It’s funny how in life there are so many shades of grey (and I’m not talking about the saucy book). Everyone has their own justifiable motivations for their actions, not matter how crazy, noble or misguided they may be, and that is pretty much accepted.
In stories it is quite different. We always get shown the motivations for our main protagonist which, depending on how much we buy into them, can be the difference between liking and not liking the character. But rarely do we get a true insight into the motivations of the antagonists of the story, or if we do get their reasoning, it is often skewed or intentionally shown to be flawed in comparison to our hero (even the anti-heroes).
So what got me thinking about this whole perspective thing; Slater bugs. My ranunculus (thanks for the name Elizabeth) are in the process of being eaten. On closer inspection I found them to be covered with slaters who almost turned to me and smiled, drunk on the life juices of my lovely flowers, before turning back to gorge themselves of magenta and red petals. It seems so clear; they are the enemy and we have chemicals to get rid of them.
Only problem is, I owe a debt to slaters.
In year 12 we used to have to do a Biology extension which made up something like 15% of our overall grade. We had all semester to do it, so naturally I left it to the weekend before it was due to get started. I had no idea what to do, so I went outside and saw what I had to work with. All I could find was slaters. Lots of slaters.
I collected them together and put some in boxes with lights, some in boxes with wet leaves, some in boxes propped up next to the heater. I gave them an hour each and then plotted on a grid where all of them were.
It shouldn’t be a surprise, slaters don’t like light, they do like leaves, and they don’t like heat. I knew that before I started, but all good scientific experiments start with a hypothesis to be proven so I had one, and proved it. I got an A for that assignment. Without slaters I might not have even had anything to hand in. So the way I see it, I can sacrifice my three pretty ranunculus as a kind of ‘thank you’.
But even this tale has not given you the entire story. You know how things are from my perspective, and from the slaters’ perspective, but has anyone stopped to think about how this story appears from the perspective of the ranunculus?
One of the most important things to keep in mind when writing fiction is to keep it real. Regardless of if you are out jetting around in space, living in a fantasy world where magic is commonplace or falling in love in a world where vampires can walk around in the daylight, there will always be some boundaries which it is important not to cross.
I’ve just finished reading a book that regularly appears on the 100 * best ever * of all time novel lists, and while it was really good, it played the bad-luck card a little too often at the end for my liking, making the story seem unreal.
When you are reading a work of fiction you are generally not conscious of the fact that the story is made up, it is only when things go unerringly well, or frustratingly badly, that you can get pulled out of the flow and wonder why the author has chosen to make the story go this way. That is something you never want your reader to stop and think about.
There is a place for the everything-that-can-go-wrong-does-go-wrong story, but for me that place is in comedy, or where there is a conspiracy that the main protagonist is unaware of (which can explain the run of ill fortune). Anything else reads like it is made up.
You also have to wonder at the purpose of all the bad luck. When all the ends of the story are nearly tied up, and then out of the blue some bad turn of events takes us on another brief ride for thirty pages only to bring us back to where we were before, you have wonder if it really is contributing to the story? Or maybe the author just had a word limit they wanted to hit and this misadventure helped them to get there?!
Yes, another glorious spring weekend, another full green bin and another couple of days where the garden won out over the computer.
But just in case you thought I was only concerned about getting my zucchini, pumpkin, silverbeet and tomatoes in on time, I thought I’d prove that there is more to my garden than edibles.
Flowers that start with 'r' - I was never very good at botany
Hopefully I’ll be able to show you some vegetables next month. Gotta love spring!
Every day we lie. Lies are an important part of the social glue which holds us together, yet the word LIE has such negative connotations, and we all vehemently deny that we do it.
If you ate baked beans the night before, leaving you bloated and gassy, and someone were to casually ask you ‘how are you’, the prudent response would be to say ‘fine thanks, and you’ –not tell the truth. In short you would lie.
But there are other lies, the ones which are to save face, to cover your tracks, to hide a dark secret or to cause harm to others. These are the ones which are so often the subject of novels, movies and other art forms.
Which gets us to the best lies of all; fiction. Nearly all fiction is essentially lies, none of it happened, at least not in the way shown, and none of the people are real, or not entirely real in the way they are portrayed in the story.
And the best way to make the fictional lies seem real is to inject some truth into the story, you add that habit your workmate has of scratching their nose when they are stressed, or bring in the man who falls asleep on you on the bus to fall asleep on your character, then they get to do all the things you wished you would.
Oddly enough, the best way to make a lie seem like the truth is also to give it a bit of truth, the more truth you add, the more likely people are to believe the lie.
Which makes you wonder, are people who write fiction also excellent liars?