The SolAARium: Discuss the craft of writing - Alphabetical Index in the 1st Post

Valdemar

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MrT, no worry on the Godot thing, by all means continue the discussion, I am merely stating that i cannot partake, perhaps basicly for the same reason I cannot partake in a discussion with SM over the content of the english canon.
Danish perhaps, but not that much english, remember that what passes for english classes in your highschool and college is in danish litterature and my english litterature has been limited to english classes in the same way you take french and perhaps self studies.

SM, as to the good evil thing, What you basicly say is that both a "good" and a "bad" guy is a composite person, two sides of the coin, with only a mrginal difference, the hairthin line seperating them from one another.

And that thin line is mostly defined by circumstances such as context, environment and perception of the reader as well as the writer?

Storey, therein perhaps lies the key to Gaijin's diferent take on both his native littereature and the english?

V
 

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Originally posted by Valdemar
SM, as to the good evil thing, What you basicly say is that both a "good" and a "bad" guy is a composite person, two sides of the coin, with only a mrginal difference, the hairthin line seperating them from one another.
They can be...depending on how the author writes them. There have been very few truely evil human beings to walk the face of this planet and, arguably, equally few truely good beings as well.
And that thin line is mostly defined by circumstances such as context, environment and perception of the reader as well as the writer?
That is right on the money! What may be good in your eyes may be evil in mine, and visa versa...all of it being a product of our respective upbringings, circumstances, societies, etc. The challenge for the author is find interesting lines and to spend the story walking them.
 

Secret Master

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SM, as to the good evil thing, What you basicly say is that both a "good" and a "bad" guy is a composite person, two sides of the coin, with only a mrginal difference, the hairthin line seperating them from one another.

This is not just my definition of good and evil characters, but how I view human beings. As you may have guessed, my views on human beings color how I view characters. Of course, as my readers have already surmised (MrT noted as much one day regarding my narration of the Kurtz sequence), I tend towards the cynical view of there being more predominately evil people han predominately good people. Nothing like getting older and studying history to make one cynical...

Note that central characters who are mixed in the good/evil departments are a good thing, but side characters that are totally good and totally evil are perfectly acceptable. They provide great contrast to your central characters.
 

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Originally posted by Storey
So you found the villain in "Silence of the lambs" boring? He's as close to absolut evil as I can come up with right now. I think the idea that absolute=predictable=boring is a mistake. The skill of the author an still over come this problem. And yes he's going to have to be a damn good writer.;)

Joe
I won't argue that a skilled writer can overcome this, and it's definitely been done before.

Hmmm....Hannibal Lector (sp?) as absolute evil? I can cite numerous cultures who would probably disagree with you (canibalistic ones for instance). Even by Western Culture he is not the absolute embodiment of evil since his actions do not actually impact on the whole of society. He would, as a character, be up there with Jack the Ripper, Adolf Hitler & Co but IIRC the only absolute embodiment of evil that one could name (and even that is debated in some circles) would be "The Devil" himself.

At the risk of re-introducing the topic of religion, it's interesting to note that very few world polytheistic religions (extant or extinct) are/have been based on absolute embodiments of anything. Many of the Gods are fallable - as humans are - and are seen more as overseers of particular aspects or conditions of secular life who have devine (otherworldly) powers that allow them to effect change that would be outside of the scope of their worshipers.
 

Storey

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Originally posted by MrT
I won't argue that a skilled writer can overcome this, and it's definitely been done before.

Hmmm....Hannibal Lector (sp?) as absolute evil? I can cite numerous cultures who would probably disagree with you (canibalistic ones for instance). Even by Western Culture he is not the absolute embodiment of evil since his actions do not actually impact on the whole of society. He would, as a character, be up there with Jack the Ripper, Adolf Hitler & Co but IIRC the only absolute embodiment of evil that one could name (and even that is debated in some circles) would be "The Devil" himself.


