On fitting in


With every Render scene I write and/or tweak, I’m working on character development. Making sure the events of the story really resonate with the characters, because that way they’ll strike a chord in the reader, too. (Presumably. I hope.)

And I keep finding my protagonist a striking character. Rue Tennel is an aemet just old enough to be considered an adult, and because of her mature sensibilities and her skill set and her unusual courage, she doesn’t really fit in with her own kind. She can get along with her samekind neighbours. She can collaborate to do chores and politely imply that she agrees with the typical views. But she’d really rather be talking to a feisty korvi, or an adaptable ferrin. Someone she can share a sassy thought with and not upset the whole apple cart.

Felixi stretched his long neck, craning backward to better eye Rue. “And knowing that, you weren’t scared of walking to this field alone?”
A little, if Rue was honest with herself. It had been years since she could pass among the unspeaking trees and see it as just a walk, a simple trip for a handful of greens. Ordinary life had warped under all this trouble and fret.
“I need to come here,” Rue said, “that’s all. And I am in the presence of an able korvi, you might notice.”
Felixi snorted, half laughter and half indignity. “I’m your guard, now? Have both mages check your head.”
“Not to worry, good Velgarro.” Rue could barely stifle her grin; she felt wreathed with a small victory.

-Render, a story of Aligare, draft version

Not fitting in is a phenomenon we often find pathetic — the ugly duckling, the awkward turtle, the outsider. But it’s not always a situation to be pitied. In fact, to be a strong person, it’s important to recognise that you won’t fit in with every single group — and that’s okay. Social relations are machines made of many moving parts. Sometimes you and a group aren’t compatible and you both just need the freedom to disagree.

Render is a story of Rue finding her place. It’s the journey she makes from childhood, from wondering where she’ll fit in, to adulthood, where she knows and accepts who she is and uses that uniqueness to its full advantage. Living in the Aligare world, she has some positive messages to help her. However much it’s thought that aemet people are X and behave like Y, there’s also the idea that everyone fits in somewhere. This idea that people can be different from each other and still get along. So Rue is a bit saddened when she realizes she’s the odd aemet out, but it’s a wistful sadness. Almost a nostalgia for something she used to believe in. She realizes that she doesn’t entirely fit here, she needs to search out that psychological space where she does slot neatly into place.

It’s not really something I’ve struggled with, myself. I’ve had abundant self-confidence ever since I can remember, and I’ve always liked the idea of standing out. Better to seem weird than to blend impotently into the wallpaper, I say. But as I write Render, I’m still proud of Rue for having the maturity to be true to herself, and I hope her story will be meaningful for others. No one fits in 100% of the time and that’s not something to be ashamed of. There’s a message our society could stand to hear more often.

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