by Samuel J Alibrando
Just the other day I was talking to someone discussing how almost everyone has a lonely sense of being the only one who doesn’t get it somehow. Maybe this is why we love titles like “The Secret to Success” or “Ten Great Leaders Reveal Their Secrets” or “How to Succeed in ______”. Most of us feel like we are on the outside looking in but acting like we are already “in”.
For many of us, young years were spent on self indulgence of some kind. Or we may have spent enormous amounts of time on being accepted or whole-heartedly pursued some false assumption about happiness. By the time we decided we didn’t care what anyone else thought and were willing to abandon our self indulgences, we were shocked to discover “success” was still elusive.
I have heard the phrase “quiet desperation” a number of times and I think it applies. Because of the universality of this deep seated feeling of quiet desperation; overcoming an enemy – seen or unseen, is grasped with vigor by most people.
Even if I personally never “win” to my satisfaction, I take great pleasure in any character that I identify with – fictional or real, overcoming his or her enemy. It may be a victory for honesty, for love, for kindness, for Jesus, for truth, for the underdog, the classic good vs. evil or just my team.
Did you notice I relate to good, the underdog, the truth, Jesus, kindness, love and honesty? In the past decade I have seen so many movies where getting the money is “winning” and the audience loves it. Thieves and liars have been the good guys in many, many movies and stories. They just have to defeat less likeable and worse thieves and liars. This is a sad commentary on our times. We are a fickle people because if I see 2 or 3 movies where the hero is less than moral in the biblical sense. I will see another movie where the crowd cheers for someone who IS biblically moral, even though not necessarily religious. It occurs to me how incredibly naïve the population is about the inconsistency of their values. Even if I comment to my wife she may interrupt me and say “I don’t care what you say, it was a good movie”, and I agree.
OK, so we are all mostly living quietyly desperate lives. Fiction creates characters who consciously or unconsciously become models for us. Fiction has the power of something I have for years called “Synthetic Reality”. In Synthetic Reality we can make bad guys heroes and every woman dislike any man with faith in Jesus. We can make immorality pleasant and morality just for hypocrites. It’s scary how fiction can literally change a person’s perception and in life, perception is almost everything. The Bible will affect your perception too. Experiences change your perception. Your friends’ opinions about what is important can change your perception. Without anything really changing you can go from a happy to a sad person because you lack what you now perceive you need. Advertising creates “needs” and you really need to have this thing.
Let me now tie these ideas together.
No matter what you write, I am certain that the desperate human condition reflected through genuine and memorable characters will win readers far more than a plot lacking great characters. Your characters must make choices and reap consequences in the universe [synthetic reality] you create. Ideally, great characters and a great plot/story is what all fiction authors strive to achieve. Authors, you can also change the perception of reality for your readers, which if you ponder this, is an awesome fact. It is also ironic how we can literally change the perception of truth for readers … with fiction.
Truthfully for fiction that exposes the fictions in life,
PS. Hey Aaron, I DID buy that book from Half.com and it looks new “How to Grow a Novel” and look forward to reading it and marking it up.