Sometimes defining terms first prevents misunderstandings, which seems to be the case here. You’re right in that the devil would be the only character that could be absolutely evil at least in Western Society but I think you take the word absolute to extremes to make a point. I used absolute in how the character is seen by the reader. Look at Blue Morte. (sp) He only lasted for a short time in the FC story but had quite an impact. All we know about him is that he’s an assassin who enjoys torturing people, which he does with abandon in the story. We have nothing to go on but what is in the story. No he doesn’t impact society as a whole but I find that irrelevant to the question of "is he absolutely evil." Do we have a single word or gesture that indicates that he has some good in him? Some hint that he is anything but a ticking bomb waiting to go off? The only evidence of who he is comes from the various authors who created him. To ask if he impacted society doesn’t make much sense to me. Hannibal Lector is the same problem. Maybe he’s really a sweet guy but the author didn't indicate anything about Lector that would cause me to think that he had a single positive aspect to his personality. Hats off to the author in creating one of the evilest characters in fiction. If he doesn’t personify some one who has turned to the dark side hook line and sinker (Absolutely) then I will have to concede that no one in literature can be view as absolutely evil.

P.S. By the way I think even a cannibalistic society would have a problem with the code of conduct of Lector. :D


P.P.S. The first time I saw "Waiting for Godot" I came out of the theatre shaking my head wondering what the hell it was that I just saw. I was fascinated but perplexed by it all. Many readings later I can appreciate the play but I still have that nagging thought that Becket has just played a joke on everyone. :rolleyes:
 
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Originally posted by Storey
Look at Blue Morte. (sp) He only lasted for a short time in the FC story but had quite an impact. All we know about him is that he’s an assassin who enjoys torturing people, which he does with abandon in the story. We have nothing to go on but what is in the story. No he doesn’t impact society as a whole but I find that irrelevant to the question of "is he absolutely evil." Do we have a single word or gesture that indicates that he has some good in him? Some hint that he is anything but a ticking bomb waiting to go off? The only evidence of who he is comes from the various authors who created him. To ask if he impacted society doesn’t make much sense to me.
An interesting point to raise. I also think that it has something to do with the society that is reading it too. The torutures of Blue Morte are likely no less foul than some of those perpetrated during the Inquisition...and those were "good" to the people of the time. :rolleyes: Similarly, assassination was an accepted means of political operation and the Venetians would likely have had very different sensibilites than we would.

Bringing it even into the modern era, let's look for a moment at the actions of Hezbolah in Israel...suicide bombings left, right and centre...and then imagine two authors writing a book about one of the bombers and one of the victims - and let's stretch the point to make the victim an Israeli intelligence officer. An Israeli author would have a very different take on this situation than a Hezbolah author. To the one he would be the foul immoral villain, possessed of absolute evil and the "innocent" victim might be the tragic hero of epic proportions. From the other viewpoint the bomber would be the tragic hero who died nobly for his cause while, by his set of mores, the victim is not innocent because of the pre-existing "taint" of his race and might, indeed, be the absolute embodiment of evil. How does one incorporate the two viewpoints and determine an "absolute" from it without evaluating it from a set of starting values that are either preconditioned, a prioti or socially mandated?

Yes, to most of us perched on this spit of land between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans there is probably obvious, but the closer one gets to the epicentre the more likely we are to find radically differing viewpoints. And yes, this is a rather inflamatory argument to present, however it does illustrate (with at least some measure of cogency) the issue of moral perspective...and I have difficulty with the concept of combining "absolute" and "perspective" in the same sentence.
 

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Remarkable restraint gentlemen, and fascinating viewpoints. The nature of good vs evil has been debated long before even I was born. But, let's not drift from the task at hand, and that's to keep the discussion in a literary context. Any cultural animosities should be viewed entirely within that context, and not from a personal point of view. (if you get my drift)

Oh, and I'm impressed by the number of references to the Free Company. If I can cast aside modesty for a moment and state that the project has proven its usefulness and success as a vehicle to draw reference material from for these discussions.
 

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Originally posted by MrT
An interesting point to raise. I also think that it has something to do with the society that is reading it too. The torutures of Blue Morte are likely no less foul than some of those perpetrated during the Inquisition...and those were "good" to the people of the time. :rolleyes: Similarly, assassination was an accepted means of political operation and the Venetians would likely have had very different sensibilites than we would.

