What do you see when you look into a mirror? Inside those reflections of yourself? What do you see when you look into others around you? Into those who are reflections in that mirror of your mind?
Our perceptions can be as timeless as a faerytale. Our views can seem clear and just, even though at times they’re as warped as the likes of that queen in that classic tale of Snow White – that queen who would rip out a daughter’s heart for the sake of vanity.
We hold onto our precious perceptions, nevertheless. We defend them, validate them. We take them into our hearts, our quotidian lives, and pass them on - not only through our daily interactions, but also, with consistent generosity, to our future generations. For as timeworn and detached from reality as our perceptions might be, we protect them with that same level of subconscious denial as that which formed them in the first place. We apply them with as much zeal as that queen who wreaked her vengeance on the beauty of her step-daughter.
So, in fact, one might legitimately challenge whether that queen was actually so warped? How often have ‘good people’ ripped someone’s heart out, figuratively at least? To survive socially, psychically?
Regardless, for a writer, there’s a hidden gift in such conundrum. It hides beneath that reflection in that mirror as a goldmine for character development. For as maladaptive or malicious as some of these subconscious processes can be, we as writers must take a more conscious approach, and seek to see into any mirror with kaleidoscopic vision. We must seek to see multiple perceptions, for that multifaceted jewel of perception sheds a rainbow of nuance upon our understanding and development of character in our writing.
While every perception is a new gem, every character is a diamond in the rough. Whether we polish, or carve, or leave them rough and raw, each character must be multifaceted and complex. It can be tempting to overwork them. Or to grade them too thoroughly, or too hastily. It can be tempting to deny that shadow in their mirror, which reveals a flaw you’d rather deny. Or ignore a brilliance that foils your creative plot to portray only flaws.
But these foibles and inconsistencies of persona are imperative. Carved by perception, they create your four dimensional character – their physical, social, and psychological realities - and their spiritual reality too – that part of them that makes them susceptible and unpredictable.
Perceived strengths, shortcomings, and biases build tension and conflict, a growth of awareness, and a complex resolution.
As writers, conscious awareness of these conflicting aspects of perception working within the psyche, either for or against our characters, allows us to whittle subtleties, sculpt lows and highs, shape downfalls and triumphs. In this way we fashion our diamond to entice full engagement for our readers - within their hearts, their minds, their souls, their Selves.
Our writing is our mirror, which reflects from our words into many souls, and on again into many more. Through our writing, timeworn perceptions and misconceptions collude and collide, diverge and converge, to create an experience as real as any faerytale, and as unreal as any reality.
Mirror, mirror, how do you see?