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Posted March 27, 2012
CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT PART I -- BETRAYAL
Does the word betrayal alone make your stomach do a flip-flop? Live long enough and you will sooner or later experience betrayal. Either that or you'll be one of the luckiest humans on the planet. Or perhaps you'll be the one to betray, not something to easily live with if you have half a heart. However, if someone has turned their back on you and you've been betrayed or have worn the brogan on the other foot, think back on those emotionally evocative experiences, write them down, and to ratchet up angst and conflict in a story plot, use those feelings in a scene.
Having writers block with this exercise? Then try opening the Bible and read about the last hours before Jesus Christ was arrested in Luke 22. Though you'll never be the Messiah, at least try to put yourself in his human man sandals to get a feel of what he was experiencing before his incarceration. At the Last Supper Jesus took the cup saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed, but woe to that man who betrays him."
Jesus had grown up with James, at least one sibling who didn't believe his brother was the Messiah. James was more than likely embarrassed by his brother's claim that he was God. Now, Judas was to betray Jesus and to top it all off, one of Jesus' closest friends, Peter, was going to deny and betray him. "I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me." How awful for Jesus who had a heads up about these betrayals, but how even more horrifying for Peter when he heard the cock's third crow and realized that what Jesus had told him had now come to pass! Can you imagine what he must have felt? Shame? Humiliation? Remorse? And would he lose his best friend because of his betrayal?
I'm sure Peter must have also recalled earlier words Jesus had spoken about the end times. "Then he said to them: 'Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed (there's that word again) even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. All men will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. By standing firm you will gain life."
Even though Peter had previously been prepared by Jesus' words prior to the rooster's third crow, he still, out of his human weakness, betrayed someone he dearly admired, loved, and worshipped.
Again, think about how difficult that must have been for Peter, and how sad that must have been for Jesus who had been discipling for three years the men who had become his closest friends.
So, when writing your scenes, show your character's weaknesses, then later, show his or her strengths once they've been sifted as wheat, turned back, and strengthened their brothers and sisters.
And rememberůmemorable novel characters are those who experience growth. Though Peter did some big time betraying, he also had a growth spurt in the character building department and became the rock on which the Christian "church" was built.
Not so shabby character development for a guy who once said three times, "I don't know him."
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