The Art of Friendly; Texas Style
How traditions can become awkward situations for your character.
By Natalie Bright
As a writer, everything I hear can become a spark in my mind for words on paper. An interesting resource has become people’s comments on current events. It’s fascinating to me how people are so very diverse and will interpret the same situation in so many unique ways, which brings me to the point of this blog.
A post on Facebook has stayed in my head these past several weeks. The blogger said, “Manners and caring are so rare these days that acts of kindness are misunderstood and considered sexual advance in today’s world.”
Do you think that rings true?
Acts of Kindness
A car bumped me this past week in line at Taco Bell. I got out of my vehicle to check the damage, which wasn’t anything that I could see. The driver of the other car refused to get out. She gripped her steering wheel with both hands and with a half smile, just starred. She could have at least rolled down her window to say, “Sorry, is everything okay?” I wish I had thought to take pictures of my bumper and of her with my iPhone. That might have generated some kind of reaction.
I have to admit that I’ve been the recipient of strange looks sometimes just for saying “Hello, how are you?” I can see it in the store clerks eyes; Beware, Crazy lady approaching. When did a common greeting and kindness become a reason for distrust? And why are people so scarred of engaging others in conversation? Maybe the statement made on Facebook does ring true in today’s world.
Chit-Chat and Hugging
Here in the Texas Panhandle, for the most part, manners and kindness still rule. Men really do hold doors open for ladies. Most of us chit-chat. A lot. We visit with each other while waiting in line at the grocery store. We visit about the weather in passing at the post office and chat to our waitress at lunch.
And we invade each others space. We hug hello, we hug goodbye, we hug not only relatives and close friends, in addition many of the people we have a working relationship with. Yeah, I know that sounds very awkward, but it’s really not, if you grew up that way. The hug I miss the most is a giant-all encircling hug that came from my Grandmother Williams. She really enjoyed talking to people and always welcomed everyone she knew with a sincere hug of warmth and love.
Hugging and chit chat: regional practices that can have the potential of creating huge conflict for your characters, and not just external. Consider the battles going on inside your character as well.
The What If of a Hug
Utilize the simple act of hugging to create conflict and awkwardness for your characters. It’s only one element of your story, but it can offer readers a glimpse into your characters personality. Here are a few story starters for you.
- What if a simple act of kindness is considered to be a sexual advance? How can your character explain his/her action and keep their job?
- An affectionate, life-loving southern woman dates a man who likes his space. Does her hugging and friendships with everyone in town create jealousy issues between them? How can he ever trust her? How can their relationship survive?
- She’s raised by a cold-distant mother, hard-working, absent father, and is sent to spend the summer with affectionate grandparents and a passel of cousins in small-town Texas. She misinterprets a hug hello from the neighbor’s boy resulting in a first crush. How does that create conflict for them?
- What about the character that is accused of being extremely rude, but in her world she’s just extremely shy, detached and scarred of people?
It all starts with a hug. Happy writing!