Friday, October 1, 2010

Characters: Like A Deck of Cards

Sometimes life hands us an unexpected card in our deck. The same holds true for our characters. We dream, think, imagine them: their faces, preferences, and attitudes.

Not sure about you, but I have a few real-life cards myself. A few are battered and stained, and a few are strong and bold. Yeah, I have a few embarrassing ones, too. All of these make me who I am. The same is true when we develop our fictional characters.

Their life experiences--the infamous back story--plays an intricate part in your plot line and probably your subplots. They mold, highlight, and set boundaries encompassing your book. 

So similar to real life. However, there are always those cards in the deck that are different. Look at your characters. What cards would they covet and cherish? What's important to them? What makes them deeper than the next paperweight?

Using myself as an example, my other cards would  be the ones that represent my titles in life, what defines me: one being - motherhood.

My eleven-year-old daughter, Kate, is having major surgery this morning. No panicking. She'll be fine.

About a year ago, she started complaining about foot pain. Being ten years old at the time, we figured it was growing pains. Remember those? 

I was told that when I was ten and my legs wouldn't stop aching, and then at age thirteen when I kept passing-out...'It's that time in a young girl's life' was what my parents were told. (Great MG character flaw. Just sayin'.)

Kate's a very active girl. Can you blame her? She has THREE brothers. Have mercy. You want to talk about survival of the fittest; live in her world for one day. Point being: she's one tough cookie. But finally, her pain couldn't be brushed off as the natural stretching of limbs or the onset of the numerous tween body mortifications. And when I noticed bunions forming on the knuckles of her big toes, I knew something was up. 

(Bunions - what a nasty word, and I love words.)

After waiting three months to finally get into the specialist, we discovered that her bunions were a result of a more serious issue. Katelynn has what are called Kidner Feet.

Here's the medical diagnosis that will bore you to pieces: Kidner procedure includes surgical removal of an accessory navicular bone and then re-attachment of the attentuated ("loosened")posterior tibial tendon, by drilling a hole through the navicular bone and re-routing the posterior tibial tendon through the hole and then "plugging" the hole with a piece of bone. This will now keep the tightened tendon in place and help support the arch. (as written by Dr. David S. Wander, 10/27/06 on an online forum.) 

Sounds gut-wrenchingly painful and disgusting, doesn't it?? 

So basically, she has an extra bone on the inside of each foot which inhibits the tendon that runs along her shin to the top of each foot. This tendon supports a proper arch, but because it can't do it's job properly her feet are flattening out and her knuckles are separating = bunions.

She also has to have another procedure performed, and I won't bore you with the technical term. ('K, so I couldn't figure out how to spell it. Sue me.) Anyway, during this procedure a 'donor piece of bone' will be inserted into her foot structure.

You heard me correctly: a DONOR bone...yup, from a previously deceased soul.

Now remember, she lives with guys. Not much grosses her out. Well this did. Her face was priceless when the surgeon told her. She's now had time to digest this fact. 

The doctor will perform all three procedures and sling her up in a cast, which she'll be a prisoner to for approximately eight weeks. This should be fun. Hah. Haha. She'll miss at least TWO weeks of school, so just imagine the work we'll she'll have to make up. Oh, and she has to have the other foot done, too!! 

Lucky us. 

The left foot will be done within the next year. The two procedures need to be done at least six months apart to give the first foot time to heal properly. She'll need that foot fully recovered to support her body weight while the second foot heals.

Now back to those cards of life or your characters lives I mentioned earlier. 

The scenario describe above or a similar one could apply to any fictional character. One of your characters could stumble onto or be hit with such an obstacle that their deck of cards jumbles, becomes unrecognizable to them or changes them dramatically.

Have you ever given any of your characters a physical or psychological handicap that challenged your writing? 

Challenged you to think outside yourself? Any famous characters you can think of? 

I immediately thought of RAINMAN. How brilliant was that?

Major BTW: I've also reviewed Eight Grade Bites, by Author Heather Brewer  over on Oasis for YA, today.

Sheri Splatter: Although I will continue to post next week, I may not get the chance to surf the blogosphere and visit you. I apologize. I have no idea what condition she'll be in after surgery. Know you are in my thoughts, and for gosh sakes would someone keep track of the things I miss. I hate missing your posts!! 

Tapping Feet & Fingers...<3 


  1. Oh no! That sounds pretty terrible. I'm glad you are remaining upbeat! I'll send my prayers to help calm nerves.

  2. I'll be thinking of you today. That sounds awful for your daughter, but way to stay positive!

  3. hugs and fingers crossed for you guys! *squeeze*

  4. I hope everything goes well today. I'll be thinking of you guys today. I didn't know that could happen to kids. My aunt had similar surgery, but she was in her 60s.

    My sister got donor stuff put in her knee. I could see why there would be a gross out factor.

    I've never had a character with a physical flaw, but when I was fourteen, my mother fell down the stairs. She was in a coma for a couple of weeks and rehab for three months. I used the experience in a manuscript. It was hard to write.

  5. I hope everything winds up with the bone thing. Good luck!!!

  6. I hope everything go well (okay, that goes without saying), and she's back to running around with her brothers in no time. :D

  7. Hope everything goes well and that Kate has plenty of reading material, dvds and all that she might need to relieve the boredom.

  8. Hope things go well with Kate today. Yikes I have bunions too.

    The deck of cards analogy is a good one. Don't worry if you don't have much time to blog for awhile. We'll understand and be here when you get back.

  9. Sending good, strong thoughts for you and Kate today and during the next 8 weeks of recovery! We'll miss you and keep us posted!

  10. Oh no. I hope everything will go okay with Kate. I am always amazed what they can do with medicine and surgeries. I'm so glad they can fix it! Good luck with the eight weeks of recovery.

  11. Thanks, everyone, for your well-wishes! I really appreciate your thoughts. I'm sure I'll be writing a post-op post. LOL.

  12. Sending good thoughts to both of you!

  13. Poorbaby! That IS scary!I pray all goes well for her. I love how you worked that in with character obstacles. Great point. My most recent YA has a character with Downs. It was interesting to write.

    Good luck with everything!!!

  14. It's always much easier for a mom to have the surgery than to have her child go through it. I'm sure your daughter will be fine. Take care of your self along the way. Good thought to you and her and even those brothers of hers who I'm sure are worried too!

  15. ((big hugs)) prayers, and don't be afraid. I'm sure everything will go fine---the hardest part's going to be recovery... sheesh. That's tough and with it being the feet. bluh. But I suppose at least you know what was happening, right? All the best~ <3

  16. Oh, your poor darling! I hope it all goes well and heals quickly. I love the way you tied it to our writing. I may have to ponder that connection for a while. :-)

  17. Best wishes for your daughter. That sounds painful.

  18. @PK, that's awesome! Real life plights can truly enhance our stories!! Thanks for sharing.

  19. Whoa!!! Talk about major surgery, and to have to go through it *twice*. Yeesh!! Sending good thoughts to you and yours.

    And yeah, I've thrown a medical condition at one of my characters, and it ended up turning her whole life upside down. The MC developed a problem with her thyroid, causing a fair amount of weight gain. Except, in a few short months, she's supposed to be the spokesmodel for the most successful cosmetics company in the country--a position that's been in her family for 100 years. This extra weight is throwing a monkey wrench into everyone's plans.

    This is the ms that got me my agent, and she's shopping it around as we speak. :) Fingers crossed! :)

  20. Take care of Kate. And yourself. I'm sure everything will be great. Blessings, Buffy


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