Today I gave my first 470 ml of blood to the National Health Service.
When I’ve looked into it previously, the place, time and day was the main barrier. From clashing work hours, no transport to a far place and lack of weekend sessions — each time I moved to a new area, I’d try to find a place to give. Finally, things aligned.
I’d never really thought much about the process, but once I arrived, I realised I would be stabbed with a needle, and they’d be sucking out nearly a pint of blood. When asked if I’d eaten a big breakfast, I wished I’d had porridge instead of cereal. When they took some blood from my finger in the health check, I began to get nervous.
But it went fine. I’m not anaemic (always nice to know) and I beat the average giving time. For some reason my blood filled the bag in just 4.5 minutes, not the usual 5-8. Huzzah!
I couldn’t watch my own needle, but watched the lady next to me get hers put in once mine was done. When I was walked over to the refreshments table (free biscuits and crisps, but no hot drinks for me, first timer!) I was asked why I’d decided to donate.
Is it me, or is that a weird question?
It costs me nothing, I replenish the blood, it can save lives and further medical research. There’s free food and drink.
Apparently that’s not enough for most people. My first response was ‘why not?’ which was met with an elaborate story of why they’d chosen to give – for really personal reasons. So when asked again, I gave the response that was expected. My partner works at a hospital, and my mother is unable to give blood but always wanted to. So I’ve done it on her behalf.
But to be honest, if I can get to a donation place and time; why wouldn’t I do so?
This got me thinking about characters, and how sometimes when writing dialogue; the simplest, truthful answer isn’t the right one for the story. The general reasons don’t tell people about my values and my history. They don’t allow for a connection. Not everyone gives blood, so I have to have a particular reason; something to set me apart from them.
And that’s the kind of information we want to connect with in a character. Something that sets them apart from the everyday person going through the motions. Some reason to pay attention to this person.
Next time I work on a character backstory, I’ll try to remember the 82-year-old man in the queue asking if he can donate more often (limited to 4x a year) since he wants to reach 100 donations while he can. I’ll try to remember how his motivation got me thinking, and the intrigue his comment brought up for the people sitting with me.