I'd just watched a great movie called Man From Earth. The premise is awesome, and without it I wouldn't have watched it. But during a good-gye party, friends learn that the honorary guest is a caveman who has lived for 14,000 years. That's right. A bonafied caveman, cro magnon, to be exact.
It was written by famed science fantasy writer, Jerome Bixby.
It's a fantastic premise because what the caveman reveals is just earth shattering. I'd suggest watching.
One of the things John, the caveman, reveals is that he was a well known religious figure. Everyone in the party at this point doesn't really know whether to believe his story so far, but to claim to be this certain figure seems heinous. Until John explains how this religious figure got his mythical status. How history can apply layers of mythicism on an individual.
And that got me thinking.
I'd had the pleasure of pitching to Donald Maass, the famed New York agent who wrote How to Write the Breakout Novel. This was my first book on writing. I'd attended his one hour lecture at the San Francisco Writer's Conference. His whole thing is to write with emotional depth and make your story big. Big with emotions. (Wow. I'm using a lot of fragments today.)
Some examples are betrayal, retribution, and the all time favorite "I hate you, dad!"
In my book, my hero has severe issues with his father. His father left him without saying good-bye after being convicted of a murder. With this, a lot of people assumed that the father was guilty, despite his fervent attempt to prove his innocence. Kinda like OJ hurling down the freeway at 152.5 MPH.
My hero is left with the question of why. Was his father guilty? Did he not love my hero enough? What did my hero do to make his father leave? As the days pass, my hero is forced to answer these questions and begins to layer greatness upon his estranged father.
Sorta like someone breaking up with you, and you can't stop thinking about all the good times you both had, even though there may have been a lot of bad.
Maass said these past parental issues tend to manifest themselves in other parts of your life. For example, if your father was a perfectionist, forced and punished you to be a perfectionist, then you grow up and torture yourself to be a perfectionist at work. Your relationships go bad because you're trying to find the perfect man or woman. You can't seem to settle on any home that you visit, driving your real estate agent crazy. You go into deep debt, buying every electronic device because they keep getting better. You get ten plastic surgeries trying to fit the perfect mold. All because your father prodded you to be perfect. Then, all of a sudden, you yell at a picture of your father, "I hate you, dad!" But what you actually hate is the person you've turned into, and, hopefully, as up-lifting stories go, you realize that his world of perfection doesn't have to be yours. And you begin to live a life that's true to you.
The point is, when writing stories, sometimes childhood issues bubble up without the character knowing it. He may never know it. She may scream at a jar of honey and remember when her mother yelled at her for spilling honey on their new carpet. It's a great way of deepening a character.