Faces are such a beautiful map to the heart. You look at the lines and expressions on a face and you are offered an insight into the inner life of the person in front of you.
Just the way that you comb your hair can give me a clue as to how you felt when you looked in the mirror this morning. Did you care about the impression you would make today, or did you shrug off opinion like so much froth on the surface of the pan of simmering potatoes that is your life?
As we look around us, we become aware that, as writers, we are being given a beautiful gift, one that money would not be able to buy. We are being given maps. Each face you see has the potential be the basis of a new character sketch.
See that Italian girl with her joy of giving us more English words than the rest of the people in this train carriage put together. Her bright red lipstick and immaculately arranged hair tell us that she cares about life, people and the impression she makes. Her smile indicates a happy disposition. The sparkle in her eyes on this early morning train tells us of an early night last night. Her sunglasses, as armour against the rising sun, tell us of her need for protection. Her words, filled with an appreciation of the English language, betray her as being insecure in this strange territory and tell us of her impetus to learn the native tongue in order to increase her mental comfort. Her love of the people around her binds her to them. She is so much more than an Italian girl – she is a child of the world.
If I were to include her in a story, she would be one of the main characters. Her companion, who has now fallen asleep on the table, would be a supporting character. He inhabits the shadows and his ripples will vanish by the end of the sentence.
Main characters have self-respect. They are aware of themselves as hero actors and have the firm conviction that their role is to serve the world by first serving themselves. They will be kind and honest and they will live with integrity. You can choose your heroes by looking for these things in the faces of those around you. Their attitude will colour their features in a particular way. By the same token – servile people will reveal themselves. You will see love in the faces of some, hate in the features of others and these things will allow you to paint them into your prose.
I don’t know about you, but this makes me wonder what the map of my face and the territory of my body tells the world about me. Does this thought make me want to hide away by trying to blank my canvas, or does it make me want to become a better person? Or one with a more interesting map? Does it make me want to take a lead role in my life and in the world?
I think that for me, the answer is to improve myself – what about you?