by Gail Kittleson
“Humor is an affirmation of dignity, a declaration of man’s superiority to all that befalls him.” –Romain Gary, French diplomat, novelist, film director and aviator
So I guess this philosophy elevates April Fool’s day to a day of victory. That is, if we have the presence of mind to remember it’s April first and not let anyone get the better of us. After all, jokesters lurk everywhere. I live with one, and concur with Gary—laughter is definitely the way to go.
A quick glance through lists of pranks played through the decades amazes me—people go to a lot of thought and effort to successfully fool others. Because my WIP hero is a World War I vet, one practical joke especially piqued my curiosity.
A French aviator dropped a bomb in German territory in 1915. German soldiers scattered. When no explosion occurred, they cautiously approached the object, only to find a football with a note attached—“April Fool!”
What a great scene, don’t you think?
This caught my attention, because during the past month, I’ve been getting to know my WWII era hero, a fifty-something veteran of the Great War. I see him everywhere I go, if you know what I mean, and last night when my husband and I watched a movie filmed right in the trenches, my hero hovered everywhere. He played a sneaky prank on me, too.
Sometime in the night, I realized he holds a secret from his action in the Great War—I ought to say clutches it to his chest. He’s a widower, yet never divulged this wartime experience to his deceased wife. But buried in his subconscious, the surreptitious truth lives on, and every once in a while, arises to stake its claim on his soul.
Truth lives within us, like our family genes. We can’t change the fact that heart trouble or weak hips or hernias “run in our family.” We can take lots of preventative measures these days, but still, those genes will have their say.
My challenge? To discover my hero’s secret, and facilitate its appearance at all the appropriate times. At this point, I’m not sure if it’s a positive or negative secret. Did he do something heinous, or make a choice that caused loss of life and limb to others? Or did his heroism, albeit denied, save soldiers? Did a romantic liaison lead to a birth he’s kept secret all these years to protect his stateside family? One thing I know. He’s a great guy, so his character caused him to shove the questionable event into the depths of his being.
But somehow, it’s important to the story for my heroine to find out about this—or significant for him to trust her enough to divulge it. Both of them will become stronger and they’ll appreciate each other more in the telling, even though I don’t yet know how all this will occur.
We’ll see. I’m the kind of writer who has to stay open to what my characters have in mind. That may sound a bit bizarre—or not. But one thing I’ve learned, what is, is—no use fighting it. Characters come to me full-blown. Plots, not so much. I’m already well into this particular WIP, and just now learned about Al’s secret.
So what encouragement does this blog offer writers? We can work through our WIP’s with an open mind. Our hero/heroine may have a thing or two to teach us as we plod along. While this theory may seem like an April Fool’s joke to what we call plotters, or those with a mathematical approach, it isn’t. Secrets have power. When we recognize one in our characters, we’ll transpose their strength into our plot. We’ll pause every once in a while to listen to what they’re whispering.
Meet the Author:
Gail believes our stories are our best gifts, and she can’t seem to write much w/out an empowerment theme. The past three years, she’s been making up for lost time, blooming like a dahlia – a little later than some other varieties. She’s an avid reader, walker, gardener, and grandmother, and just plain loves writing. She and her husband live in northern Iowa, and spend part of the winters in the Arizona mountains. This summer (2013), WhiteFire Publishing will release Catching Up With Daylight, her nonfiction inspirational for women.