I have a friend who is having a really tough life roll, you know, those moments when shit just happens and you have to figure out how to deal with it, how to get through, over, or around. I did what friends do. I offered a willing ear, a lot of sympathy, and a minimum of advice. And being a writer, that was the moment I found myself sitting twice at the same table.
In my seat, I sat and felt his agony as if it were partly mine. I also sat in an open seat nearby and listened and watched. (Sorry, buddy, but you know that’s how my mind works.)
As observed characters, we communicated with each other on many levels. His emotional turmoil churned my own. His current pains raised past pains of my own. So, no matter the difference in our experiences, even if I didn’t feel what he was feeling, I felt how he was feeling.
He told funny stories as well, he couldn’t help himself, even when the crap is raining down, his inherent outlook is always positive. And the part of me that sat at the table laughed along and told stories of my own. The part of me that watched observed that despite the past pains we were sharing, we both appeared to leave the table in a better mood. I know I did.
But the past memories clung. Things I’d been done with for a decade or even two, were suddenly fresh and on the surface again. I found joy and anger and frustration in some ways as clear as when they’d originally occurred.
I’ve often thought about how my characters might react to a piece of their unresolved past. Character B says/does something that triggers Character A and there is an unexpected result/reaction. Sure.
But what about the resolved past?
As I listened to my friend, I was glad to have some of his problems in my past and to have never experienced some of the others. Yet at the same time, I was faced with those strong past, sympathetically triggered memories. They’ve shaped my thoughts frequently throughout this past week. Even altered some actions and choices.
It is a new emotional trigger for my characters. Not one based on their unresolved past, but rather the sudden recollection of their resolved past.
So thanks for the insight, buddy mine. And, you know, if you ever need anything…