Jean Murray joins us to show that an oldie but a goodie – a proverb – can help us create books that captivate readers.
The pen is mightier than the sword ~ Using proverbs to boost your character’s development and storyline.
Proverbs are an integral part of our lives, whether spiritual, satirical or metaphorical.
Proverbs provide a short moral lesson, cultural value, wisdom or truth, easily remembered and passed down generation after generation. We all have one tucked in the back of our brains either by our mother or grandmother— Don’t cry over spilt milk. Haste makes waste. Ignorance is bliss.
Proverbs are often indirect and less offensive than direct criticism or advice.
One of my favorite corporate or team sayings is Don’t beat a dead horse— for those lovelies in a group that just won’t let go of an argument or a topic/problem that has been discussed at length without resolution. Either way, it hinders the team’s forward progress. The horse is dead, move on…
I think of proverbs as life lessons. Isn’t that what we want for our characters? Simple phrases with meaning that provide the perfect playground to inspire our characters and storyline. Whether in the planning stages or by the seat of our pants, you can use these little ditties to guide your character to resolution. What lesson do they need to learn by the end of your story?
For example, A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss. This can work in our favor in two ways. Do we have a character that is in a slump and the world is running on without them? Bogged down with “moss,” they either lack motivation to move forward or have so much responsibility they see no way out. On the other hand, do we have a character that is so unattached and unsettled he has nothing to show for all the work he/she has done? Has little or no “moss?” This is not without reason. Do they fear commitment or are so focused they see “moss” as only a deterrent to their goals.
We make this work for us by answering a few questions.
• What do I need to do as a writer to get the stone rolling and out of its rut or get it to slow down enough to appreciate “the moss” in this case?
• What happens to the stagnant stone when it starts to roll and lose some of its “moss?” Moving forward isn’t without sacrifice. What will he/she leave behind?
• What happens when “the moss” slows the character down? How will he/she react? Does it detract from their goals or augment it? How long will it take them to see the beauty of “the moss.”
• Most importantly, how do our characters interpret the value of “the moss?” Is it a worthy gain or sacrifice for either character?
A friend recently shared a proverb with me that fit the theme of my book, Soul Awakened.
The one who falls and gets up is so much stronger than the one who never fell. This is an integral part of my story of two brothers, one who has never faltered and the other who has led a life of indiscretion. One struggling to stand while the other is crumbling under his own self-righteousness. Either way, they both have a hard lesson to learn. It takes strength and fortitude to climb to the top. More importantly, finding the means to forgive oneself when no one else will.
Most proverbs have a dual message, similar to our rolling stone example. Do the hero and heroine interpret the proverb differently or the same? How will this play into your internal conflict between the pair?
Proverbs help you stay focused on the little life lesson you wish your hero or heroine to achieve. Is his or her cup half empty or half full?
Readers relate to characters that face similar life struggles. Create 3-dimensional characters instead of flat canvases.
Whether you are just starting to write or in the editing phase, ask yourself – what proverb would be the perfect match for your book/story? Take a closer look and see if your characters are following the course you set out for them. Do they learn their lesson? If the answer is, no, ask yourself why?
Is there a proverb that your family is famous for saying? Or do you have a favorite you are willing to share? Can you give an example of how this could be used to develop a character or storyline in your book?
Damon Suede returns to RU tomorrow!
Giveaway: I am celebrating my website’s new look with a Giveaway. All commenters are eligible to enter, just follow my website link. Author Jean Murray’s Website
Author Bio: In her pursuit of a nursing degree, Jean Murray aspired to see the world and joined the Navy. At the end of 2011 she said a heart-breaking goodbye to her Navy family and retired after twenty years of military service. Although her dreams of writing full time have yet to come true, she continues her writing journey and draws inspiration from her travels abroad. She enjoys spending time with her family and of course, writing about the “Carrigan sisters and their mates, Gods of the Underworld,” to bring you the next installment of the Key to the Cursed series.
Author Jean Murray brings a wonderful new spin to the paranormal world with her Egyptian Underworld gods. She broke ground in the paranormal romance genre with Soul Reborn and Soul Awakened and now continues the Key to the Cursed journey with Soul Unbound and Soul Unleashed. See what readers and reviewers are saying about her books ~ GOODREADS
- Portraying Ethnic Characters with Dignity in Contemporary Romance – Vicki Essex
- Anatomy of an Edgy YA Heroine with PJ Sharon
- Creating Your Hero’s Fatal Flaw
- Characterization Through Dialogue
- Writing A HolyCowAwesome Story, Part 1 C.J. Redwine