Saturday, 7 September 2019

Birthday Musings | 24 Lessons I've Learned from Book Characters


✼ Tomorrow I turn twenty-four ✼


That's right, dear readers - I am one step closer to becoming one of those brilliant wallflower heroines in historical romance novels! Jokes aside [although Victorian era fashion is to die for!], I've actually been looking forward to turning twenty-four.

This past year has been a journey and one that has shaped me into my 'adult' self. This adult self still avidly watches cartoons and binges cat videos...but she also has some pretty great new qualities and skills.

One of the biggest factors to have shaped me in life is literature.

Books have been my constant companions, mentors and havens throughout my life. And I've noticed more and more that I'll reference books [moments, or quotes] when dealing with life's trials. I've found so much wisdom between the pages of books and some of these nuggets of wisdom have become cornerstones of life for me.

Today I'll be sharing twenty-four lessons literature has taught me.

Books through their characters have given me so many incredible life lessons and I thought I'd share some of those with you lovelies today. Some are deep...some are the complete opposite! But all are true gems. I hope you enjoy reading through them!

So without further ado...let's get into it!

(1) Having good, loyal friends is essential


Whether it was The Golden Trio from the Harry Potter series or the deep, abiding bond between friends and allies in the Throne of Glass series, true friends have always been a literary staple. No matter what odds a protagonist has to face - during the darkest of times, anything is possible when they have the support of their friends.

This is a lesson that seems quite matter-of-fact but is actually something that has become a focal point of mine fairly recently - in the last couple of years or so. I used to view friendship as something that existed within its own sphere. It was never something that had the power to truly aid and heal, in the way it seems to do in the fictional world.

But I realised it's all timing. Eventually, fate connects you with kindred spirits whose friendship provides you with opportunities for personal growth. True friendships embrace the good, the bad and the ugly and a true friendship is something to treasure always.

(2) Sacrifices are a part of life's journey


A constant theme in literature is that of sacrifice. From the Harry Potter series [again!], the Gemma Doyle trilogy and the His Dark Materials books (to name a few), literature continuously integrates sacrifice and tragedy. Someone is always nobly offering their life in place of another's - or keeping secrets/lying to their loved one to keep them safe. There is this idea that victory cannot be secured without some sort of loss - a ritual of sorts, where the character evolves into the person they are meant to be via a 'trial by fire'-esque scenario.

Sacrifice is a part of adult life. True, it's often not as dramatic as fictional sacrifices (thank goodness!) but it's still often necessary to sacrifice your own immediate happiness or wants for the greater good of, for e.g., your family or for your own goals and future aspirations.

These last six years for me have been full of sacrifices. And I've come to understand that one can find joy amongst it all. You can find a quiet kind of contentment in knowing that the things you are sacrificing will pay off in the long run, or that they will contribute to your own growth as a human being.

(3) Pursue your goals and dreams


Every novel has at least one of these characters. Whether it's the ladies of The Writing Girls series who pursue their love of writing in secret...or Audrey-Rose from the Stalking Jack The Ripper who dares to claim a 'man's' profession as her own. There are always incredible women and men in literature who chase their dreams and future goals with everything in them.

But novels also cover the flip side of the pursuit - the doubts. The loss of hope (usually at the novel's 3/4 mark!) or the brief abandoning of their dream when the going gets rough. It's comforting to see our own doubts and insecurities about the practicality of our own dreams and ambitions reflected in these characters.

I myself have had many moments in my many years of education where I have questioned the path I have set for myself. But if there's one lesson book characters have taught me, it's to shake off those moments of doubt and not let them extinguish your passion, your drive, for your end goals.

(4) Find your hobby


Hobbies in novels are rarely activities the characters do because they have no other choice (with the exception, perhaps, of Victorian ladies making sewing samplers or playing the pianoforte!). From Harry Potter's love of Quidditch, to Clary Fray's immersion in art - many book characters have hobbies and interests they hold close to their heart. These hobbies often help them soothe their souls during darker times, or provide them with much-needed escape or support.

Hobbies have become something I have been pursuing over the last year because I've found they give me something beyond the everyday. Beyond the same-old-same-old routine of my life and the monotony of study, work, etc. Some of these hobbies of mine include: music composing, painting (e.g. acrylic pours), clay work, bushwalking, writing and photography. Each activity gives me...something. It connects to a part of me that needs nurturing and helps me grow as a person.