I think even the church at that time wouldn’t have hesitated in knowing that Morte was a sick evil person. Of course you’re right in that they certainly had blood on their hands but that doesn’t make Morte any less evil. I agree about the Venetian sensibilities on professional assassination but does that mean in the context of the story that Morte was anything but evil? I still haven’t heard you tell me anything about Morte that is in the least bit positive. Well he was good at assassination but that’s not what I’m talking about. :D


Originally posted by MrT


Bringing it even into the modern era, let's look for a moment at the actions of Hezbolah in Israel...suicide bombings left, right and centre...and then imagine two authors writing a book about one of the bombers and one of the victims - and let's stretch the point to make the victim an Israeli intelligence officer. An Israeli author would have a very different take on this situation than a Hezbolah author. To the one he would be the foul immoral villain, possessed of absolute evil and the "innocent" victim might be the tragic hero of epic proportions. From the other viewpoint the bomber would be the tragic hero who died nobly for his cause while, by his set of mores, the victim is not innocent because of the pre-existing "taint" of his race and might, indeed, be the absolute embodiment of evil. How does one incorporate the two viewpoints and determine an "absolute" from it without evaluating it from a set of starting values that are either preconditioned, a prioti or socially mandated?


You do it by reading the story! I really don’t disagree with anything you’ve written it’s just that I think we are talking about different things entirely. I’m talking about absolute as in the story. I have no doubt that a gifted writer could take a story about the struggles of the Hezbolah and make the main antagonist an evil Israeli police officer who is the epitome of evil. He tortures prisoners and rapes Palestinian women etc. But it doesn’t make any difference if someone else wrote it with a completely different view of the character in another book. I would have to judge each book separately. Each may successfully create an absolutely evil character in their story that is the opposite of the other story. But so what? Going by what your saying I can’t even call a character evil because in another light he would be considered good. (Okay maybe that’s a distortion of your point, sorry) :)


Originally posted by MrT

Yes, to most of us perched on this spit of land between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans there is probably obvious, but the closer one gets to the epicentre the more likely we are to find radically differing viewpoints. And yes, this is a rather inflamatory argument to present, however it does illustrate (with at least some measure of cogency) the issue of moral perspective...and I have difficulty with the concept of combining "absolute" and "perspective" in the same sentence.

You know I really don't disagree with what you're saying but I think you're putting restraints on what you can try to write that aren't necessary. What would Lector have ending up being with what you've just written. A poor misunderstood man with a eating disorder?:D :D

I think you’re focusing more on the moral question of the possibility of an absolutely evil character and I’m focusing on if it’s possible for a writer to create an absolutely evil character. Since as a writer you have the chance to create an entire world as you see it in a story I think it's possible. Besides morals I tend to leave to others to thrash out since I have my own set that I follow.

Joe
 

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Originally posted by Secret Master

Actually, I brought philosophy and religious viewpoints into the discussion on purpose to illustrate something about how we write and view characters. The general rule is that we will write characters that are congruent with our worldview.
I can think of numerous examples of authors writing from a viewpoint that they might not personally hold, either because the alternate view needs to be told to drive forward the plot and make their own 'view' sharper in focus by contrast, or just as an exercise in stretching their creativity.

It also works in reverse. We will really enjoy that writing that we think has presented us with characters that are congruent with what we think people are.
No, I disagree. One of the fascinations of hearing a story is that it lets you rub up against new ideas, even those you are not comfortable with. I enjoy the occasional horror movie; I have no desire to be satanic.

Characters that are central should change over time, by definition. If for no other reason, then they should be changing just because time has passed in the fiction of the story. If characters were completely static for twenty years, we would want to smack them around.
I strongly disagree. One of the most memorable stories I've ever read was about a man whose medical condition prevented him from forming long-term memories. His complete inability to change was the engine that drove as perfect a piece of tragedy as I've ever read.

