This issue of the Voices ezine—with its theme of “competence”—comes at a particularly good time for moi. I’m embarking on my third novel, and my characters are in great need of some sort of competence.
You know, something they’re good at. Confident in.
I figure, the proverbial “they” say write what you know, so why not start by considering my own areas of competence.
Things Melissa is good at:
1) Spilling beverages. Fact: I spilled my pop three times in four hours the other day. A personal best.
2) Starting fires. Accidentally.
3) Bad hair days.
Maybe instead I should think of things at which I’d like to be competent. Because, hey, we should never miss an opportunity to use our characters and research needs to further our own desires, right?
Things Melissa would like to be good at:
1) Backpacking across Europe.
2) A sport. Any sport, really.
3) Convincing Tim Tebow to marry me.
What? You don’t think this method of characterization is Susan May Warren-approved?
Okay, okay, I know. The right way to think about our characters’ competence is, often, to look into their past. What events or emotions might spur on an area of competence? If the hero was abandoned as a child, possibly he’s competent at fending for himself, making his own decisions…and he probably has a passion to help orphans.
Or maybe a heroine grew up the daughter of a housekeeper—and thus is incredibly competent at cleaning, cooking, stain removal, all sorts of household know-how. (In which case, I wish she’d come live with me.)
The point is: It’s not random. We don’t plop random competencies on our characters just for the sake of, well, competent characters.
Which means my new hero and heroine will probably be good at something slightly more meaningful than starting accidental fires or proposing to certain NFL quarterbacks. (Not that I don’t fully intend to move forward with my quest to become competent at the latter.)
Here’s something else that’s not random: our real life competencies.
It’s true, yeah? The things we’re good at, the areas in which we may have natural talent or inherent drive to pursue, they’re not an accident. I believe they’re God-given … and they have purpose.
And sure, like our characters, we may have times when we feel like our competencies are stripped. Our writing is stilted; our creativity is blocked. Our strengths take a vacation.
But isn’t it beyond awesome to know, if we’re trusting God, then the core of our competence can never be depleted. Our Black Moments will never outlast His presence or power.
When Christ is our competence, when He’s our confidence … we’re indestructible.
In addition to her homeless ministry work, Melissa Tagg writes humor-laced contemporary romance. A former reporter and winner of the 2010 Frasier Award, she is also the marketing/events coordinator for My Book Therapy. Visit Melissa at www.melissatagg.com.