The tickle of curiosity. The gasp of discovery. Fingers running across the keyboard.

The tickle of curiosity. The gasp of discovery. Fingers running across the keyboard.

The World of Iniquus - Action Adventure Romance

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Twitter and Writing the Low-Self-Esteem Character

I miss twitter. Before it became X—before Musk told the History Channel to hold his beer while he took Twitter all Hitler, all the time—there was a moment when you could discuss (argue?) Star Wars, or Marvel, or, safer topics like politics, race relations, and gender rights. 

Oh, and cat memes and clips, oodles of cat memes/clips.

Still, I didn’t quite “get” twitter at first. I signed on in 2010 for my first PitMad. Intended to be an open market for writers to connect with agents, pitch madness represented a huge shift in the solitary, desolate even, realm of querying the PitMad was a novel (puns) concept. Well accustomed to that other world, I signed up, took my shot and thought I’d drop the account after the smoke cleared.


Instead, I found a vibrant community of writers (et al) all looking for connection. I tweeted jokes with my dream agent. I made many dear friends there. All without the burden of social anxiety, (me) the onus of putting up with someone’s social anxiety, (them) or, best of all, the burden of pants, (me, again). 


It was a magical 14-ish years.


There were (are?) users from all over the globe. You’d be hard pressed to find a topic too obscure—English motorcycles to 70’s comic strips to Vietnamese cooking—for conversation (argument?).


So, as I watched a Hallmark Series called The Way Home on Sunday, I really wanted to chat about it with fellow writers. Specifically, writing the low-self-esteem character. I tried my three other platforms and got...crickets.

Pretty sure you can figure out which one is Elliot

For those who don't know, The Way Home is a Hallmark Channel original television series that focuses on three generations of women living under the same roof. Unified by loss and dedication to a family farm, the women have to navigate loss and resentment to save the farm and each other.  

Del Landry (Andie MacDowell) is the matriarch of the family. She has maintained the farm for two decades, enduring both the disappearance of her son, 20 years prior, as well as the death of her husband. When we meet Del, she is angry but not bitter, alone but not lonely, but mostly, she is still grief-stricken. And her grief is just-yesterday raw.


Alice Dhawan (Sadie Laflamme-Snow) is the granddaughter Del has never met. A talented musician pulled from her private high school in Minneapolis, Alice feels very much as if she has died and gone to Little-House-on-the-Prairie hell. But where the writers (and Ms. Laflamme-Snow) break with brat tradition and infuse the teen “character” with humanity is in motivation.


Alice is also grieving for her family. Her father has left the marital home and is going great guns in the “moving on” department. Alice’s mother, still trying to process what is happening to her marriage has, to a real degree, checked out of Alice’s life. It is fitting that the only person Alice can communicate with is her grandmother.


Kat Landry (Chyler Leigh) is the lynchpin between the elder and younger Landry. She is also our co-equal protagonist. Where Alice punches WAY above the angsty-teen stereotype, Kat regresses. When we meet her, she has just lost her job as a journalist (in the current climate, probably her career) and her marriage. Kat knows she is losing her daughter yet she misses Alice’s recital when she KNOWS that her husband isn’t likely to be there either. When Alice is expelled over an act-out moment, Kat seizes upon a completely-out-of-character invitation and uproots them both for the iffy-ist of refuges. 

Which is really cool and all but the draw for me is the time-travel angle. Historical drama is a HUGE plus. Oh, and the whole chance to change life-altering decisions. 

That’s not to minimize the writing brilliance at play, here. Like Alice and company, TWH punches up, way above its budget. And, while it could easily be written off as an Outlander clone, TWH is more concise and focused than the BBC production. Best of all there’s no weekly rape and/or torture.

Except for Elliot. Elliot is tortured just about every episode.

Among the conflicts from Kat’s past is her childhood bestie, Elliot Augustine. The son of an abusive ne’er-do-well, Elliot is a sensitive intellectual, nurtured by Kat’s father. He even has a room in the hayloft above the Landry barn. But as it happens, Elliot is in love with Kat, has always been in love with Kat. 

