Steve's insights are good ones for writing about other points of view. It
can certainly make for boring reading, at least, if all the good guys agree
with the author's personal beliefs and all the bad guys oppose them. It
also doesn't force the author to explore or question his/her own ideas --
which can make for shallow reading.
Besides empathy and fair-mindedness, it also takes a good deal of
observation of human nature and *research* -- especially if you're not
intimately familiar with the religion/culture/philosophy you're writing
I had this experience with a new member of our writing critique group some
months back. He'd made the main character in his novel a member of the
clergy in a religion he obviously didn't know much about -- without
realizing he had a minister and a teacher of that religion sitting in the
group (we don't wear badges). The character wasn't entirely negative, but
was definitely stereotypical and both the theology and daily way of life
were completely misunderstood. We asked the author a few simple questions,
which hadn't entered his mind, and recommended he do some research into the
character's background. Interestingly, we haven't seen him again since that
This was especially illuminating since shortly before that I had read a book
by an author who had attempted the same thing -- and I was surprised to find
out she'd never been a member of my religion. I *wasn't* surprised, though,
when I later heard her speak and she talked about how much research she'd
done. The "grunt work" of research that we "creative types" sometimes hate
to do can make the difference between believable and stereotypical
-- And to go one step back to the message before the one I'm actually
replying to -- the image of "spiritual horseflies" is absolutely wonderful!
And I doubt if any of us could write from *any* spirituality, our own or
not, if we had to wait until we didn't have any of those annoying creatures
buzzing around our heads! Often I discover something about my own beliefs,
or find them deepening, while I'm trying to write about them (often in
pieces I don't plan to share with anyone). Don't avoid writing about
something because you're "not there yet" -- who of us really is?
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Sunday, September 03, 2000 8:34 PM
Subject: Re: [mythsoc] let me rephrase that...
> In a message dated 08/31/2000 9:51:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time,
> ERATRIANO@... writes:
> << if I write more or less in the Christian
> fantasy tradition, but don't always "believe myself," is that hypocrisy?
> is that working on what I believe is a higher good despite a few
> horseflies? >>
> I wouldn't casll it hypocrisy; daring, perhaps, in the sense that it is
> tricky to write convincingly in a viewpoint one has never held. It can be
> done, I think, and there is no reason not to, so long as you present that
> viewpoint as honestly as you can, and not to set up a straw man to be
> over by another viewpoint. If your characters are Christian, for example,
> make them Christian in all its complexity; make them doubt and wonder,
> question their sufferings, pray and resign themselves according to the
> of faith you give them... So, in short, it is
> a good thing to portray characters whose views differ from your own, as
> as those views are presented honestly, as if by someone who actually holds
> them. It takes some empathy, but if you haven't got that, you are probably
> better off not trying to write at all.
> Does this help any?
> The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org