I don’t like funerals. They freak me out, honestly.
But today I went to one. I donned my black high heels that are only worn for special occasions, grabbed a few tissues and prepared myself for a hard day. I needed to say goodbye to a family friend, and I did.
This post isn’t about funerals, though. It’s about something I saw after.
Now, being that I don’t like funerals, I don’t randomly go tromping through graveyards, so today when I saw a headstone with one single word, I was fascinated. There were no dates, no quotes of comfort. Not even a last name.
It simply said, “unknown.”
Admittedly, I had never seen an “unknown” grave before.
It was a weird feeling, being fascinated and incredibly sad at the same time. Here was this person who had habits, and quirks, whose words pierced the air as strongly as anyone else’s. Here was someone who felt the breeze on his face, had childhood memories, had dreams, ambitions.
Here was someone, but nobody knew who.
Later on, after I had been thinking about Unknown for a long time, my thoughts trailed into writing, and I realized how many of my characters I had laid to rest in a graveyard of unknowns. What I mean by this is: How many characters do I not really know?
A lot of them probably.
Do I know exactly what my character’s voices sound like? Know what they’re thinking about when the wind hits their faces? What about what they’re thinking about as they sit down to dinner? Or lay down to bed at night? Do I know who these characters are in the depths and crevices of their souls?
No. I don’t, unfortunately.
I know surface details. Visuals and maybe a few habits if I’m lucky. A handful of childhood memories here and there.
Is that enough to mark a name on a stone? It certainly doesn’t seem like it.
So, this is me saying that maybe I don’t know my characters enough. Here’s to me finally understanding when every writer says you have to know your characters, not just know them.
I don’t know them, yet. But I will.
This is me saying “goodbye” to a dear friend, to Unknown, and me saying “hello” to a writing revelation.
I would like to dedicate this blog post to my friend. And to Unknown, whoever you are.
See you soon,