My protagonist and me

The protagonist in my novel has a problem of knowing—and owning—who she is. That’s a problem for all of us, in varying degrees. Dale Carnegie said that when you and I meet, there are actually six persons represented: first, the person I think I am; second, the one you think I am; and third, there’s the real me (which we’re both trying to discover). The same applies to you, so between our mutual ignorance and duplicity, we’re trying to get acquainted with six personalities floating around—four of which are false.

My defective ability to perceive (and acknowledge) the truth about me hinders my journey of self-discovery—of becoming what I should be. (Yes, should. More about that at another time.) As a writer, my characters take form, breathe, act and interact out of my perceptions of myself and others. You could say that I leave traces of my emotional DNA (using the term loosely) in the portrayal of the characters that populate my story. You as the reader find them compelling or off-putting relative to the skill with which I expose the lies they tell themselves and others; or show what or who they will sacrifice to get what they want … and even define what it is that they want.

This brings us back to my protagonist, a people-pleaser afraid to stand up for herself. She wants acceptance and compromises her integrity to get it. By denying who she really is, she loses both acceptance and identity. We know people like this; fearing rejection, they bend to the will of others. Sadly, each of us at various times has caved when we should have stood our ground.

I have to ask: Why do I do this? Why not be the brave principled person I set out to be? Simply, at the time, I don’t trust who I am … or I’m afraid you won’t like me when you find out. I’ll never forget the words of a dear friend after he was honored by the Governor of Oregon and before he died in an accident: “If people really knew me—what I am—they wouldn’t like me.”

This says I don’t believe the God who made me, who told us in Psalm 139 that “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

That, of course, is an exhilarating way to look at oneself. It’s absolutely exciting to know that I am a fantastic creation of God’s handiwork. The protagonist of my novel—based upon a real person much like you and me—could not, in the beginning, admit the truth of who she was.

She hid behind façades propped up to depict what she thought other people wanted her to be at any particular moment. As a child growing up, she was made to feel and think things about herself that were not true. Consequently, she lived inconsistently with truth.

Perhaps that’s your story, too. But it doesn’t have to be.


About samuelehall

A follower of Jesus, husband, father of 3 adult children, writer and learner.
This entry was posted in Finding me ... and you. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to My protagonist and me

  1. Marilyn Ebbs says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Sam. As a writer, as a person, as a child of God. Keep up the writing and the growing.

  2. Linda Gharib says:

    Wow- I’m just writing a humorous speech about this same concept….
    I did not mean that your blog was funny. Actually, it brought me to tears. I am writing a humorous speech but on this very deep subject – that of knowing who we are before God. Your article was serious – and beautiful and I can’t wait to read your story. I’m sorry that I wasn’t thorough in explaining myself. My “wow” was due to the fact that your subject matter is exactly what was on my mind on the day that Tim posted this. Please stay on the sidewalk!!!!!! 🙂 No one who can comprehend what they read could possibly laugh at your writing. Forgive me for misleading you as to how your words touched me. Seriously, I was brought to tears by your concept and grateful to God that He gave me this same message. 🙂

    Like I said – I can’t wait to read your book!!!

  3. pelkeyjc says:

    Would be interesting to compare perceptions.

  4. Julia Pascoe Sumrall says:

    Very thought provoking. Oh how I do remember the days when the dirt was blowing as we started our journey walking home from school. I would not want to repeat those days! I remember seeing the buses lined up waiting for the children to exit the school and climb aboard. But, the dirt and wind were blowing so hard they could hardly find the right path. Glad we lived it and lived through it. Memories of strength. Made us more durable I do believe.
    Julia Sumrall

    • samuelehall says:

      Thanks, Julia Faye. If there’s anything good about those blinding sandstorms, I’d say it was that we did get thru them. It strengthened us and when better times came, we didn’t take them for granted. In some ways, I wish I could be present for my own kids during the hard times that we know everyone has to endure … not to take them on our backs but for my own assurance–to see them come thru on the other side.

  5. samuelehall says:

    You said you hit the wrong trigger and it bounced you out. I hope you will return so we can benefit from your memories of growing up in the Dust Bowl. What was it like to do without? Did you feel your family was different from other people around the town of Forgan? Were there ever times that your parents talked of leaving the Panhandle? Where would they have gone?

    • jd bilbro says:

      Sam, we were blessed during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression in that we were living on a farm where we raised chickens, hogs, and milk cows. Also, when Mom was physically able she would can vegetables from our garden. We never went hungry, and Dad managed to keep us supplied with coal and kerosene for heating so we never suffered from the cold. We got some cash money from selling eggs and cream in Forgan. But due to the drought and dust storms, we seldom had a wheat crop, or any other cash crop. Mom made her dresses and the dresses for my two sisters out of flour sacks. Dad and I wore overalls which we bought because Mom did not feel qualified to make them. We each had two pairs of shoes: one pair for everyday, and one pair for Sunday.
      Some of my best friends were not so blessed. One family in particular was so poor that their main meal was often “flour and water” gravy. Consequently, their eyelashes and eyebrows fell out; when they came back in later, after the diet improved, some of the girls had eyebrows and eyelashes that were streaked with gray.
      The dust storms were often so bad that visibility would drop to near zero. During the infamous Black Sunday of April 14, 1935, visibilitydid drop to zero; I know because I was caught out in it one mile from shelter.
      The folks never considered moving during those years, but we had several neighbors that did move—to California or Oregon—and they never moved back as they had lost their farms because they could not pay back the money they had borrowed from banks.
      I did not realize that we were “poor” people initially, because all of my friends were also poor to some degree. But when I was in the fifth grade our school transferred to Forgan. In my classroom was a banker’s daughter—that was when I found our we were poor!
      Those were really tough times and I hope they will never be repeated; but from what I hear and see on the news , the Great Depression may be repeated—God forbid!

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