Gaijin mentions the possibility of there being no conflict in a good piece of literature. As of this moment, I cannot think of a single novel/short story in the canon of English literature that lacks conflict.
CREATIVITY IS CONFLICT AGAINST LIMITS. They are inseparable. The sculptor wars with the stone to express what he sees, the artist fights to master the brush to perfect the line.

On brief example: young composers typically must begin with chorales and small works. The reason is not a lack of creativity on the part of the student. It is because the boundaries and limitations of the form serve to channel the student's creativity.


You can actually get away with more poor writing in a sprawling novel or trilogy than you can in a tightly-limited short story. And so many modern authors do - take Anne Rice as an example. When she's 'on', she's terrific, but the poor woman needs an editor who will ruthlessly cut her books down. They're fat with unnecessary verbiage.


Accepting the conventions of a form does limit options, which can allow the artist to focus on other decisions. If the artist has mastered the form, then ways of stretching it - but leaving it recognizable - become the challenge.

If someone sits you down at a blank sheet of paper and says 'write anything' you might sign your name or scribble. But if you decide in advance to limit your options (EU2 game, GC, Bavaria, etc) then the acceptance of those limits frees you to focus on the story.



The story is told (possibly apocryphal) of a student who wished to study with Kurt Weill, controversial 20th century composer (Three-penny Opera, Wozzek). Weill assigned him simple chorale, after chorale, after chorale.

One day, in desperation, the student said, "But Master, these chorales are all in the old style! I want to learn to write as you do!"

Weill replied, "I can teach you the rules; you must learn to break them on your own."
 

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QUOTE BY V: Why are we all so "obsessed" with the concept of evil/villaneus characters? Above we have discussed at length what it takes to make a good villian, what is evil and why they may or may not be made up of many combinations of flaws ad fallacies,

How come no one has attempted a definition of a "good" character, aside from the overall argreement that too good is too much.

What sort of combination of character then makes up your favorite "hero"? If a villian needs some positive strains does a good guy need a fallacy? Or can he be good simply by not doing anything neither good nor "evil"?


Hmmmmmmmm. Good question. I can't really answer it. Perhaps because most people restrain their darker desires and are fascinated by a character that doesn't? But what about a character that possesses a twisted set of ethics and adheres to them rigidly? Such a character is still very interesting, but no doubt there would be times he has to restrain himself. I can't say, but it seems to be a topic people like discussing.

Secret Master listed off a few of my favorites. The classic flawed hero and the brooding dark hero are two of my favs. The accidental hero is less of a fav only because I have seen it done poorly so many times. When done right, it can be a real treat.

QUOTE BY STOREY: I just was stunned by the negative/resigned view of life that I kept running into in the books I read. Could you recommend a Russian comedy that has been translated into English?

I'm no expert of Russian lit, but from what I am told and what I have read, that famed “Russian fatalism” pervades much of the writing. I also have been told that Russian comedy does not translate well. To further prove his point, my teacher told us a few Russian jokes. Believe me, they did not translate well. That said I am no expert and I'm sure Gajin can provide us with a better take on the subject.

QUOTE BY V: SM, as to the good evil thing, What you basicly say is that both a "good" and a "bad" guy is a composite person, two sides of the coin, with only a mrginal difference, the hairthin line seperating them from one another.

And that thin line is mostly defined by circumstances such as context, environment and perception of the reader as well as the writer?



QUOTE BY MRT: That is right on the money! What may be good in your eyes may be evil in mine, and visa versa...all of it being a product of our respective upbringings, circumstances, societies, etc. The challenge for the author is find interesting lines and to spend the story walking them.

V the “two sides of the same coin” concept is a very interesting one. Once long ago, I attempted to write a story told from two POV. The AT was a cynical homicide detective who was investigating a serial killer. The PT was the killer. I alternated between the two but what I never got around to revealing was that they were the same person. (It was abandoned long before I reached that pivotal revelation) There are a lot of cases where the line between the hero and villain are only a matter of circumstance or perspective. Other times the villain and hero are closely linked and if only a few choices were changed they could easily switch roles. Star Wars is a great example. Anakin could of controlled his hate and resisted the darkside. On the flip side, Luke could of just as easily given in to his hatred and succumbed to the Emperor and the darkside.


