In my writing method, The Horowitz System®, one of the exercises is to describe a time each one of your characters experienced a formative event that made them who they are. For example, if your character were Clarice Starling in the film, Silence Of The Lambs, the formative event for her would be the time she could not save the spring lambs. It had never occurred to me until now to try that experiment on my current self, but when I did, it helped me understand something about my actual life.
My parents were both atheists, until they approached death, at which point they were both scared. They were also suffering physically, which made me feel powerless until I told them of my near death experience.
When I was 15 and swam in a polluted waterfall and “died” from a terrible fever. I “came back” after being unconscious for three days. During that time, I’d been swimming in a beautiful underground cavern. A friendly group of unseen people called to me to come and join them. I knew that I was not in a body, but still felt the cool water on my “skin” as I “swam.” Most importantly, as I swam, I was still myself and very much “alive. “When I awakened in the ICU, I was sad to have left the cavern.
I was with each of my parents when they died. In their very last moments, each of them let me know they were no longer scared – because of my experience, they each knew there was something beyond death. It made me happy that I had helped ease their suffering.
What was your personal formative event? I would love to know.