II.

If you think these ideas sound unrealistic, I think you aren’t paying attention to the people around you. I know of at least one librarian who skated roller derby, and I’ve met a few gardeners that I wouldn’t trust with my daughter. And yes, WASPs and tank builders became mothers and grandmothers.

Think of the most fascinating people you’ve met, and I think you’ll come to agree it’s passion and experience makes people — and characters — more interesting.

So next time, one of the people you’ve created seems a little flat, try weaving an unexpected pastime, and see where it takes her.

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About kymlucas

"Taking care not to take love too seriously." Writer of smart, fresh, contemporary romance and women's fiction. Blogging about writing, reading, and more recently, dealing with the ins and outs of breast cancer.
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