QUOTE BY MRT: We all change over time as well...even when you're old you're not necessarily so set in your ways that there's no room for movement. That "movement" - or the discovery that you have two mutually incompatible beliefs or moral stances - can make for a great read.

I'm not trying to say that older people are incapable of change or movement. Only that as we become more set in our ways it becomes more difficult and a slower process. There are exceptions who live their entire life rapidly going from one set of core values to another, but most folks settle into a routine and a comfort zone. The longer you are there, the harder it is to leave.

Regarding Hannibal Lecter, I have read two of the three books and seen all three movies. In the first book, The Red Dragon, HL is portrayed with no redeeming qualities what so ever. He's sadistic, manipulative, and treacherous and has no problem endangering Agent Graham. His portrayal in the movie Silence of the Lambs is very much the same. Though in the end, he says he won't come looking for Clarice. His fondness for her could be seen as a redeeming quality. In the third book, Hannibal, it becomes quite obvious that in his own twisted and warped way Dr. Lecter is in love with Agent Starling. The movie (but not the book) even has him commit an act of self sacrifice, even if it is to aid in his escape.

I think the part of the reason that both the Hannibal the book and movie were so poorly received by the public was they rejected the attempt to humanize Lecter. Hannibal Lecter was, at least for modern western audiences, very close to evil personified. The attempt to make him seem sympathetic or at least possessing the capability to love or care for anything other than himself seemed to contradict the already established character.

This is an example of hard it is to sell dramatic change in a character. Readers and moviegoers alike rejected Hannibal. In the movie it was hard to accept Hannibal choosing to harm himself rather than Clarice. In the book it was impossible to accept Clarice joining with Lecter and becoming a killer herself. It violated the central core of each character and gave us no justification.

QUOTE BY LD: The nature of good vs evil has been debated long before even I was born. But, let's not drift from the task at hand, and that's to keep the discussion in a literary context.

Isn't literature in many ways the study of the human experience? So wouldn't any discussion about good and evil, the nature of man, ect. be applicable? That said, I understand what you mean, but this stuff gives a lot to chew on and can be useful in our writing.

QUOTE BY LD: Oh, and I'm impressed by the number of references to the Free Company. If I can cast aside modesty for a moment and state that the project has proven its usefulness and success as a vehicle to draw reference material from for these discussions.

Yup.

Lastly, I must comment on MrT's post. Yes, you can paint a portrait were a suicide bomber would seem to be a noble if not flawed character. That does not mean that there are no absolutes. Let's take the actual tragedy of 9/11. The average victim of the World Trade Center attack had no direct link to the supposedly evil US government other than happening to live under it and pay taxes to it. The president, congress, or the state department never consulted these people before deciding US foreign policy. To highjack a plane and fly it into a building to slaughter these innocent people is absolutely evil. No one can paint a context where it is not.

To go back and refer to an event in history that is not as fresh in our minds, the Holocaust was absolutely evil. No one can create a context where it is ok to murder 6 million people just because of who the happened to be descended from.

Chris, I know you hold no ill will towards my country and your post was not meant as a show of support for terrorism. I am not angry with you, though your example did hit a nerve with me. I could actually feel my blood pressure rise as I wrote this last segment. Again I understand what you were saying and I agree that context often does play a role in what we perceive to be right and wrong. BUT, there are absolutes. Perhaps there are very few, but they do exist.

One last time. Chris I am not angry at you and I respect your opinions. In fact I often am eager to hear what you think about a given topic. :)
 

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I agree with director. It is can fun, challenging, or disturbing (perhaps even all three) to write characters with beliefs and viewpoints contrary to our own. Though how we view humanity will frame our work and how portray these characters. It's hard to realistically portray a character contrary to ourselves. It's a lot harder to alter our world views as we introduce themes.

I may create an evil remorseless monster of a character, and he would be very different from myself. But the way I handle the themes that surround him are much more likely to closer to my own beliefs. Creating a character that believes rape is OK would be hard. Creating a book that argues that rape is OK would be infinately harder.
 

