THE UNDERGROUND OF THE CITY IS LIKE
WHAT'S UNDERGROUND IN PEOPLE.
BENEATH THE SURFACE,
IT'S BOILING WITH MONSTERS.
(Guillermo del Toro)
When I was in high school, I wrote a story for the school's literary magazine. The teacher, Mr. R., gave me a strange look when he accepted it, saying only that it was, uh, an unusually dark story for someone like me.
In college, I wrote poetry full of shadows and despair.
A few years ago, I met with a literary agent at a conference to go over the manuscript pages I'd submitted for him to critique. As I, smiling and excited, walked over to him, I noticed he was looking at me strangely, and all I could think was that I had something stuck in my teeth or my hair was sticking up. But it turns out he was just surprised - I looked so normal, too normal, to have written the horror story in his hand.
The quote is such a great reminder that what you see is not always what - or all - there is. We all have "monsters," whether beneath a confident exterior lurks doubt or worry or panic. Maybe beneath a patient smile, simmers a short temper. Maybe beneath the sweet face and conservative clothes of a Sunday School teacher lives a rock and roll roller derby queen.
Let's keep this in mind as we go about our week. When we pay the pierced and tattooed barista, let's imagine she sings the sweetest gospel music we've ever heard. When the grumpy bus driver grunts at us, let's imagine he writes love poetry. Not only is this a good way to practice patience and kindness in general, but it's also a wonderful way to create interesting and complex characters.
(And now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go take care of my "monsters" - they're busy slithering around my mind's tunnels, squelching through my imagination, their slick strands of drool dripping out onto the page forming story, characters. I can use all the help I can get during NaNo.)