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Re: [mythsoc] let me rephrase that...

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  • LSolarion@aol.com
    In a message dated 08/31/2000 9:51:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time, ERATRIANO@aol.com writes:
    Message 1 of 5 , Sep 3, 2000
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      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? Or
      is that working on what I believe is a higher good despite a few spiritual
      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 knocked
      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 level
      of faith you give them; make them real people, not cardboard caricatures or
      sloganeering posterboards for whatever you might not like about a certain
      kind of Christian, so your other characters can knock it iver easily..
      Mind, I'm not saying you do this, or would do it. And I have seen examples on
      both sides of the theological fence. I think Keats wrote in one of his
      letters about a quality called "negative capability," or something like that;
      what it means is the ability to take on viewpoints foreign to your own and
      present them convincingly in literature. That is an artistic virtue. For
      fiction is virtual reality; it holds a mirror up to nature. What matters is
      not how accurately your characters echo your sentiments, but how accurately
      they mirror real life in concentrated form, as a magnifying glass
      concentrates a diffused light into a more powerful beam. So, in short, it is
      a good thing to portray characters whose views differ from your own, as long
      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?
      Steve
    • Trudy Shaw
      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
      Message 2 of 5 , Sep 4, 2000
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        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
        about.

        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
        particular meeting.

        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
        characters.

        -- 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?


        -- Trudy



        ----- Original Message -----
        From: <LSolarion@...>
        To: <mythsoc@egroups.com>
        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?
        Or
        > is that working on what I believe is a higher good despite a few
        spiritual
        > 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
        knocked
        > 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
        level
        > of faith you give them... So, in short, it is
        > a good thing to portray characters whose views differ from your own, as
        long
        > 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?
        > Steve
        >
        > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
        >
        >
      • ERATRIANO@aol.com
        Message 3 of 5 , Sep 4, 2000
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          << So, in short, it is a good thing to portray characters whose views
          differ from your own, as long 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? >>

          Um, yes, I think so. I think the hypocrisy question has been answered
          satisfactorily, and I'm getting a lot of things to chew on from this group.
          (Besides HP, which I'm heartily sick of hearing about, having found it no
          more outlandish or unique than, say, a book about children growing up in the
          city, which was equally bizarre to my childhood outlook.)

          Back to the spirituality in fiction theme... I guess it's not that I would
          be trying to write about characters who are, in some terms, meant to be
          Christian, or Christian themes, while I am a total non-Christian, because I'm
          nominally a member of the Church. Or that I would be writing of something I
          know nothing of -- an interesting concept, that someone would run on so much
          ignorance, but then again, I'm sure not every horse book is written by a
          horse person, nor every steamy romance by ah, uhm, let's try again to get
          back to that other theme.... I was an altar girl for many years and worked
          for a short time at the Episcopal Church's national HQ in NYC. I love
          churches and liturgy and considered attending, even interviewed at, General
          Theological Seminary. But I still fail at the whole maintaining the belief
          myself thing... and I would want my characters to get through and succeed at
          their faith. If I can make them; we know how independent-minded those
          fictional people can be.

          I have totally lost whether there is a point to this line of thought so I'll
          shut up now. Happy Labor Day everyone...

          Lizzie
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