Monday, July 4, 2011

Without Duress

It's a turning point and a milestone when you are forced to reconsider your basic beliefs and live one's life differently. However, such a thing is also special when it is done without duress. It's rare enough in real life I have a hard time writing about in a fictional setting. Somehow it always feels sparse and contrived.

We spend so much of our time merely reacting instead of proactively engaging life. I notice that many of the fictional works that find themselves receiving a wider audience seem to include hapless folks in extraordinary circumstances.

In editing my first book there are many characters that are merely victims of circumstance. I've tried really hard to give at least a couple of the main characters the sense that they aren't merely reacting but working to create their own legacy in the face of adversity. Looking around in my own life it is difficult to find examples of people who are heroic without also being reactionary.

I blame the modern Christian faith for depreciating works of charity and acts of pious contrition. Much of what I think is pretty heroic is done by what would otherwise be idle hands and done out of some expectation rather than a pure measure of one's will. Trying to reach a US audience with these elements almost requires that your characters live in a strange vacuum or alternate reality.

Being righteous and portraying such an attribute in a fictional work is difficult without great care taken in both the language and the timing. While the act of writing such works should be a constrained mechanical process, the result must feel spontaneous as opposed to a reaction on the part of the protagonist or person.

Pushing past language to convey the intangible emotions associated with humbly aiding someone else is difficult. Most people have a pretty strict understanding of right and wrong they rely on instead of constructing that view case by case. I've read more than a few attempts to create these elements in a fictional work, most of the time I merely feel betrayed.

Like so many of the best things in literature portraying righteousness isn't done in a single sentence or paragraph. It is generally accomplished through the entire body of the work. Real life is no different I suppose, it isn't a single decision that makes us righteous, or one hundred, it is the sum of a lifetime.

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