(5) Everyone has a story


Every book I've ever read has had primary and secondary characters of some sort. And occasional the book will have me thinking: "What happened to that girl they briefly met in the first book?" or "I bet that character has an intriguing backstory." Sometimes authors also realise that secondary characters have fulfilling lives and give us world expansions (the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them series, for example).

I feel like that is a philosophy we should all have in our everyday lives too. That whilst we may be the 'protagonists' of our own story, the people we interact with - or pass by, briefly in life - have their own stories. Maybe sometimes we can lend an ear to them, or show them through our actions how they're appreciated and supported.

(6) not a triangle


Despite what Twilight has led us all to believe (along with many, many other YA novels!), love triangles are nothing short of disastrous. Literature love triangles especially can be messy, emotional garbage-fires that really don't showcase the deep and maturity that real love and real relationships should and do have. True, some are just cheesy works of fiction. But others can set harmful standards for real-life relationships.

As I've grown older, I've come to appreciate novels that provide a more realistic view of love. That have couples willing to communicate, to better one another and to face their struggles and trials in productive manners. And relationships that are toxic or flawed aren't glorified or made to seem like good options - I like that authors are taking steps to show their readers that they deserve respect and dignity from their relationships.

(7) Communication is a gift


Linking to the love triangle, romance point - communication is everything. How many times have you read a novel where the main character was like: "Uhhh I should tell this person about [insert very important plot point] but I won't because I want to protect them...which makes total sense." Again, this is usually 3/4 mark stuff in books and you want to just roll your eyes and shout "TELL. THEM. THE. TRUUUUUTH!"

Book characters have taught me that things can resolve - and people can finally heal - when the truth is put on the table. Clarifying situations and openly communicating your thoughts and feelings with people close to you isn't easy. Not at all. But it is a great habit to acquire and one that will definitely make life easier for everyone involved.

(8) Mental health + illness are complex


So many books have put an emphasis on mental awareness and helping reduce stigma when it comes to people suffering from mental illnesses. Willow by Julia Hoban and Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers are two examples of novels that really impacted me, affecting me deeply. They are works that focus on raw, unapologetic portrayals of the struggles so many people deal with daily - battles they fight in and against their own minds.

I have struggled with my own mental health for years now (7-8 years to be exact) and am genuinely relieved that I have been able to find the tools, wisdom and support necessary to deal with the trials that arise. No sugar coating, though - some days are hard. And it may sound cheesy, but sometimes just reading about characters with mental illness...seeing my thoughts, my unspoken words and emotions on the such a cathartic process. I really hope authors continue to come out with books that deal with this difficult subject matter - they do a world of good.

(9) Be the hero of your own story


This one's pretty simple. If heroes and heroines in books have taught me anything, it's that don't wait around for other people to save you! If there's something that needs doing - if there are difficult decisions that need to be made - take the initiative.

This doesn't mean you have to go at life alone. Finding support and knowing when to ask for help are important. But I think a really good fictional example is Harry Potter (I know, I'm using this series again!). There are times in the series where Harry needs Ron and Hermione by his side and their support is vital...but there are also times where Harry alone has to do what needs to be done.

(10) Small Southern towns are Cupid's favourite destination


This is a nod to every single contemporary romance novel that is:
  • Set at a Southern bed and breakfast
  • Set on a Southern ranch
  • Set in a Southern bar
  • Set at a Southern wedding destination
  • Set in a small Southern boutique/bakery/speciality store run by a sweet and single Southern woman
Basically, they (and the Hallmark channel!) have taught me that the South is where Cupid permanently vacations!

(11) Wallflowers are awesome


If it isn't a more modern novel like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, it's a classic like Northanger Abbey or Pride and Prejudice. Wallflowers may not always have the social skills necessary to make a big 'splash' in society or earn the admiration of their peers...but they shine a quiet, steady light that is noticeable to the right people.

(12) Grandparents are fountains of wisdom (& stories!)


Especially in contemporary romance novels, some confused single person is always rocking up to their grandma/grandpa's front porch to hear some much-needed advice. Maybe their grandmother is also deadly with weapons (like in the Hidden Legacy series by Ilona Andrews!)...but the fact remains that grandparents are often shown as a source of comfort, wisdom and endless stories of days long past.

