Tracy Groot on character

Learning from Henri Nouwen and Tracy Groot

Though movie renditions of great books usually disappoint, Unbroken was an exception—Louie, the hero, exhibited many childhood flaws, yet developed the strength of character to endure inconceivable torture. Throughout his long life, he inspired many, with humility. Henri Nouwen might have written the following paragraph for him.
“When we say, ‘If people really knew me, they wouldn’t love me,’ we choose the road toward darkness . . . But humility is  . . . the grateful recognition that we are precious in God’s eyes and that all we are is pure gift. To grow beyond self-rejection we must have the courage to listen to the voice calling us God’s beloved sons and daughters, and the determination always to live our lives according to this truth.” Henri Nouwen Bread for the Journey
Readers of Unbroken will also appreciate Michigan writer Tracy Groot’s novel, Flame of Resistance. The main character Brigitte opens her heart to grace as the story moves along—to the idea that she’s a worthy human being in spite of . . . well, I’ll let you discover the particulars for yourself.
We all like to see characters overcome obstacles, and the toughest often are internal, hidden from other people, but capable of destroying us. I’m so glad for this book’s imperfect and yearning heroine.
Tracy shares about the process of creating such a complicated plot with a powerful underlying theme.
“I tend to look upon a work as a whole, and for me, a moral premise can stem from multiple sources within the book–it can be one over-all premise for the whole work, or several themes with maybe one premise that can serve to represent the themes.
I don’t focus on moral premise or theme when I begin a work. When I see it later, when it comes to the surface in revision, I may then do some spit-shining to see what I can do to make it come out; but I never make a moral my guiding thread for the writing process. I let my characters play out their lives, and see what comes of it.” 
For aspiring authors, her attitude is freeing, and for readers, the result is powerful. Boy, am I glad she allowed Brigitte’s life to play out—hers is a story I won’t soon forget.
And back to Unbroken . . . if an author hadn’t decided to take on Louie’s story, we would be so much poorer. Just for fun, I’m adding a photo of an elk my husband took yesterday . . . looks like someone seeking a novel with a great character cast, eh?
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So, what types of characters draw you in? How does a character take form in your imagination? And for writers, does your writing process parallel Tracy’s, or do you begin from a very solid moral premise?
More from Tracy next Monday, when we will draw a name from both weeks’ comments for a copy of her most recent book, The Sentinels of Andersonville. Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to include your contact information in your comment.

15 thoughts on “Tracy Groot on character

  1. Gail,
    I have so been enjoying your book, Catching up to Daylight. As I read through the chapters I feel as if I am your silent companion on the early morning walks as you explain in such detail that is makes me, the reader, feel as if I am seeing all you see and hearing all you hear. Your description of bringing back to life the old house literally brings the smells and sounds of the process of peeling away years of wear and tear. Helping something so old to become “new” again. Much like what Christ does for us when we allow Him to work in our lives.
    Love the picture of the elk and the writing of the day. Have a wonderful day and keep writing. What a gift you have been given.

    Julia

  2. Well, Julia, you made my day! So glad you’re taking time to enjoy the book, and I really like the parallel you drew w/how our souls become restored.

    It’s taken me a long while to come to this point, but I definitely WILL keep writing, grateful for the gift.

    Take care,

    Gail

  3. Your blog is really developing into one I look forward to reading. I don’t know the writing world but am fascinated with the character development and story you develop. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us. God bless you!

    • And God bless YOU! Thanks for all the encouragement on this journey, JoVeta. You know I think you have another book in you!!
      smile….

  4. I’m ironing out a new story and am making every effort to get out of the way of my characters. I’m consciously listening to them in order to hear their true voices. It requires a lot of faith to let them lead! But if I don’t, they will all sound like me.

    I love the image of the sun climbing down the mountain. 🙂

  5. Hi Sarah,

    I hear you on listening to the characters–but isn’t it fun? They become so real to us, it’s kind of amazing. And the faith thing–oh yes! Who would ever have thunk writing fiction was a way to broaden our faith?

    The sun climbing down . . . It’s 7:40 here, and the first rays just hit the very rim top, so I get to watch this progress again. You’ll have to come visit and witness this some day.

    Thanks again for coming today.

  6. Interesting post, Gail. I love the approach you (and Tracey) shared of letting the moral premise percolate to the surface naturally rather than forcing it. I think this is the secret to avoiding “preachy” writing.
    Cute shot of the elk, too. I’ve only seen the “calling cards” they leave behind on the footpath.

  7. Oh, Alison, you must come up here and meet some elk firsthand before your go back to Australia.

    And I think you’re right about the percolating–I bet that does help w/the natural flow of the premise. Like most other things, forcing doesn’t work. Thanks for stopping by.

  8. I agree with Tracy on allowing the moral premise to surface on its own. That’s the way it happens in real life. We go through some sort of life challenge, and by the time it’s over, we’ve gained insight that we didn’t have before.

    The website’s new look is great!

    • Thanks, Janet.

      And isn’t that the truth? Your insight about the way things go in real life makes so much sense.

      Please stop by again.

  9. Good Morning:

    Enjoyed catching up on your blog and encounters with others real and imagined ! Admire your ability to put into words the spirituality of these people and how it affects their everyday living.
    Take care and enjoy the warmer weather, sunshine and wildlife !
    Mary

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