The Importance of Being Important –by Pat Bertram

In The Art of Creative Writing, Lagos Egri states:

Whatever a character does, it is for one basic purpose — to strengthen his position in life and his security; all the chameleon-like changes for one reason only — to remain alive, to be secure (overcome insecurities), to be happy, and most of all, to be important.

Never overlook the importance of being important.

Man has nothing more precious to defend than his self-declared importance, and he will defend it with his last breath.

This sounds like a good start to developing a character, or at least a character’s inner conflicts. In fact, this is one of the themes of the grieving woman book I want to write. With her husband gone, so is her sense of self, along with her sense of importance. She might not have been important in the world’s eyes, but she was important in her own eyes because she was important to him. She tries to find importance through other people, but in the end realizes she has to find it in herself.

So, in the book you are now reading (or writing) what makes the character feel important? What does the character do to defend his or her sense of being important? How does the character strengthen his or her position in life? How does s/he struggle to remain secure? What insecurities does s/he have to overcome? Is the character happy? What does s/he do to remain alive, both physically and mentally? Does s/he find happiness? Does s/he find importance?

Let’s talk.


Pat Bertram is the author of More Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fire,  and Daughter Am I.


Filed under Pat Bertram, writing

2 responses to “The Importance of Being Important –by Pat Bertram

  1. christinehusom

    I had to read the quote three times. I tried to apply to real people I know very well, myself included, and I wasn’t able to do that, but I could with many of my characters.

    In my latest book, my antagonists have all gone to the dark side where they believe they are very important and will one day be rewarded very well because of it.

    My protagonists feel important in the jobs they do, and maybe they strive to do the same in their personal lives. I’ll have to think on that some more!

    • Christine, this applies to everyone, not in an egotistical sort of way, but in a search for significance sort of way. Look at the way people on facebook define themselves — as a Christian, a parent, a writer, a photographer, a teacher, a CEO. All these things give people a sense of importance. No one wants to be insignificant, and if they do, they find importance in their simple life. Mostly people do things to make themselves important in some way — enter contests, make money, go to church, write, have kids, open a business, set goals, exercise, go for “it” whatever their particular “it” is. I doubt most people even know they do this, which is why it’s important for writers to be aware of it — one more way to get inside the heads of our characters and make them real on a visceral level.

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