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