Why Ignorance isn’t Bliss

Why Ignorance isn’t Bliss

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” (Is. 54:10, NIV)

I like a story that is so intriguing that it keeps you in the moment. It’s that story that can’t be easily broken by way of predictable plot twists and tired story lines. But it enraptures you and the writer leads you down the unknown path. It is those times that you trust the story, trust wherever it is headed. You are willing to follow.

We can’t live in those moments in real life which is why we look forward to them when we are allowed to escape reality.

mountain3

In the real world we are expected to face the truth about tragedy and disaster, dishonesty and impending doom, responsibilities and change. We are expected to talk election, figure out the best candidate and make the right choice. We count on each other to make the proper decisions based on what we know. And many times it is too much. The burden weighs on us, sapping our energy and spirit, leaving us jaded, confused and looking for a way out. We turn to ways to open the preverbal door of altered reality—and it comes in many forms.

It sometimes escapes us that there is a God who cares and who has purposely not equipped us to carry such weight. The doom we fear is to be averted. It is through prayer and relationship that we find peace and direction on what to do when we don’t know what to do. When we forget the source of our hope we forsake our solid foundation, our guiding light, our eternal beacon. We can live blissfully, not because we live in ignorance, but because of what we do know.

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

I’m off on a tangent again running around on a Saturday because I promised my daughter a new phone, I promised myself I’d get a bunch of gifts for my youth group and they’d all be personalized because…well they are really great kids and I want to make tomorrow’s Christmas party– special.

So off to the store I go and of course the machine is down at the phone store and I run around trying to find a different store with a deal equal or better than the original one I was getting after which, I get caught in the parade traffic on the way to the plaza to pick up those individualized gifts. Now I am spent both mentally and physically and I just want to go home and settle down with a nice big piece of German chocolate cake. But I can’t. I still have a lot of shopping to do.

This has often been my Saturday, but after feeling run down too often by the time Monday morning rolls around I’ve learned to cross things off of my list of to-do and focus on the moral of the story—the point of it all.

Watch the subplots

Too often we add too much drama, run in too many directions with more subplots and story twists than I even want to remember. Often the main story gets buried.

I suppose the first questions are this: do you know what the main story is? Is the story relevant or interesting enough to carry itself? Often times we add to the story because we don’t have confidence that the story as it is will hold up. This does not mean that subplots or even parallel plots will not enhance the story, it simply means that the story is solid and that anything else will only add to the depth of the original and not take over.  If you find that you have a takeover element you may want to consider what is most important—the main story or one of the others—you may be surprised.

Complicated vs. Simple

Buying personalized gifts did not mean in depth conversations with parents or running to every mall in the mid-state to find the perfect gift—it mean simply that I thought about each child—that was the focus, that was the main thing. And for sanity and time sakes, most of them got gift cards. They were very pleased because someone was thinking of them.

The Corner Office: Developing Characters in Fiction

The Corner Office: Developing Characters in Fiction

The building in which I work is designed in such a way that you get a perfect skyline view of the city from many of the big offices–big, breath-taking views of the sculpted skyline. I remember years ago that was the thing to aspire for—the coveted office with a view. And then there was the corner office—more spacious, panoramic, posh and oh, so desirable. Those that possessed such a space were privileged, envied, their status quantifiable. And now many buildings are designed much like mine, in such a way that corner offices are plentiful, multiple, almost common.

It is interesting the events, the things that we wear as badges of success. We solidify it moments by the things that accompany those moments—luxury cars, company lines of credit and spacious offices. And then we wait for it–to feel accomplished. Only we can never evolve by our external possessions but by that which is already in us. We are that best-selling author, CEO, director, CFO long before the world sees it and long before we feel anything. As our gift is being nurtured, our success is already in the making until the world officially recognizes who we really are.

ernest hemingway

Character building in our fiction writing works in the same manner. By the very nature of the term character building we are working toward the realization of the truth for two parties: Our reader and our characters. We are working out those external and internal blocks which disguise the true nature of who our characters are. Secondly, we are unveiling our characters to our reader—slowly, deliberately and in detail. Sometimes the reader knows at the beginning (before the character knows) these people detailed on the pages of our book. But they love the journey. Who doesn’t love a road trip? They love to read through the bumps and bruises along the way. They want to laugh and cry and celebrate right along with our characters. And if done superbly they will grow and learn and perceive along with them. It is the ultimate experience when a book changes its reader.

