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The Secret of Falling in Love

June 21, 2013

My best friend “M” is an inwardly angry person. She doesn’t think that she is and would object to that description but she’s so vehemently contemptuous of so many things that I’m rendered devoid of opinions in order to avoid her disdain.

M yells at drivers who have not gunned it off the mark at green lights; at check-out girls who don’t “hop- to” as my Dad would say. You know, the kind who refuse to shake a leg, get the lead out, get it in gear.  And M was a nurse—God help us—who pretty much loathed her patients. (M does not stand for Marian, Martha, or Marie, by the way, and that’s all that I’m telling you.) So when I’m with M, I feel exceptionally kind by comparison. I don’t have to be angry—M does it for me.

We often attach ourselves to people who are carrying our lost selves; usually it’s a spouse.  That way we get to acquire by proxy the very characteristic we’ve repressed but I’d say my friendship with M is evidence that this theory applies to friends as well. My dog, for instance, is a yellow lab with a cowlick. The fur between her shoulders sticks up like a Rhodesian Ridgeback’s.  Kaya is really pretty affable so it’s disconcerting to be walking her in the park and have someone give us a wide berth saying, “Whoa, looks like she’s angry,” or to have some little kid point a sticky finger  and announce, ‘It’s mad.” I’m tempted to explain but if I’m with “M” she’ll reply, “Yes and it bites.”

Think about a character you’re working on—think about yourself. What characteristics do you attribute to your girlfriend, boyfriend, friend or spouse, as if you don’t have that quality at all while he or she has it in spades? Intelligence? Empathy? Secrecy? Jealousy?  A sense of fair play? Spirituality? Laziness? Procrastination?

Now get curious. What happened in the past that caused your character or you to suppress that quality but be attracted to it in others? Why are you secretive but admiring of truth-sayers? Whose secret did you need to keep? Why is your character the life of the party? For whom was he invisible as a child? Write about that moment—the moment a quality was lost, submerged in order to survive—only to surface in adulthood as the very quality that made you fall in love.

For more writing tips and inspiration check out “The Story Within, New Insights and Inspiration for Writers”  (Penguin Books.) Now in its 3rd printing in 16 months.

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