Think of your group of friends. What do all of your friends have in common? What makes them unique? Can you think of two of your friends that you know wouldn't get along? The one thing all of your friends have in common is that they all like you (at least, most of the time).
Aren't you glad, however, that they are all different? Different smiles, different laughs. Some are good at organizing parties. Some are fun to play games with. Others can dive deep in private conversations. The fashionable, the musical, the competitive, the mediator, the humorous. (You can tell I'm not funny because I use words like "humorous".)
Your circle of friends could be called a cast of characters. Each one has their strengths and quirks. What gives them each such unique qualities? How do each of these characters develop their individual personalities?
There's actually a archetype for character development called "The Hero's Journey." In this standard progression, the main character--or hero--begins in a certain place--usually a pretty mundane role, receives a calling, but refuses to go. Does that sound familiar? You may have a job, but you want a different job, but really the effort would just be too hard at this point. --And what if it doesn't work out? Then what? Well on the Hero's Journey, something happens that drives them to actually go. They take the risk and travel away on an adventure. During the new experience, the hero learns something, develops new skills and insights. Think of Luke Skywalker--he went from harvesting water in the desert to becoming a spiritual wizard. Now that's a new skillset! Then the hero uses those skills to make a difference back where they came from. It's pretty epic. Along the journey the hero finds an entire cast of characters that supports their journey. Mentors, Healers, Tempters, Warriors, and--in the good ones--Comic Relief.
Now if you think of your life as a story, who do you think the hero would be?
Well, it's you. You are the hero. Even if you are the person always giving advice and supporting others, you are still your own hero. Don't believe me? Think of Fraiser.
Fraiser Crane was the neurotic psychologist who spent all his time at the "Cheers" bar on the TV show: "Cheers". Fraiser wasn't there at the beginning. He came around in the 3rd season of the show. In that role, he was a supporting character. But as Fraiser continued to make appearances, his character gained enough popularity that he warranted his own TV show. The Fraiser show ran successfully for 11 years.
Since Fraiser was so successful on it's own, does that mean that Cheers wasn't a good show? Did the actor who played Fraiser, Kelsey Grammer, waste his time on someone else's show, when he could have been just doing his own show?
Cheers also ran as a successful TV show for 11 years. It won Emmy Awards and Golden Globes--though Kelsey Grammer didn't win any there. Fraiser had a purpose on the show in supporting the other characters. He quipped both wisdom and jokes with the other regulars Norm and Cliff. He added even more humor by giving relationship advice--even when he wasn't doing so well in his own romances. It was important for Fraiser to make his appearance at the Cheers bar, so that he could develop his character.
Before coming to Cheers, the "Fraiser Crane" who had his own TV show did not exist. Watching Fraiser's character develop on Cheers was engaging, fun, and sometimes even irritating. That diversity makes him interesting to people. in fact, so interesting as a supporting character that we want to learn about his story. The story where Fraiser is the hero.
The same goes for you.
You are the hero of your own story. So how's it going? Are you excited about it? Do you wake up each day (or at least most days) ready to live out your life's work? Are you writing a story worth telling?
Of course, your story is worth telling! However, if your character feels stuck? If you haven;t found clarity in your narrative? That's okay! It just means that you have to develop your character.
So let's talk about how to do that.
See tomorrow's post
"What is Character?"