Invisible Masks

October, 2020. Not only is it the month of Halloween, it’s also October in the midst of a pandemic. Hence, the wearing of masks. For fun. Or not. The news, shopping sites, and the world of social media is flooded with all things mask-related. In light of the bombardment, I seized the opportunity to put the idea of a mask to good use as a writer. I found a definition that didn’t warn of impending doom:  A covering for all or part of the face, worn as a disguise, or to amuse or terrify other people. That definition is worth exploring, and the few (of many) I chose are invisible!

The “Downer” Mask

This mask is kind of a bummer. Your character might appear happy and carefree, but beneath the surface they could be wrestling with any number of issues that can’t be seen on the surface. There could be months or years of anger simmering near the surface, ready to blow at the next person that tells them to “have a nice day.” You get to figure out the why beneath the mask. Deep sorrow at the loss of a loved one could be just under the skin of someone trying to make it through the next minute, hour, or day. Your character might be suffering from a terminal disease and doesn’t want anyone to know to avoid the suffocating attention of well-meaning family and friends. They may also use the mask in an effort to avoid coming to terms with the grim diagnosis themselves.

The “Happy” Mask

On a more positive note, perhaps a life-altering surprise must be kept secret until the perfect moment, so your character goes through the motions of the day as if nothing out of the ordinary is about to happen. Perhaps the evening will end with a proposal of marriage, or there might be a new job or promotion coming soon. A change in family status? Here’s another idea:  Your character has decided that he/she needs a geographic change to re-start their life. Months of covert research and decision-making have led to the final days before departure. How have they hidden their plans, and how will they finally share the news – or will they?

The “Protective” Mask

I touched on this in the terminal disease part of the “Downer Mask,” but there are more reasons a character might want to protect themselves. Let’s say your character’s relationships with the opposite sex have resulted in a past full of heartache and pain. They are afraid to be vulnerable, so they hold people at arm’s length for fear of being hurt again. They don the mask of confidence and strength in order to keep pain and heartbreak at bay. What is happening beneath the invisible mask? Will your character ever remove or lower it? If so, what will it take for them to trust enough to risk another chance at love?

There are countless masks a character can wear; perhaps some will wear more than one at the same time! Have fun exploring what’s going on beneath the invisible mask(s) you choose. It will give you a chance to get to know your characters on a more personal, intimate level, and your stories will have fully-dimensional characters that readers can engage with from start to end. Note:  My muse was on hand to offer assistance as I wrote this blog – snazzy mask, don’t you think?

Image credit: Anne K. Hawkinson

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