Postcards From the Margins: Good People

Back home
Back home

I’m back home in Minneapolis after visiting my mom and sisters–all good people, as is my husband, whose flowers (pictured) greeted me on my return. I’ve gotten caught up on two of my good-people bloggers, Jodi Chromey (you have to read her newest hilarious post–she has many– Hermit Truths: The Myth of Pantslessness) and Kurtis Scaletta (Too Many Notes and The Pond are his latest). I never tire of reading whatever Jodi and Kurtis write.

Good family back east, good spouse, good writing friends here in Minneapolis. I have been surrounded and supported by good people for the whole of my life. Some people say this isn’t very good material for fiction.

I beg to differ.

This weekend my sisters and I saw Les Miserables on Broadway. Talk about a good person: Victor Hugo’s Jean Valjean just keeps coming back, forgiven and forgiving, trying to do the right thing. Recently I finished All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. His character Marie Laure goes blind at six years old and is nonetheless the embodiment of kindness and patience, as are so many of her keepers. The love between girl and father and grand-uncle and even housekeeper leaps from every page. I love the goodness of Marilyn Robinson’s John Ames in Gilead, the goodness of Leif Enger’s Land family in Peace Like A River, the goodness of Harper Lee’s Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird.

Maybe you have no stomach for such goodness. I so, so do.

Which is not to say that goodness is easy to write. It’s not. Stories run on conflict, and not every tale, even those populated by good people, will have a happy ending. A one-dimensionally good character probably won’t succeed; I work hard to create multi-dimensional and yet still-good characters. They are not perfect, but they try: to speak for and protect the fragile, the marginalized, the ill; to be generous and brave; to forgive, fully; to love, with everything they’ve got.

There may not be many of these characters among us. But for someone like me, who has been blessed with so many good people in my life, they’re going too show up in what I write.

I just hope to do them justice.

Did I mention how much I miss my sisters?

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