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OK, everybody run for cover...

Craig Ashley, I'm going to argue with you while agreeing with you.

Were we perfect, logical, truly mature people, we would be uninterested in fiction. We would BE the 'good characters' and would have no interest in the darker side.

The 'dark side' appeals to the immature in all of us, to the child-like part that wishes vengeance; the part that wants an unfair advantage, that covets things that are not ours.

The part that leads Americans (can't speak for other people) to romanticize the 'bad boy' bank robber/mobster/drug dealer/income tax cheat/whatever.



Personally, one of my absolutely favorite characters is Horatio Hornblower. Why? He has character flaws, he struggles. He makes decisions for the right reasons even at great personal cost, and he doesn't always succeed. Because I'd like to be that kind of person.

As Gaijin de Moscu pointed out some time back, Verne had a number of characters who were purely good, as did E. E. (Doc) Smith. But their stories succeeded IN SPITE of bland heros; today people remember Nemo, not Arronax, DuQuesne and not whats-his-name from Starship Valeron.



(puts on waders - it's going to get deep)

While I agree with you that the Holocaust and 9/11 were unacceptably evil - and personally feel that the perpetrators should be killed - a brief look at other material will tell you that those people did not see themselves as evil.

The true horror of the Third Reich was that so many - Jews, gays, political, Poles and on and on and on - could be dehumanized by average, everyday Germans who ran the deathcamps and never questioned their orders. As awful as it is, there were Germans who did not see their actions as evil. There were more than a few who believed it was necessary, or desireable that enemies of the state should die.

The video images of Palestinians dancing in the streets after 9/11 make me want to do violent things in return, but I will curb my impulse. I believe they are deluded and ignorant; they believe they have a right - even a moral and religious duty - to strike down people who have done them no harm.

I agree with you that they are evil. They do not agree with us.


I believe that only the immature resort to first use of force, to blowing away other people because their ideas are different and threatening. I believe that reasonable men may differ without shooting each other, and that good morals, ethics and ideals will triumph. I am willing to tolerate those who tolerate me, and willing to allow practices I do not approve of so long as I am not harmed by them.

I believe it is the child in us that delights in power over others, and dances with joy when it can inflict pain and escape the consequences.
 

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I can think of numerous examples of authors writing from a viewpoint that they might not personally hold, either because the alternate view needs to be told to drive forward the plot and make their own 'view' sharper in focus by contrast, or just as an exercise in stretching their creativity.


I am not expressing myself very well. I am desperately trying to condense about 20 pages of writing into a post that will make my point.

When I say that we will write characters that are congruent with our worldview, I don't mean we write characters that are exactly like us. Rather, I would say we try and write characters that make sense to us, in a realism sort of way. (Central characters, not necessarily minor ones.) That means if LD thinks people are shades of gray, his central figures will reflect that. It also means we won't make a serious effort to write about figures who are not congruent with our thinking about human persons. (Note the qualification of serious. Obviously, if I'm just screwing around or experimenting, I might do something off the wall, but my serious works central characters will conform, roughly, to what I think is reasonable in the characterization of people.)

For example, Shakespeare never wrote a character like Hannibal Lector. Its not because Shakespeare never wrote about monstrous characters (Macbeth, anyone?) or that Shakespeare never tackled subjects such as cannibalism (Titus Andronicus). Rather, a person like Hannibal Lector would be completely alien to Shakespeare's understanding of human beings. At the most, a Hannibal Lector would be viewed as demonic and supernatural by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, not as a really sick person or a really evil person. But Shakespeare would certainly not have written "The Tragedy of Clarice Starling" because its just not part of his understanding.

