Monday, May 06, 2013

Thought Patterns

One bad day is all it takes. Or so the Joker said via Alan Moore.
I don't think the same way a lot of people do. My pattern of thought takes me to conclusions that seem rather obvious to me but are often not the same as others. For instance I believe laws exist for a reason and if more people followed these rules the world would operate much more smoothly. (Like, say, people actually slowing down when the traffic signal goes yellow instead of gunning it half a block from the intersections and crossing in front of me when I have the green light. Just sayin'.) Of course the reality of that kind of idealism is rarely rewarded.

So yeah, I'm an idealist. Too bad for me. I tend to be disappointed. Quite a bit.

But I'm okay with that. This idealism translates pretty well into writing. I can set up a utopian world according to the rules I want, then break them as often as necessary and put my characters (and even the settings) through the grinder.

I can disillusion them in ways that the world tries to disillusion me, too. I can make them feel the things that the world would like me to feel because society thinks it works better when everyone is miserable. Being a writer means having godlike powers in this regard.

But that's boring.

If I really wanted to read about people being downtrodden and not overcoming the trials and tribulations of real life, I'd pick up Dr. Zhivago. No. I like optimism. Not a happy ending (well...) so much as the chance for a happy ending. Where the characters have been significantly changed from the beginning of the book and are maybe thinking differently than they were before. Not everything is happy, in the end, but there's likely a ray of sunshine somewhere if one only takes the trouble to look for it.

The obvious ending is boring, too. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, they're broken apart, then reunited, finally living happily ever after. Ugh. The thing is - and this is important - that's a fantasy. The ideal is that they may live ever after, but there are ups and downs. Yes, I understand that that's implied, but it's almost never explored. Too dull, too lifelike, too boring.

Nah, let's put 'em through some paces. I'd rather start my story after the happy ending. What happens next? Is there another down period? Do they separate because he sees ghosts and she thinks he's just making it up to spend time with someone else? Will she let him forget that he was an idiot when they were kept apart in the first place for believing someone else's lies? What are the chances of a plane crashing into the house they're getting ready to buy?

As long as the status quo is changed at the end of the story, I'll probably like it. However I think that the vast majority of readers don't like that. They want their characters to be the same in the second book as they were in the first. Think about this, did Harry Potter really change all that much? He grew up (as did all the other children) but did that really change him? You'd think after battling that evil SOB for seven years - seven years! - that he'd be a little more tentative, a little more mistrustful of the world.

But he didn't appear to be, did he? Nope. Married with children and living happily ever after.

I'm an idealist. So was he, apparently. I wonder, though, what came next? What could shake him from his normal life? What would it take to change him, I mean fundamentally down to the core of his being?

Ahhhhh....

I've got my own stories to write.