The Shadow Knows

- by Charlotte Hubbard

Many thanks to Phil for seeing his shadow earlier this week, and to Neale Donald Walsch for his Groundhog Day’s message, which included the thought: “…you should hope to see your shadow today…For when the shadow side of you is seen, embraced, and loved, your healing has begun for sure.”

images1 It occurred to me that this could be another tool for motivating our characters—so if your tried-and-true chisels feel a little dull lately, explore these ideas with me! Comment with some of your own! Because if you know what casts the shadows over your characters—what “evil” or other beasties lurk in their hearts and pasts—you can figure out how to heal them throughout a gratifying story arc to emerge into light at its end! (Or maybe they don’t want to be healed! Now, there’s the story I’d probably rather tell!)

Play “What If–” with me here (I’m on a March 1 deadline, so games sound soooo tempting right now!), and the person who submits the comment I find most thought-provoking wins any book on either of my websites.

What If…

1) your heroine secretly had an abortion when she was younger, and can’t tell her husband…fears it might be the reason she can’t conceive? Or she fears marrying a wonderful man because he wants children, and she’s already “thrown one away.”

2) your hero bullied/dared his friend to do something that maimed him (or even led to his death)…can’t forgive himself after all these years.

3) your character believes things about him/herself because a parent labeled him/her that way from early childhood? Always lived down to that self-fulfilling prophesy, or used it as an excuse not to aspire higher.

4) your characters engaged in illicit/illegal activities in college that have come back to bite them as they apply for jobs, get married, etc.? What if somebody in their circle turns informant?

5) your parents concealed very important information about your birth/adoption and you find out about it from a total stranger years later?

6) Your hero/heroine has built a life/career based on a lie but sees no reason to come clean? (does not want to be “healed”) Who gets hurt along the way? Who has built a life around this person and then discovers his/her own life has been a lie, too?

7) your character’s career—or life—is about to end and another character knows secret information that could save him? Will he/she share the secret? What if there’s a compelling reason not to?

No doubt you can come up with better what-ifs! And I’d love to see them—and perhaps other writers who are in a stall pattern with a story will find just the right kick-start here to remotivate an entire book! We’ve all had stories and characters (and moods and psyches) that need to be fixed!

But now, who’s your “healer” and how does he/she go about rescuing the whole situation? And what if he/she decides it’s not worth the risk?

Delve into those characters’ shadows! And yes, the shadows I mentioned above have belonged to me or to folks I know—or characters who’ve held me spellbound—so indeed, real life is always stranger…darker and more shadowy than fiction! (And indeed, the darkest, most shadowy time is right before your unfinished manuscript is due on your editor’s desk!)

Thanks for playing along today!

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