We live in times where choices are made in black and white.
If you’re not a Democrat, you’re a Republican. If you question global warming, you must be a gas guzzling denier. If you love God and believe in him, you must be a bigot toward everyone who doesn’t believe. If you can’t see peace, love and understanding in everything, you must be shallow and stupid. Such contests of black and white make for interesting fireworks, but they also draw red lines of demarcation. Cross it, and you are dead to me.
Believe me, this has happened to me more lately than I’d care to think about. Make the wrong choice, and you lose friends, online and off.
The thing is, people are complex and flawed beings. We are more than black or white. A lot more.
I was thinking about this very thing this week as I completed the final modules of the short story course I’m taking online. (Have I mentioned before how much I love taking courses online? 🙂 Gets my brain in gear and thinking.) I learn so much from these courses. Thank you, Michelle Richmond.
Stories are much more than beginning, middle, and end. Once you get that concept into your head and begin branching away from stream of consciousness writing and into something that makes logical sense, you can begin to incorporate the other necessities of a good story, like dialogue, plots, themes – you know, the parts of a really good story.
I wrote a short story during this class, hardly original since I’d started something like it seven years ago and never finished it. (Maybe now I will.) But with a novel half-finished, some of the things I learned in the class I’ll now use in that work.
I thought about how I used to write my characters – the long-suffering female protagonist who at first comes off as too needy and without backbone. Or maybe she’s shallow and materialistic and not the brightest bulb. Or the antagonist who is a textbook slimy attorney, ruthless and mean. Bad guys without a vein of gold, or good girls who live the straight and narrow and never think beyond the box.
They were all black or all white.
They were also all boring. Re-writes change that, and add depth and interest. Characters are far more likeable if their layers are revealed slowly.
This is where I thought about black and white.
In my current WIP, I see where my main characters are coming out of worlds that are all black or all white, in their own way, of course. When we first meet, they are frozen, locked into course, as if they don’t choose black, they automatically choose white. They can’t see anything else. Real life isn’t like that, and as the story progresses, they each begin to see their lives as more than two choices, as black smears into white resulting in shades of gray. In my head I see them coming out of that monochromatic world and bursting into color, something with hope and promise at the end, like a rainbow.
Isn’t it great that humans are more than one thing or the other!
Remember this as we traverse the great wild Internet (especially) and the world at large. People are so much more than the public persona, of what shows on the surface.
I know. This is not very interesting and kinda preachy. But in developing characters, it might be something to think about.