Anyone who knows me knows I’m organized. I also love to label things (that’s part of organization, after all!). And labels that allow me to lump something unequivocally into one pile or the other? Score!!
I used this theory on my clothes closet and office to great effect last weekend. I labeled things as “keeper” or as “get-rid-of.” I then went back through the “get-rid-of” and labeled as “recycle” or “destroy.” I’m happy to say that both office and closet are in much better shape.
And so I turned my focus to my wip. (Please, no jokes about “recycle” or “destroy.”) Now, I’m sure many of you have encountered The Loner character—generally a hero, but sometimes a heroine or secondary character—in books you read. The Loner, like that black and white movie screen image gunslinger, is a character who doesn’t communicate verbally that much. He has a small cadre of people he confides in and trusts. He forms his opinions of things and acts upon them. Often, he has some wound that makes him mistrust Society at large.
Those of us who read and write romance in its many forms know the old adage of “opposites attract.” The opposite of The Loner is what I call The Gatherer. Don’t bother to look it up anywhere. I’m pretty sure I just coined the phrase today. The Gatherer is someone who effortlessly gathers people around him or her. Gregarious by nature, The Gatherer communicates with everyone and often trusts where s/he shouldn’t.
The epiphany, for me, came when I thought about my parents. My dad is classic Loner material. A leader at work, he was always like a fish out of water with family and us kids. He’d rather stay home and watch TV than go to a party. He earned the money to put the food on the table, but he preferred not to have any of us talk at that table (as I recall, whistling and humming were ruled out, too).
My mom was The Gatherer who balanced him. She talked to everybody—and as often as possible. She led volunteer activities, managed the ebb and flow of kids (most of whom weren’t family) from our house, and could throw a party for 50 in a heartbeat.
This difference in basic communication styles led to certain conflicts in our household. Dad forever telling Mom to quit talking to strangers, Mom forever bemoaning the fact that Dad never wanted to get out and do things. I’m not sure they ever successfully figured out how to play off each other’s strengths.
Little surprise that my sister is a Gatherer like Mom, while I’m much more of a Loner. Oh, I can be a Gatherer, but my natural tendency is toward Loner. The writer in me, I guess. I love to sit back and watch others play out the scenes of life.
What about you and your spouse or significant other? Is one a Loner and the other a Gatherer? Have you learned to use differences to your joint advantage?
And for anyone who may not want to delve so deeply into their own life, tell me this: is it cliche to use a Loner hero and a Gatherer heroine in a story? Has anyone encountered a great story with a Loner heroine and a Gatherer hero?