As you are developing your characters I encourage you to include those aspects which are necessary for personal growth:

Get rid of influences that don’t add to life

  1. Gather the courage to try something new
  2. Be true to yourself – this one is in crucial, because we must look at life in respect to our heart’s most intimate longings, as our hearts seek after God.
  3. Move forward in faith and confidence in the One who loves us most.

Sometimes our characters’ journey will mirror ours in many ways and that is OK. It makes it easier to write and adds to the story’s authenticity.

In today’s world we realize that occupants of corner offices are booted out and must find new places to sit and work. And it just may be where they were meant to be all along.

Writing Your Truth

I was recently watching a television show about how to tell when someone is telling a lie. Somewhere during the hour the host stated that most people lie about themselves or exaggerate the truth when talking with others. He even went on to say that many people lie to themselves about themselves.

I believe lying is actually a form of self-preservation. Lying is a way to protect ourselves from shame, guilt or harm. We say that we’re O.K., because the truth may be that we are falling apart and that is too much to bear. We convince ourselves that he is not cheating, the alternative being we will lose him; and we can’t phantom such a thing.

To be open and honest about who we really are, our motives for doing things—even the good things that we do–may put us in a light that is unfavorable or even downright painful.  The truth can be uncomfortable but it can also be liberating and beautiful because falsity and all of the upkeep that comes with it can be exhausting and depressing and we will eventually find ourselves living an unfulfilled life.

Just-tell-the-truth-600x448

Writing demands the same level of authenticity as life does. You will connect with your reader when you can bare the souls of your character. The thing about reading well- written fiction is that if you indeed see your truth within the characters of a book that revelation is personal—it is powerful, unnerving and wonderful. It is the reason readers are drawn to such writers as Amy Tan and Terry Mcmillan. That connection helps us to know that we are not alone and that our experiences are not isolated. And even though you are reading fictional characters you are still reading the soul of a real, live, being—the writer.

The more authentic you are in your writing, the more you will draw in the reader. Suddenly, he or she forgets that it is fiction because it feels more like he or she is peeking into the personal, private world of someone else’s life.  Authentic writing means you do away with stereotypes, and go deeper than superficial motives. For example, our way of thinking, the spouse we choose, the way we raise our children are not haphazard actions done on a whim. They are in many ways subconscious decisions based on the way we’ve been raised, our life experiences, beliefs, fears and expectations. Strive to reveal these attributes when you write. You will find your writing is more robust, exciting and that your characters come alive.

How to escape the one-dimensional character trap in fiction writing

It amazes me that in this day, we still look upon individuals and conclude a one-dimensional experience about them even if they are telling us with their actions and words everything to the contrary.

The same can apply to our stories. When writing fiction our characters represent a culture, a type, an experience.  And even though we can never represent all faces of that culture or experience we can ensure that our characters are multidimensional and that we have not short-changed them as we describe who they are.

I remember when the movie, Boyz n the Hood came out in the ‘80s I was working at a bank and a  co-worker said to me: “Oh, my god, I had no idea.” I guess she was under some delusion that I was silently suffering in a violent, impoverished environment while everyday coming into work to process expense reports for a living as a way to alleviate the pain of my miserable existence (The truth was, I was as shocked by the depictions in the movie as she).

 

Boyz-N-The-Hood-film-545

And yet I think she missed something even in that particular movie. Although there was an obvious theme of the injustices on young, African-American young men, there was so much more. Even within that subculture there were various dynamics and experiences and even within the same experience there was a different impact on each person. There is no one voice. There is no one experience. Even as two individuals gaze at the moon, each will see something different, each will reflect on his or her own connection to it. It is what makes us as humans so wonderfully amazing.

As you are telling your story I encourage you to ask the “what if”. Try looking at your story from various angles. Try to write against type. Add a new dimension to your character, perhaps one you haven’t seen or read about before. Add the “what if” element and see where it takes you. Perhaps it will be ridiculous. Or perhaps it will allow your fiction to speak to a broader audience. You may even learn something new. Remember, we are always growing, constantly discovering, forever seeking.