When I took my screen writing class, and as I go through a novel writing class, I realize that I have to create a world for my characters to live in. This world can be any world that I want it to be. Since I’m not a huge fan of science fiction (but I have read it), I usually choose my world to be identical to my world – Earth, I guess you would say. And while writing my world, I have learned that there are mainly three types of people: Strangers, allies, and foes. Strangers exist in the world. They will remain strangers until they are made into an ally or a foe. My character must come across strangers and decide whether or not they are a friend or foe. And while I’m thinking all of this through, I realize that my life is pretty much exactly the same.
A stranger is anyone I don’t know. There are a lot of these (obviously). But only when I come in contact with one do I decide whether or not they are an ally or foe. Now, if I have a brief encounter with them such as the cashier in a grocery line, there isn’t a decision made. At the end of the day, that person is still a stranger. But I’m talking about when new people come into your life. Whether it’s a co-worker, another person in your yoga class, or even another student in a class, you have to label them ally or foe. Now, there’s no set label. Friends can become foes or strangers and vice versa. But ultimately, we make that decision.
For some reason, before taking these classes, I never really viewed life like that. I just considered people friends, acquaintances, or people I don’t like or talk to. It was sometimes hard for me to describe the status of a person: “Well, I never really talked to her, but she was always nice to me.” Like, what is that?! So is that person an acquaintance? How do you label that person?
Basically, that person was a stranger. There was brief communication, but nothing worth labeling it as a friend or foe – ergo, stranger. And sometimes, an ally can become a stranger. Life happens, things change, and so do your strangers, allies, and foes.
Furthermore, I’m thinking of adopting this system into my life to make it easier. Have you ever met someone for the first time and you weren’t sure if you could trust them yet? I mean, do you think they might take it out of context? Be offended? Tell the whole world? You never know with a new person. Then you think of them as a stranger. Would you tell a stranger that? Probably not… I mean, unless you don’t care. I honestly wouldn’t mind telling a stranger what I had for lunch that day.
And while I know a book isn’t like the real world, there are shades of gray on whether or not you can trust people, and yada yada yada. At this point in my life, this system seems to work. I also hope this comes in handy when I’m writing my book and have to decide for my character if a secondary character is a stranger, ally or foe.
Sometimes, when life gets messy you need to simplify things and get shit organized. It makes life a little bit easier to handle. So at the end of the day, the people in your life are either strangers, allies, or foes… and nothing more.