On the flip side, ones philosophical viewpoints will determine how one reads literature. This does not mean that if I disagree with Hannibal's actions, I won't like reading about him. What this means is that my philosophical viewpoints, whether overtly recognized or not, will shape how I read something. For example, take everyone's favorite tragic figure, Hamlet. Now, lets look at Hamlet from three different philosophic viewpoints. A Freudian critic would have alot to say and think about Hamlet's relationship to his mother. (Boy, do they have alot to say about it! :rolleyes: ) A Feminist critic would pay special attention to Hamlet's poor behavior and treatment of women in the play. (Note that Hamlet's dad has to appear and remind him, among other things, to leave mom alone!) A Marxist critic would make much of the fact that Claudius, not Hamlet, gets to rule the country, thus depriving Hamlet of his property and political power. (Note that even without the implication of murder, Hamlet has a natural reason to loathe Claudius for this!) Now, each of these three critics might like Hamlet, but if they do it is for different reasons. The same with normal people. To use another example, lets take American Psycho the movie. Now, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, including its scathing commentary on superficiality and greed. On the other hand, my father's current wife would hate this movie and she would not even sit through it. Why? Because in her worldview, it is always inappropriate to depict sex and nudity on the screen. Notice that her philosophical viewpoint (though she would not call it thus) colors the way she views the movie, as does mine. Which of us is right and which is wrong is a moot point. What is important is that our outlook on things shapes the way we view texts.
 

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Originally posted by Secret Master
I am not expressing myself very well. I am desperately trying to condense about 20 pages of writing into a post that will make my point.

When I say that we will write characters that are congruent with our worldview, I don't mean we write characters that are exactly like us. Rather, I would say we try and write characters that make sense to us, in a realism sort of way. (Central characters, not necessarily minor ones.) That means if LD thinks people are shades of gray, his central figures will reflect that. It also means we won't make a serious effort to write about figures who are not congruent with our thinking about human persons. (Note the qualification of serious. Obviously, if I'm just screwing around or experimenting, I might do something off the wall, but my serious works central characters will conform, roughly, to what I think is reasonable in the characterization of people.)

After the discussion of pro/ant is finished, I think this would be a good genesis for our next question.... how much of you and your surroundings are in your writing( or in a more succinct form, the Spike Jonze "Adaptation" question)

M
 

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Originally posted by Craig Ashley
Lastly, I must comment on MrT's post. Yes, you can paint a portrait were a suicide bomber would seem to be a noble if not flawed character. That does not mean that there are no absolutes. Let's take the actual tragedy of 9/11. The average victim of the World Trade Center attack had no direct link to the supposedly evil US government other than happening to live under it and pay taxes to it. The president, congress, or the state department never consulted these people before deciding US foreign policy. To highjack a plane and fly it into a building to slaughter these innocent people is absolutely evil. No one can paint a context where it is not.

To go back and refer to an event in history that is not as fresh in our minds, the Holocaust was absolutely evil. No one can create a context where it is ok to murder 6 million people just because of who the happened to be descended from.

Chris, I know you hold no ill will towards my country and your post was not meant as a show of support for terrorism. I am not angry with you, though your example did hit a nerve with me. I could actually feel my blood pressure rise as I wrote this last segment. Again I understand what you were saying and I agree that context often does play a role in what we perceive to be right and wrong. BUT, there are absolutes. Perhaps there are very few, but they do exist.

One last time. Chris I am not angry at you and I respect your opinions. In fact I often am eager to hear what you think about a given topic. :)
Let me begin by saying that I hold nothing but animostity of the highest Western moral bearing aginst the perpetrators of 9/11, but...

Surely you cannot be so naive as to think that there aren't hundreds of thousands of people who do not view this as an act of ultimate evil. In fact they applaud it. How does that fit into the shoe-box of absolutism?

Give me any cogent definition of absolute evil that has no social referents and I'll be mightily impressed. Until then, I will view "absolute evil" as an act that contravenes social mores...nothing more...and I will continue to evaluate it based on my own mores.

In short: I do not believe in a priori value systems.

Note: That is not to say that I don't subscribe to a value system. It's simply that I attribute it to something other than an unassailable or ill-definded moral imperative.

Bismarck: Everything in my surroundings and my upbringing effects (in one way or another) my writing. To deny it is to deny the value system I have learned to accept.
 
Last edited:

Bismarck

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T: I wasn't so much talking about influencing... I was talking almost literally being a part of your work... you personally, or people you know being quite literally being the basis for the characters you are writing about....

