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Displacement is an ever-present theme in fiction. Whether it's Claire's journey across time (and, subsequently, Scotland) in Outlander or Frodo and company doing the ringly deed in LotR. People progress, but not always--or only--in the physical sense.
For my own part, I've been subject to (and caused) much displacement in my own life. It becomes most apparent to me when I see the NATIVE bumper stickers on the SUVs of proud Coloradans that I'll never be able to share in their sacred fraternity of living in the same territory in which I was born.
I'm fine with that. While they can be gently referred to as "chaos," as one of my tattoos symbolizes, the various difficulties and hardships have shaped me into a fairly interesting character. Or rather, I suppose my ability to survive them has. Perhaps that could be chalked up to good fortune, though. Doesn't really alter the outcome, either way.
I was born in a tiny town in northern California. I lived there, in this rural farming community, for twelve years before I even crossed the state boundary on a trip to Utah for my oldest sister's first wedding. Four years later, I was moved to Utah to live. This displacement, more than any in my life I think, informed who I am today.
Consider first the broad implications of such a move. California, despite being a burgeoning metropolis in the stereotypical sense, was relatively unknown to me--save for the boring, isolated area of my childhood. My high school burst at the seams with 300 students or less. Utah, Salt Lake City to be more specific, actually was a burgeoning metropolis in comparison. The high school that one shy, 16-year-old Todd entered boasted over 3000 students. I rarely saw the same person twice, much less could make a friend.
Beyond the noise and the crowd was the culture shock, as I'm sure you thought of first when I mentioned Utah. Having forsaken the LDS religion when I was 12 or 13, I was in no mood to pick it back up simply because I'd been migrated to what passes for the Mecca of Mormonism. It compounded my difficulties in making friends, however, since church is one place you can count on seeing the same faces on a regular basis.
To move on (both in story and in life), I briefly ran away the following year to Oklahoma City (a misadventure, to be sure), then returned, then went to live with my oldest brother south of San Francisco. Soon after that, I flew to New York City to then take a bus from New Jersey to Orlando and spend the next several months in Florida living off of cigarettes and ramen... possibly the occasional cheeseburger, pizza buffet, and box of macaroni & cheese. Mmm, healthy.
When I ultimately came to my senses with the realization that this was not heavily improving my station, I reluctantly returned to Utah... only to move to Colorado about seven years later, where I've been ever since. Where I'll end up next--or whether I'll even relocate at some future point--remains a matter of some speculation.
Note that this is merely my geographical displacement. I won't even get into the emotional portion.
The point of my overly long tale here is to say that it's hard for me to feel at home anywhere. I'm more used to things being in upheaval, in constant flow. I'm more familiar with displacement than I am with smooth safety, workaday routines, and lifelong bonds. One of my fondest expressions, and possibly more deplorable traits, is that I prefer to do things the hard way.
As such, the characters I write about don't get a lot of pleasure out of staying in one place and allowing circumstance to control them. Many, but not all, are fiercely independent souls because that's a trait I greatly respect and value. I'm far past it, now, but one never forgets the feelings of hunger and uncertainty when money is tight or non-existent. In my case, I was "fortunate" enough to have roommates who were slightly better off than me (not to mention old enough to provide the mechanism for my habit) and worked at a restaurant. If you've read any of my books, you'll notice neither of these boons appear in them.
What you will notice is that my characters are forced to rely on themselves consistently, even when others are involved. They are removed from their comfortable, or at least survivable, lives to face every challenge my creative mind can come up with. One of my other fond expressions is that my job is to make my characters' lives difficult, and I believe I do so with alacrity.
I don't do it sadistically, though. The hope, the purpose, is that the characters overcome those difficulties (as we all must, in life) to survive and succeed. While winning at life means you live to face another day, winning in fiction can be as protracted as the author wishes. Whether displacement is the cause of a character's distress, or the solution to it, the theme will recur so long as I feel like I have something to say with it.
Think about your own experience as you plan, as you write, and how it informs the lives of your characters. More than anything else, perhaps, being able to accurately and honestly describe how they feel will take your writing into the hearts of your readers. You can't write if you haven't lived, to throw out another saying I'm fond of, so don't feel ashamed to allow your own hardships and adventures to fuel what you write. Your readers will thank you for it.
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