I always wanted to be a badass. But, as it turns out, being tall and wiry with virtually no muscle tone, chipmunk cheeks and glasses does not scream ‘fear me.’ No, I know what you are thinking, with my verbal jujitsu, how could I possibly be anything but hardcore? And yet it’s true. Even when I put on my sassy pants people tend to refer to me as ‘cute’ rather than ‘ferociously pee-your-pants terrifying.’ If the zombie apocalypse suddenly broke out, I strongly suspect I would not be the gun slinging hero that pulls together the remaining humans- I wouldn’t even be the zombie charging forward to eat said gun slinging badass. No, let’s face reality- I would be the zombie who tripped over a garden hose and happened to impale her poor little noggin on a gnome, effectively ending her anti-climactic undead existence.
Perhaps it is my own lackluster abilities that draws me towards the strong characters I write. For just a brief little period in time I get to pretend to be these brave beings that I’ve always wanted to emulate. I get to live a thousand and one adventures through the gifts of a few pages and some ink. I get to be tough, to do the things I could only imagine in my regular day-to-day life.
I’ve had an idea percolating in my brain for quite some time now, but it didn’t really resonate with me until Memorial Day. I live in the Pacific Northwest- first rule of living here: Don’t be afraid of the rain. Second rule of living here: When the sun decides to grace you with its presence, you go outside and enjoy it. So I did just that. A couple of co-workers and I decided to go on a hike we had never done before. It was supposed to be seven miles round trip- more than I’m used to, but not that bad. It wound up being eleven. Along the way we had to cross about a dozen creeks by hopping from one dry rock to the next until we made it to the path on the other side. When we made it to the lake we decided to follow the trail around it. When it split into two sections, we took the one closest to the water. This, incidentally, turned out to be a mistake, but we took it in stride- the motto of the day being ‘let’s have an adventure.’ So when the lake came up and over a portion of our path, we decided not to turn back, instead we took our shoes off and waded in. And when our path culminated in a rock wall about twice my height- we climbed it. Then, when the sketchy wooden planks were the only things keeping us from falling into a mud bath below- we ran across. It was safe to say that we managed to have our adventure.
Over our celebratory drinks and BBQ afterwards, I couldn’t help but come to two realizations. First: no beer will ever taste as good as the first beer after a long hike (Thank you Stella Artois for your lovely concoction, it was truly perfection). Second: I just might be capable of some of my own badassery after all. Perhaps I do have it in me to be like those tough women I write about. Maybe, just maybe, I am not like those fictional characters because I have never given myself the chance to be. After all- I just walked 11 miles on a whim, I climbed a rock wall, I forded creeks, I waded into a lake that had snow merely feet away- me, I did that. I have to admit, in spite of the fact that my muscles are currently screaming at me every time I try to stand and my back is the color of the Kool-Aid guy (note to self: never forget the sun screen at post-hike happy hour)- I feel a bit like a badass.
And that was when the ideas really started taking root- what if I decided to challenge myself to be more like my characters? What if I try to live a life worthy of the stories that I tell? The Character Challenge (okay, so I haven’t put as much thought into the name- I’ve been more preoccupied with the content). The goal will be two-fold: to gain better insight to enrich my writing, and also to help me become a more well-rounded person in general. It’s for my own character, as well as the character of my characters (apologies- I had to do that just once, don’t worry, it’s now out of my system).
I’ve always believed that it is the truth that is hidden in a piece of fiction that is what makes it come to life. Personal experience is a large part of that truth. So why not try to improve myself along with my work? At the very least, I’ll have some good stories for my next happy hour. It will be a great way to get into my characters’ heads while simultaneously cleaning out my own. It will also be a bit of an experiment: perhaps I will find something that really makes a difference in my work.
So here is the first challenge: Physical badassery
Generally speaking, physical ability is the bedrock of any literary badass. This is actually something I have been meaning to work on anyways- I have let myself get out of shape and I hate it. Keeping your body fit and healthy is one of the best things you can do for your brain. So this little challenge will double as an experiment: will I notice any difference in my writing abilities as I proceed?
I think its about time to fish those boxing gloves out from the closet and see what I am capable of. Game on.