08 August 2006

Musings on Fiction

Writers are mean. *pout*

I just finished reading OSC's Rachel and Leah. The strangeness of the Rachel/Leah/Jacob story always irked me in the Bible, and I'll admit I had my doubts that even the amazing OSC could pull it off convincingly. To my delight, the book is full of very believeable characters: the women are very distinct and yet each holds character traits that I see in myself. He strings a delicate path of influence between these women as they grow and change, and not in simple ways either. And I absolutely adore Leah's character, which is why the ending hit me so harshly. There was one brief moment of ecstacy, where I thought he had figured out a way to end the story happily, before it came horribly crashing down around me.

Well, at least he's not a "ruthless killer" like some authors I know. *coughJKRowlingcough* (Great interview, by the way. I always forget how hillarious that woman is.)

Ah, the power of stories never ceases to amaze me. It's the only thing that keeps me clinging on to the idea of becoming a fiction writer, though my grasp of characters and settings will probably never be good enough to suit the task. My characters are the sorts of cardboard cut-outs that horrify me in other's work--dare I say the women of Austen? No, too many of you love her. But I can't help the comparison in a novel as full of women as Rachel and Leah. Each of the women in Pride and Prejudice represents one, maybe two, important concepts and that's all. Their characters are almost perfectly resolved at the end of the plot. The characters who are bad you get to simply hate.

I'm constantly in awe of Card's ability to recreate believeable characters, who in addition to seeming real are recognizeable in the people around me. (With a little tweaking, I can see my sister and myself in Rachel and Leah. No, I won't tell you who's who, though I suppose it shouldn't be hard to guess. Especially if you know my sister.) As in Austen's work, the characters fulfill the purpose of the narrative, but they also take on a life of their own because you understand why they are doing what they are doing. Zilpah, who could have ended up becoming a Lydia-like character instead becomes sympathetic as I recognize her motives as some I have felt in my own heart (though clearly never taken to her extreme). Same goes for Bilhah, even though she goes from good to worse. And even the seemingly evil characters are not left completely hateable. In this way, Card's fiction is truly moral because he forces us to look at every character as someone sympathetic, worthwhile, redeemable, not a mere villian or silly girl.

As for settings, I never did have the patience to describe anything properly. I've got a short story in my head in which the setting is absolutely crucial, but doing it without creating the same drawn out descriptions which I hate in writers like Dickens and Tolkien is another matter. I can't stand reading pages of descriptions--you lose the reason why the setting was so important in the first place--and yet my reader would need to have an extremely good feel for the place. There must be a better way. Again, OSC could be a model for me in this, since his descriptions never bother me. (Does he have many? Maybe I should try to study them.)

But the heartless part of being a writer, I'm sure I could be great at that. Killing off characters is a piece of cake. :D

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