Saturday, August 25, 2012

All characters have agendas

“The real hell of life is everyone has his reasons.”
― Jean Renoir


Anonymous said...

Humans are wired so that, when they make a decision, they feel justified - and interpret all future evidence as further proof that they have made the right decision.

Hitler felt justified. Stalin felt justified. My good and bad characters feel justified - or we wouldn't have antagonists or villains for our stories.

When two women want the same man, each feels justified in thinking that she is the perfect one for him - and there we go, telling a story. The author then 'proves' to the reader that one choice or the other is better - and the reader chooses to believe the proof or not.

I prefer that the author take a stand one way or the other. Ambiguous endings give me no one to argue with. Part of life is that all people have agendas. Fiction helps us decide whose agenda is better, if the authors show, by what happens to the characters, what the consequences of holding that agenda are. Vicariously. So we don't always have to learn the hard way.

I think it also helps the author sort it out - but we have more choices than readers, and can fudge our data. It is one of the reasons to write.

Alicia said...

ABE, that is so true. We "retcon" everything to make meaning of what might have been random. I've always thought that was the point of Frost's poem about the Road Not Taken, that in the future, we look back and invent reasons for our actions. GOOD reasons.

I am with you on the 'taking a stand." I do notice that "open" endings though (like in Gone with the Wind) seem to excite that sort of cult appreciation that keeps a book selling. What's another good example? The question of "which child is this?" seems to be answered in the end of the Lymond Chronicles, but Dunnett fans might disagree and say no, it's still an open question.

I don't know... but I think I as an author would want to KNOW even if I didn't choose to resolve it for the reader. I think I need resolution.

Good points!