Thank you for giving me a blogging sabbatical. Please enjoy one last blog repeat. Blogging will resume January 5. Happy New Year! – Nikki
My dad has been a pastor for fifteen years and before that he worked as a supermarket manager for over twenty years. One thing he says he’s learned in his 35+ years of working with people in retail and ministry is this: People come first. Not policies, not procedures or programs or politics. People.
In my full-time job I try to live by that mantra. I spend my days travelling from home to home in rural Adams County, Pennsylvania doing physical therapy on the sick and injured. And every day I remind myself that the patient comes first. I don’t see them merely as a diagnosis or keep a wall between us. I don’t keep them at an arm’s length. They’re people with needs and wants and hurts and fears. People with feelings who deserve to be treated as such.
I also employ this little mantra in my fiction. Plot is important, yes, and pushes the story forward, but the people who populate the story must come first. For me, it’s all about the characters, all about their lives and history and future, their relationships and struggles and fears. Their desires.
I’m a firm believer in the power of characters to keep a reader glued to the pages more so than even a killer plot. We’re all relational and it’s the people of a story we connect with and want to follow. We want to identify with them, feel what they’re feeling, live as they live.
A few years ago I worked with a boy who had cerebral palsy. I’ll call him Aaron. When we first started treating Aaron he had just undergone surgery to lengthen some tendons in his legs that had become contracted and couldn’t even walk. He’d maneuver himself from his bed to his wheelchair to the sofa using only his arms. But despite his disabilities, his withered limbs, the difficulties and obstacles he faced every day, Aaron never once complained, never once showed anger or frustration or even fear. Never spoke a harsh word to either me or his caregiver.
Instead, he was kind and generous and loving. He showed genuine interest in me and my family and asked every day how we were doing and what we had planned for that evening. He trusted me completely with a simple faith that both convicted and inspired me.
By the time we finished working with Aaron he was walking around his small home like it was nobody’s business, smiling earlobe to earlobe, and anxious to get back to school where he was in the seventh grade.
When I left Aaron’s home for the last time I knew I had to create a character like him, one who was tormented physically but never emotionally or spiritually, one who, despite his physical challenges truly walked by faith. A faith that was simple and pure, honest and genuine. And so I created the character of William for Frantic.
William is somewhat of an enigma. He’s small and vulnerable with withered limbs and a unique way of expressing himself. But his faith is the stuff of inspiration and his wisdom runs deeper than the length of his life. He’s the kind of character who sticks with you long after you’ve finished the story, who lingers in your mind and resonates in your heart.
It’s over a year since I finished writing it and I still think about him often. He inspired me to examine my own heart, my own motives, my own faith and the object of that faith. My prayer is that he’ll have the same effect on readers.
(Note From Nikki: To read my review on Frantic, click here.)
Mike Dellosso is the author of 5 novels of suspense. His latest, Frantic, just released February 7 and is already getting great reviews. Mike lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and four daughters. He blogs regularly about matters of faith and life at www.mikedellosso.wordpress.com. Keep up to date with what’s going on in his world by “liking” his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mikedellosso.