Monday, April 21, 2014

#atozchallenge: Raging Racism (& Other Multi-Dimensionalities)

He turns to go, is already halfway down the stairs when she calls out, "Stay."
He falters a little but keeps going. "Why?"
Desperation chokes her voice. "I love you. Please."
"You don't love me." But he's stopped now.
"I've loved you from the first moment I saw you."
He looks back at her, and in the moonlight she catches the glint of moisture on his lashes. "Do you mean that?"
"I've never meant anything more."
With a smile that lights up his face he runs back up the stairs and, in a whirlwind that takes her breath away, pulls her to him. Just before his lips land on hers, he whispers, "If you only knew how long I've waited to hear you say it."


This is the reason I stopped reading romance--oh, sometime during high school. The characters are flat. Same guy in different costume. Kind of like Tom Cruise movies. (Sorry, Tom. And, in all fairness, no one can play Tom Cruise like you.)

The point being that a large chunk of popular fiction comes with predictable characters (and predictable plots, but that's a subject for another post). I'm not judging; two-dimensional is easier. Maybe even, in some circles, more satisfying. Predictable people in a world that functions the way we want it to: the ultimate escapist fantasy.

2014: A Year In Stories
A twelve-volume anthology published by Pure Slush Books
For those of us compelled to portray humanity in all its messiness, life isn't so simple. A "real" character is by definition complex, and complexity means flaws. Not small, cute blemishes; big whoppers of flaws. Prejudices. Dishonesty. Lack of morals. Unconventional values. Mental illness. Obsessions.

All of these enrich our characters--but they also make them unsympathetic to the reader. It's a fine line, and it takes a masterful storyteller to walk it successfully. Why, then, do we do it?

Stephen V. Ramey, Author
As with so many things, Stephen V. Ramey has an answer I loved.
Empathy is built through practice, I believe. Reading encourages us to view the world through another perspective. The more different that perspective, the more clearly we begin to see the world we share with others. That said, it can be quite a feat to tempt a reader into identifying with a negative character. I think this is where the idea of sympathetic flaw comes in. If we can identify with core values of a character even though they behave badly, we can begin to see the wisdom of the saying, "there but for the grace of God, go I." And once we see that differences often spring from a common seed, we can begin to look past We-They and embrace the ethos of us. 

~ * ~

Thanks for the visit, and happy A-to-Z-ing!

P.S. -- I'm over at Vidya Sury's marvelous blog today sharing a
Disney-ending, tear-jerker dog rescue story.
Would love to see you there :)

1 comment :

  1. Guilie, you are the bestest guest! Thank you for a fabulous post.
    I love stories with characters who turn out to be completely unexpected, even as we assume their actions :)


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