We all have our weaknesses, but I'm not talking about craving dark chocolate or cheesecake. I'm referring to a personality weakness, a particular aptitude I have which is probably not good.
While finishing my bachelor's degree in
education and biology (at age thirty), I inadvertently signed up for a class
that sounded like classroom management. It appealed to me, not only for the
content, but because a man I knew taught the class. In my thinking, if this
gentleman, who had been a military man, taught anything about managing people,
he would undoubtedly be an expert.
However, when the class began and each
of us had an opportunity to introduce ourselves, I was startled by the reasons
for taking the class. Most were males, and each once spoke of needing to learn
more about "how to be a school principal and keep order."
No! Not me. I had no intention of being
a school principal.
At the end of the first session, I spoke
with the professor.
"I think I should drop this course.
It's not for me, and I don't know how I misinterpreted the class
He answered, "No, Celia, you don't
need to drop. You will find the information and discussions valuable in
managing students. Plus, I'd like to have you in the class."
Throughout the teaching and discussions,
in which each of us spoke in response to a particular scenario, I thought I was
doing really well. However, half-way through the semester, this professor spoke
to me privately. What did he want? To point out my major weakness.
My greatest weakness, as it turned out,
was "giving individuals the benefit of the doubt too easily."
Really? What's wrong with this? In my
mind, nothing, but he tried to explain that for whatever infraction a student
might incur, I had the tendency to say, "I'll let it go this time" or
"I know you didn't intend to break a rule or act inappropriately, so I'd
like you to think about what you did."
He said, "When I heard your answers
in class, I imagined you patting the student on the head, saying, 'now, now,
let's be nice. Please don't do this again.'"
I taught high school students for
twenty-something years. Yes, I gave many the benefit of the doubt. In some
cases, there was no doubt the student had to face some kind of punishment for
his severe infraction.
It wasn't that I believed the story a
student--usually a male--told me, it was that I weighed the costs of seeking
punishment against the value of discussing the problem with the young man.
My professor and most of the men in the
class saw things in black and white. You break a rule--you pay the price.
What does this have to do with writing
romance novels? Or writing in general? Probably nothing, except it might come
in handy when writing a scene that includes some sort of crime or situation.
In the WIP, TEXAS DREAMER, Emilie
McDougal King must take over the ranch business and the drilling of a possible
oil well, and she's facing men who aren't too happy. Her husband's life was
threatened and he is injured such that he must stay in bed and medicated. She's
not a particularly soft-hearted woman, but she has no taste for being harsh,
either. Instead, she uses charm--as much as she knows how--and compliments the
men on their willingness to carry on and take orders from her.
But along in the story, another
secondary character tries to harm her behind her back. In this case, she
stiffens her backbone and does not give an inch. No benefit of the doubt for
In conclusion, I think our characters
sometimes act as we do in real life.
I think I'm an Emilie McDougal King. I
don't jump to conclusions, but I don't let anyone run over me, either. In other
words, nothing is black or white.
But most of those men and the professor
in the class saw the world as just that--black or white, right or wrong, no in-between.
It was a lesson well-learned for me.