In a way, every human being is in the fiction business. We all nurture myths about our lives — the victories and defeats, the entitlements and generosities.
Writers mine these myths in their work, often unaware that they’re doing this mental archeology. But, I believe all of us create characters that, in some way, mirror the attributes we admire or abhor in ourselves. At least, that’s where we start.
If we do it well, no one can tell what we’re up to. If we fail, people think our fiction is autobiographical. (This is a common pitfall for newer writers.)
Over time, myths become ossified. Our personal legends sit so still that we don’t even realize they’re there. They’re cemented into our psyches.
IF they budge, it’s usually at a glacial pace . . .
I never thought that Tae Kwon Do would affect my art.
When I first started, about four years ago, I did it because it looked like fun. For a long time, it wasn’t. At least once a week, I thought more about quitting than sticking with it.
It was too hard.
I didn’t want to punch a bag. I didn’t want to punch a person OR BE punched.
I didn’t want to try to throw a person down. I sure as hell didn’t WANT to be thrown down.
But, I stayed.
The other night, when we were in class, Master Kim had us compete against each other. The class had about 30 people that evening ranging in ages from 15 – 59.
For the uninitiated, "forms" are a series of specific moves that reflect attacks and defenses. Sometimes they make sense. Often they don’t. But you learn all of them in a particular order and each one brings its own challenges and insights. Right now, I’m working on the one I’ll need to earn my black belt.
Master Kim (he’s the Korean guy in the background of pictures 2 & 3) lined up three chairs and had the other black belts teaching the class sit as judges. The only thing they were looking for in our execution of these forms was sheer power.
I won every time.
My TKD master often jokes that I should have one of my protags study this martial art. I tell him that neither one has the discipline or personality for it.
But, as my writing continues, I’ve noticed that these ladies I’ve created have more and more backbone. They’re less willing to be frightened or intimidated.
Somewhere, deep inside, they know they could ram an attacker’s nose cartilage into his brain . . . if they had to.
That didn’t come from writing the character. That came from my own study and ownership of Tae Kwon Do. My personal mythology has evolved and it’s affecting my writing in a very real way.
My questions today are:
1. Have you noticed these kinds of transformations in yourself?
2. If you write, have you seen them transfer to your characters?
3. Is there anything lately that has caused a shift in your personal myths?
I can’t wait to read what you’ve got to say.