Can you learn things from the characters in your stories?
Take Adrienna Vedica, for example, the main character in Rise of the Sidenah, my young adult fantasy.
Even as a child, Adrienna is drawn to sculpting things. She uses wood, as that’s the only raw material she can find, until her young mentor and his brother show her a hidden ravine where lives a special white stone. Adrienna feels a powerful pull toward it. While the boys play around the pond, she finds a block small enough for her little hands to carve and sets about making a creature she calls “Nuana.”
Both boys react strongly to Adrienna’s sculpture, which she doesn’t understand. Her mentor forbids her from every using the white stone again. Nevertheless, that one experience stays with her.
Over ten years later, she still longs to carve the white stone again, even though her family and friends all disapprove. To them, such pursuits are merely “play.” Adrienna should think of something more productive to do with her life, they say.
Turns out (later in the book) that Adrienna’s family had other, more serious reasons for keeping her away from the white stone, but despite everything, Adrienna keeps the dream alive. She does what she must to create, even when it means following the orders of a man with questionable intentions.
As I followed Adrienna on her journey, I had to admire her resolve. Heeding the call of that little voice inside us is never easy, and can be nearly impossible when we don’t have the support of those around us.
What did Adrienna teach me about following your purpose no matter what?
1. If the longing doesn’t go away, pay attention.
Sometimes we can get confused about what our purpose really is. We may enjoy doing one thing, but not be able to make money at it. We may think about doing something else, but feel we aren’t talented enough or educated enough to be good at it.
There have been many times over the course of my writing career that I thought I was mistaken about my purpose in life. I even tried to quit a few times, but that little voice urging me to pay attention to the characters roaming around in my head wouldn’t shut up.
Adrienna doesn’t think twice about whether she’s good enough or not. When the opportunity presents itself, she loses herself in shaping the white stone, and thinks of nothing else. She taught me that heeding that little voice is the best way to move forward in life, and that worrying about whether you’re good enough or can make money at it or anything else is just a waste of time.
2. You’re going to screw up.
Once Adrienna gets a chance to sculpt the white stone, she makes a lot of mistakes.
She doesn’t let them stop her.
Mistakes are tricky when we’re doing something we think we were put on this Earth to do. One mistake can make us imagine that surely we were wrong. Shouldn’t we be naturally good at this thing?
The problem is mistaking talent for proficiency. I’ve been a music teacher for over 25 years, and I can identify a child with natural music talent within 10 minutes of starting to work with them. A child with talent is just a start, though. That child won’t be a proficient musician for at least ten years, usually many more.
No matter how talented you are, it takes practice to become good at whatever you’re doing.
Adrienna finds this out, too. She taught me that you can’t give up just because you make mistakes—even if they are deadly mistakes. (Hint: things get difficult in Adrienna’s world!)
3. Succeeding at something you were born to do is especially sweet.
How does Adrienna’s journey end? I can’t share that with you without spoiling the book, but I can tell you that succeeding at doing something you love is one of the best experiences you can have.
It’s one thing to be accomplished at something you do for a paycheck, or to succeed at helping someone else, or to fulfill some other type of obligation. All of these things have their own rewards. Succeeding at something you stuck your neck out to do, however—something you were called or pulled to do—is succeeding in a whole new way.
It’s like performing a piece of music on a concert in a way that makes the audience jump to their feet when you’re finished.
Or using your medical training to save someone’s life.
Or creating a sculpture that instead of falling short, mirrors the image you carried in your heart.
Whatever it is, when you go after it for no other reason than to heed that little voice inside you, and after years of hard work, you actually succeed, that’s something you can cherish forever, and that no one can ever take away from you.
So when you hear that little voice talking to you, follow Adrienna’s lead, and listen.
NOTE: Rise of the Sidenah from Jupiter Gardens Press is now available at Amazon.
Have you learned things from writing, or from reading about your favorite characters? Please share your experiences.