Monday, December 28, 2009

Musings #2

Being a musing, this isn't quite breaking the hiatus.

If angels can fall, why can't they rise?

This, being the phrase that popped into my head that spurred this musing, is not actually that related to the post. Yeah, I know.

I have been thinking about stories we see. And we see stories where this ignorant person figures something out--that's a basic story, the protagonist changes for the better, or just changes. An especially common variant would be a coming-of-age story, which, given the above musing-starter, immediately makes me think Adam and Eve. They gain knowledge, and so they have to leave paradise and wear clothes and work for their food and place in the world.

And we sometimes have theses intricate stories about The Fall of X. Or The Rise of X. But unless X is a place or society, we don't see both. Or rather, we do, but the Fall is horribly oversimplified. Let's say John's an angel (don't look at me like that, Michael's an angel). John fell to the sin of lust. He will, naturally, fall in love to reclaim his virtue, and we will learn all about him and this new girl, let's call her Charlotte. Charlotte will be a well-rounded character, and so will John. We will sympathize with them, and maybe even come to think of John's banishment as unfair--it will probably at least cross Charlotte's mind, even if she's knows it's wrong while she's thinking it. But this girl he fell in lust with--even if they fell in love and spent her entire life together--this girl? Who's she? Do we even have a name for her? Oh. Hm. Says the author was considering calling her either Jessica or Diane, but decided it wasn't important.

(You can see why I told you up front the blog post was going to be pretty separate from the starting phrase.)

So it is easy to fall, and difficult to rise, as it is with all things. Makes sense, right? I mean, you see something, you want to sin, you sin, you're done. Right?


I hope not. If it's that easy, then anyone hoping to save any souls has an even harder job than it appears. If it's just see it, want it, sin it, then the soul will surely be lost tomorrow. If it is so easy, then it must be lost...

Of course, the point of the ordeal is that the person rises out of it stronger. It's supposed to be all about how John was weak enough to sin, and is now strong enough to resist. That may be the reason why the story of how he spent, oh, let's say twenty years with this other girl is left in the shadows--can you imagine making a story where the guy wants the girl for reasons of solely lust, they stay together for any amount of time, and you have to keep him sympathetic? There are things an audience will forgive, and things it won't...and there are a great many things they will forgive off-screen that they won't forgive if it happened on-screen. Imagine the Deathstar blowing up a planet where we have seen the people, the children, playing. Or there were some sympathetic characters, maybe even one that had a plan to stop Vader. It's suddenly a lot harder to stomach. How can you convince the audience he's changed if you've let him, in your story, do something unforgivable?

And so we get this vague idea of what John's done wrong, enough to know it was terrible, not enough to feel spiteful towards him (taking into account the character the author is showing us).

The other way around would actually be a pretty nice way to introduce a villain with a good reputation. Imagine: we know every detail of what John's done wrong, but his atonement is glossed over. So we know (to grab a few things out of my hat of mustache-twirling villainy) that John faked feelings for Diane--yes, she has a name now. We know that Diane was an innocent little thing he led down the wrong path that ended in her dying young, cold and alone, in a dark little alley, her throat cut by his blade, by his choice, by his coins, but not by his hands, because he wouldn't dirty them. And we know she deserved so much better. And his atonement? A little thing. He fell in love--but again, this is glossed over, so could be interpreted as lust--and got the girl of his dreams? That is his atonement? Oh, sure, he fought for her, but when compared to all those horrible things he did to Diane, how can we believe he deserves one ounce of the joy he feels with this nameless girl? Is she horrible enough to think that this is okay, or is she stupid and he's leading another innocent down this path?

So we gloss over parts of the history. Not because they're not important. Because they were very important. It was very important that they were overcome, and so it is very important that the audience acknowledges them. However, John is not that man anymore. You cannot blame him for sins anymore than you could blame a child. It's not that he was cruel, it's that he was lost, and there was no one there to lead him. He has found himself, and there have been years of atonement--or there haven't, but there have been years where he was not that person. A child is not given a pass because of age. A child is given a pass because the person you are moving against the next day is not there anymore. When John is reinventing himself, yes, he has to take responsibility for his past actions. But we do not show them because they are no longer defining character moments. If the author put something there in the story, there's a reason, so if there isn't a reason, it doesn't belong there.

This post started on one note and ended on another. It needs another phrase, and I think I have a good one:

"Keep in mind that people change, but the past doesn't."

-Patch in Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (pg. 305, hardcover)

Oh, the tropes for this are fun...
Politically Correct History (This wouldn't've happened this way, but if I show it as it would have, the audience will hate this guy!)
*The Women Are Safe With Us (The heroes' men don't rape, even if they're mercenaries in medieval times.)
Deliberate Values Dissonance (Remember my note about not showing stuff unless you want the audience to hook onto it? This is when the author doesn't do that--because, at the time, this behavior was normal.)
Good Flaws Bad Flaws ("One major exception to this trope is this: A character who has a "bad" flaw is allowed to be the hero if the experiences of their journey inspire them to cast off this flaw.")
*Good Smoking Evil Smoking


  1. I am enjoying reading your musings. As far as Hush, Hush sister knows the author. Did you enjoy it? The second book will be released in a few months. I'm trying to get a signed copy. Hope all is well with you.

  2. ^ So sorry I missed your comment for so long! Yes, I liked Hush, Hush a lot, and I'm doing great. Hope you are, too.


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