Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Characters and SuperHeroes – The Influencers

Last week, a provocative little book caught my eye – Every Moment Matters: Savoring the Stuff of Life by John St. Augustine. I admit I was slightly influenced to buy it because of the Foreword by Dr. Oz and the lovely photo on the cover. However, the real attraction was the subject, which had also been the topic of a recent conversation.

In the roughly 20-chapter narrative, the author describes pleasurable moments that many of us in our busy worlds may miss, ignore or take for granted. You know: playtimes with our pets, unplanned reunions, walking on soft earth or realizing – years later – that you’ve been influenced by someone for the better.

The chapter entitled “Captain Dracula” intrigued me. Being a Dark Shadows fan and Bram Stoker student (but a little too old for the Twilight/True Blood/etc. phenom), I had been scared out of my wits by Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price – and my father, who played COUNT Dracula at the town Civic Center’s Haunted House one year. I had never heard of CAPTAIN Dracula. John St. Augustine's name “Captain Dracula” was born of his father’s love of the Star Trek television show and his passion for Halloween: a combination of Captain James Kirk and Count Vladimir Dracula. “Captain” played Star Trek with the young St. Augustine in the back yard, fighting aliens and exploring the universe. “Dracula” redecorated the entire house and lawn to accommodate dozens, if not hundreds, of kids and parents who wanted to be enjoyably frightened by a saber-toothed, cape-wearing man who dripped “blood.” St. Augustine loved both the characters and the superheroes that his dad brought into his life – as did the entire neighborhood that joined in the celebrations.

In the final hours of his father’s life, St. Augustine relived some special moments that further bonded him to his father. The author began to see the reasoning for some of his father’s actions, and understanding his motivation, forgave him. This also led him to accept his own “faults, successes, good and bad.” He realized, years later, that in addition to being Captain Kirk and Count Dracula, his dad was the superhero and character of Wise Teacher.

The first anniversary of my mother’s death recently passed. She was a teacher by profession, and many characters and superheroes by personality. Some of my favorites were: Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (One of us kids was always getting sick or hurt.); Auntie Mame (She loved life.); Miss Martha Stewart (Wait, she’s real! But like her, my mom could create anything.); Miss Manners (We knew our etiquette, thank you.); and Miss Catholic Trivia (This was a character we made up, but was real enough, as she undoubtedly knew answers to any question about religion.). So what do we have: Dr. Auntie Martha Manners Trivia? In such a complex personality, there were numerous motivations, history and goals associated with her decisions and actions. While we didn’t always see eye to eye (literally and figuratively, as I was six inches taller than she), I am further realizing, years later, that her influence on me from all those little moments mattered, and has shaped me to be more caring, fun, creative and thoughtful.

Many of us have encountered an extraordinary person who presented tremendous opportunity to help us grow and explore. Regardless of our response to them at the time, we may look back years later to see the extent of their influence. The lesson here is this: when we describe our life or another person’s life, the conversation can’t be complete without acknowledgement of characters or superheroes that had an impact. Most of our influencers didn’t make decisions in the dark (although I just had a vision of John St. Augustine’s father creating a coffin for Dracula in a dark workshop). They had reasons. Your writing will be richer if you answer questions like these about the influencers: What were their superhero personalities? What characters did they emulate? Why did they make decisions as they did, and would we follow suit or do opposite?

By analyzing the motivation, history and goals of the superhero and character influencers, you'll learn more about them – and possibly about yourself.

As CEO of Write Advisors, Bonnie Bajorek Daneker helps clients express themselves digitally and in print. Author of The Compassionate Caregiver Series®, Bonnie released her seventh book, CLIMB, in November 2010, with Sandy Hofmann, President of Women in Technology (WIT). Her most recent book, Publishing as a Marketing Strategy, is co-written with five other contributors and was released November 2011. She holds a BA in Journalism from The Ohio State University and an MBA in Strategic Planning and Entrepreneurship from The Goizueta School of Business at Emory University
Facebook: Bonnie Bajorek Daneker, Write Advisors LLC 

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