When she returns, after 20 years away, Elliot thinks it’s his second chance. When Kat discovers her gateway to the past, Elliot (a physicist) is her guide. When Alice gets involved, he is in turns paternal (discouraging) and supportive, (all-but holding her purse). 

And, every time, Elliot gets walked over like a doormat. Kat jumps from present to 18th century past to early millennial past. Teen Kat chooses Brady, (her future ex-husband) obnoxious dick that he is, over Elliot. She chooses saving her long-lost brother, (rightly so) over Elliot. In that ancient past, she chooses some dude she just met over Elliot. 

Everyone chooses someone over Elliot. Every. Single. Time.

And Elliot allows it. Teen Kat’s vibrant early-00s playlist nicely places us in-situ. Yet whenever we see teen Elliot (or adult Elliot for that matter) I can only here Self Esteem, by Offspring. The man has next to none. The kid he was has even less. 

None of this is Elliot’s fault. His issues predate Kat. When she returns home, and Elliot is introduced, we learn that he too returned to Port Haven, (too on-the-nose?) after a divorce. A competent (at least) physicist, he could be working in a variety of capacities, in any number of locales. He could literally make a life anywhere.

Elliot moves back to the town he grew up in, was abused in, and was miserable in. He moves back into his father’s house, a house he did everything to escape as a teen, including sleeping in a hayloft. He teaches at the high school where he was the joke.

Kat’s latest series of rejections is just the icing on a multi-layer cake of self-inflicted wounds. 

So, no. Kat owes Elliot nothing. In truth, she can’t make him happy. For Yoda’s sake, she’s a daffy twit who looks to others for her own happiness. But is Elliot smart enough to see that?

TWH writers have hinted at a couple of possible outcomes for Elliot, that I won’t spoil here. One hint is especially intriguing. But none are a happily-ever-after. 

Elliot needs therapy. He needs to face the root of his pain, process it, and heal. Then he needs to move on with the knowledge that he is enough for him. Then, maybemaybemaybe, he can have a healthy reciprocal relationship. 

Then he can find his own way, to his own home, in his own heart.

What does this have to do with twitter?

As I said at the outset, I loved twitter. In my time there I made many friends and amassed 18K followers through a combination of political, writing, and non-sequitur tweets. I was twitter buddies with Pam "bad mammajamma" Grier! People told me I should stay. “Don’t give up your platform over Musk, goons, hatred, etc…” It's Pam Grier, you idiot!

I took time-outs and hiatuses. Everytime I came back it was worse than before. Then there was the “straw that breaks the camel’s back.” What “it” was, isn’t as important as the moment. To paraphrase Stevie Wonder, “You can’t say that you’re in it but not of it.”

The same is true of your writing. You have an obligation to characters (and readers) who can’t see it for themselves. You owe the truth. 

I hear Alan is a "hoot" at parties, too.

When you write each character you have a responsibility—whether you are attempting literature or comic books with fart jokes—to hune as close to the truth as possible. Especially with the damaged characters. Those characters will speak to those readers and both need the truth that they cannot see for the sake of their personal damage. You are the physician cutting away the damage for the sake of healthy tissue.

It’s not about “winning” whether it is the race, the test, or the girl/guy. There are myriad print examples: Great Expectations, The Great Gatsby, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, obviously I can go on… But my favorite example is ironically enough from a movie. Veronica doesn’t end up with J.D. at the end of Heathers. She ends up with herself, free from a cycle of abusive relationships. 

What had been good and fun and beautiful about Elliot and Kat's relationship is long-over. Elliot is simply using the remnants to injure himself. That’s not love. It is certainly not a foundation for a loving partnership.

 Likewise, what had been good and fun about twitter is long-gone. There was no way I will contribute to the cruelty and the steady decline of civil discourse while conspiracy theories  and hate-speech lined up on the TL. I deleted my account. 

Doesn't Veronica look happy?

Sometimes “goodbye” is the happily-ever after.

I own none of the images above. All are used for instructional/educational purposes, as covered by the Fair Use Doctrine.