Over the past year, I have come to have a newfound appreciation of grandparents. I lost one of my grandfathers mid-2019 and it left me feeling adrift, deeply sad and as if time was slipping through my fingers. I realised I needed more time - more time sitting with the grandparents I had left, hearing their stories and just being with them. They're priceless treasures and I plan to continue my own project of writing down their stories as keepsakes into my 24th year.

(13) Always be nice to witches


Just ask the people in Sleeping Beauty or Beauty and the Beast. Bad things happen when you make witches mad!

(14) Women should support women


I'll keep this short (because I could write pages on the subject!) but I just wanted to shine a spotlight on my favourite topic: women supporting women.

There is nothing better than reading about sisterhoods - women who come together and admire their differences, raising one another to new heights instead of being dragged down by petty jealousies. Like with strong friendships, a strong sense of sisterhood can help women to thrive and deal with the trials they face in this ever-changing world.

Books and the bookish + bookstagram communities have introduced me to so many incredible women and I'm continuously thankful for their bright presence in my life.

(15) Different cultures have value 


#Ownvoices fiction has been such an incredible world of diverse perspectives and experiences. One of my favourite #ownvoices authors - Randa Abdel-Fattah - was my first plunge into the genre and I ate up every word. There was something utterly engaging about the raw, realistic voices of these characters. Their lives in between the pages of their books opened my own eyes to the lives of their real-life counterparts.

I think this is an important attitude to have in life, too. To be open to the opinions, thoughts, perspectives, cultures, religions and life experiences of other people. To not let the fear of the 'different' or the 'other' alienate us from one another. To find peace and solidarity as a human race.

(16) You have a voice - use it!


To quote Laurie Halse Anderson: When people don't express themselves, they die one piece at a time.” Whether it's the Hunger Games series - or some other dystopian/sci-fi novel - we're forever seeing rebellions, protests and outcries for justice.

It's important to speak out in real life too. To prove that bravery and fighting for what is right don't only exist in novels or Hollywood scenarios. I have made it a personal goal to always call out - and own up to - unreasonable behaviour. Whether it's as simple as the way we verbally communicate with others or stopping hurtful patterns of behaviour - remaining silent should not be the default option. 

(17) Being the new girl/boy means unbelievable things WILL happen!


I mean in J.L. Armentrout's Lux series those unbelievable things came in the form of a seriously hot alien guy and wicked awesome powers! But often being the new girl/boy in YA fiction means that you're 99.9% likely to be the protagonist...and a target for all the forces of evil!

(18) Animal sidekicks are the best


I I need to convince you?! Animal sidekicks are both adorable and functional.

(19) Accents make you interesting


...or so I've read. I mean, I have an Australian accent and it has gotten me nowhere! So maybe it only counts if you've got a British one lol (and are a missing/brooding prince).

(20) Dragons are cool

giphy.gif I need to convince you?!

Game of Thrones
The Inheritance Cycle
The Hobbit
Talon series
Firelight series
And many, many more fiery reads can attest to that!

(21) Teachers & mentors are amazing individuals


*hair flips* Or so I've been told! Putting aside that it's my chosen profession lol, teaching and mentoring are staples of fiction. I think it's inspiring that these figures have chosen to use their lives, time and effort to shape and mould young minds, leading them to their destinies.

I mean...characters like Dumbledore and Gandalf could have done a better job. But at least they tried!

(22) Life is a journey of self-discovery


All coming-of-age novels have some sort of 'self-discovery journey'. The protagonist will start off unsure and conflicted, and will eventually mature - growing in understanding, learning from experiences and making important decisions about their path in life.

It's important to sometimes view ourselves as book characters...ones with more chapters to go until the end! I know I'm always expecting my journey to be easy and quick, so I can get to the mature and content part. But maybe we need to focus more on the idea of growth as evolution - something gradual, ongoing and hard to clearly define. We never truly stop learning or growing as human beings.

(23) The Hogwarts mail delivery system needs an upgrade


Still. Waiting :(

(24) Books are life


Bookworms across literature - and real-life - would agree! 

Books are so special. And I truly love how they open doors for our minds to explore both externally (other people, other places, other times) and internally (within ourselves). Their power is immense and their reach astronomical. We are truly blessed to have authors whose creativity and passion have given us so many gems to read and treasure.

What is a lesson books have taught you?
Which book has had the most impact on you?


Let me know in the comments below!


  1. Grace I absolutely LOVE this list & couldn't agree more. I hope you have the most wonderful 24th year ahead xx


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