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Hide and Seek

Posted by Priscilla on February 20, 2013

In my last post, I told you that the one phrase that opened the door into my current story was the protagonist admitting “I want to hide me.” What is it about hiding? Children hide because it is fun. They seek because somewhere deep inside their young souls they know that finding and being found is even more fun. So what’s going on with grown-ups? We no longer play at hide-and-seek. Now we do it in deadly earnest.

I hide from you my frantic desire to please you. You hide from me (at first) your need to control. 

And eventually, we both hide that part of us that is the real “us.” I want you to seek me, of course, but I’m afraid that you might find me and won’t like what you find. Hide--and seek. Seek--and find. Hide again. We live as if perched on a seesaw that we cannot stop. Perhaps we have forgotten what children know:  there is glory in finding and being found. Wise King Solomon once said, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.”

Once upon a time, I made the decision that I would be vulnerable with others no matter what it cost me. That decision brought me marriage (yea) and startling rejection (not so yea). It was the right choice. Why, then, when it has become second nature to allow myself to be found in real life, have I so much trouble allowing my characters to experience the same glory? Why do any of us write characters who act and speak, but do not reveal?

Readers love and remember characters with depths that they can mine. I have cried with Julie (Irene Hunt; Up a Road Slowly) ever since I was in fourth grade. I have feared for Sid Halley’s safety (Dick Francis). I have applauded Jack’s courage in the face of tragedy and the inner look (An Accidental Light; Elizabeth Diamond). Different characters. Very different stories. Why do I remember them so well? I believe the answer lies in their vulnerability. In each case, the author hid depths in the heart of the character, and then allowed me as the reader to search out those depths.

The writer who hides depths creates characters who do not follow a straight trajectory, who are more than the sum of problem + goal + opposition + victory or defeat.

The writer who reveals depths understands that her protagonist’s emotional landscape drives the story. More, these writers lay down this emotion on the blueprint of what they have faced in their own lives--and present this emotion as an experience rather than a memory.

Hide and seek. It’s a great game. Go play it.



Posted by priscilla on
Too true, Kay. I suspect the creative impulse is the same; perhaps meeting the need to create in one way (e.g. cooking)makes it less likely we will create in another. Just thinking out loud.
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