Just because I listen to your opinion, doesn’t mean I’m following your “suggestions.” Maybe I’m just curious and listen to what people tell me? Maybe it’s because they don’t realize that I’m listening as a writer—with an ear to word choices for use in dialog OR for other character research? Maybe it’s simply that I don’t jump up with an immediate defensive objection? BUT for most of my life, I’ve encountered people dead set on fixing me!
The older I get the funnier this phenomenon becomes, but there were times when I took the instructions from family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. as direct personal affronts in the guise of loving advice. That’s what they are, but only if you take them seriously.
I’ve been told whom to date, what to wear, what university I should attend, what I should drink, how late I should stay at a dance, and—most often—what I should do with my hair. My extra curly hair has a bunch of fans, but it also inspires a menu of strange objectives.
After countless directives to “try the new Japanese straightening technique” and “get a professional blow out” I had to tell a Tango friend with naturally kinky hair molded into a precise flat hairdo that “I did not hate myself or my hair.” Her need to obliterate her ethnicity was her business. Her need to obliterate mine was stepping over a line!
Why did she see her advice as a loving and friendly gesture? She thought she was sharing her superior knowledge of how to conform to a beauty norm that she embraced. Wow! I didn’t know I’d write it quite that way, but there you have it. She needed to fix me and I didn’t think I needed to be fixed.
From my writer’s point-of-view, there’s something intriguing about a character that needs to fix other characters. There’s a line in a song in the classic musical ‘Guys & Dolls’ (by Frank Loesser based on stories by Damon Runyon) “Marry the man today and change his ways tomorrow.” Many real life people feel compelled to change those around them. Sometimes there’s a genuine, loving motivation: “honey please quit smoking” or “Dad it’s time to get to the dentist before your teeth fall out” but… I’m not talking about that. I’m focused on the need to control and manipulate others with “advice.”
That kind of character would make a great victim in a murder mystery. Don’t you agree?