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

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  • 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 1 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 2 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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