I know that what is going on around everyone one of us affects our writing... I have frequently admitted this influence in my own work. Though talking about what your(in the group sense) writing says about you as a person could also be an interesting topic of conversation.

M
 

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Originally posted by Bismarck
T: I wasn't so much talking about influencing... I was talking almost literally being a part of your work... you personally, or people you know being quite literally being the basis for the characters you are writing about....

I know that what is going on around everyone one of us affects our writing... I have frequently admitted this influence in my own work. Though talking about what your(in the group sense) writing says about you as a person could also be an interesting topic of conversation.

M
I think it's more a case of me projecting myself into the characters that I've placed in a given situation and then writing about how I think they'd (I would) react. The better defined the situation, the better I will write them. I wouldn't place someone else into a construct of that nature (or try to capture them in one) because - to me - their behaviour would cease to be either predictable or understandable so I would expect to fail in writing them in that I/they would cease to be credible. The writing process is as much a test of myself as anything...not something I would subject anyone else to since I feel that one can never truely or fully understand the viewpoint of another.
 

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Originally posted by Bismarck
After the discussion of pro/ant is finished, I think this would be a good genesis for our next question.... how much of you and your surroundings are in your writing( or in a more succinct form, the Spike Jonze "Adaptation" question)

M

Leaving the Good/bad discussion behind, though it was fun to see the next morning how little and yet how far the debate had moved during the night. Entering the discussion of current world events as tools to describe evil or good is IMHO very difficult, because I find that (as stated by several) time, distance, culture etc. colours our perception greatly.

I will therefore venture into Bismarrck's question.

Since i have only one "active" character this should be easy :D I do not deliberately put my self into the character, since his beliefs IMO differs from my own. I do however emulate certain reaction patterns both of his and of those he interacts with into the story and character on purpose.

In this specific case my character is loosely built on a fictious character from another novella, Yes stealing :D , but since the whole FC is build on interaction I try very hard to understand how the other characters are "supposed" to react. His belief systems emulates that stolen character springled with ohter borrowed reactions, both my own but definitely how I perceive he would have reacted even though it in many instances are situation I couldn't imagine being in.

I deliberately keep placing him in new situations, something that is quite often not realistic given the time span, simply to try out reactions. I personally think I have the ability to understand other peoples reactions (in RL), even if I don't agree or wouldn't have done it that way myself, I can still see their motivations and that's what I try to incorporate in my character.

So in short, No I don't place very much of myself (deliberately), Yes I place quite alot of my perception of my surroundings into my writing.

V

EDIT; just thought of something else. While I am a compulsive reader, I do not have the same broad "sounding board" in litterature and philosphy that some of the participants here seem to have. So in a way I'm using my perception of other people as my "sounding board". I have no graps of "styles and methods" (in lack of better words) so I just write :) edit yes, but still just write without thinking of a predefined goal :rolleyes: :)

V
 

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Originally posted by Storey
Does no one ever break this rule? I use the word rule loosely. It makes sense what your saying but is it the same or merely related to the phrase that you always hear when a writer will give advice on what you should write? "Write about what you know."

Joe

I think the two are very related. I, for one, think it is impossible to intelligently write about what one does not know. This does not mean one has to experience something to be able to write about it, nor does it mean that one cannot fashion a synthesis of things one knows about to create something new. What it does mean is that we cannot create a character, plot, or setting that has any attributes we know nothing about. We may borrow from several sources, use our life experience, or run a thought experiment in our head starting with a few premises, but it would be impossible to create a plot, character, or setting that is not made up of things known to us. Luckily, we live in a time where we have access to so much information, lending a great variety of possibilities to us in our writing.
 

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In short: I do not believe in a priori value systems.


Ahhh, thats why I love this forum. I think we have used the term a priori about 546,093 times during this discussion. And it has even been used correctly. It almost makes me nostalgic for my ol' epistemology course...

:D

The better defined the situation, the better I will write them.

I was wondering, Chris, have any of your characters ran away on you? That is, have they stopped behaving like you intended, and started taking on a life of their own in your writing?