Daily Writing Challenge: What Can You Get Away With in Your Novel?

I often wonder how many of my fellow writers have gone through times of self-doubt.

I’m not referring to the kind of doubt you get about being good enough, about your craft being up to the challenge, but rather doubts about what you can… and cannot write about.

When I started writing, I was conceited enough to think it might be a bad thing to write a “perfect crime” on the off-chance someone might read it, and give the scheme a try.  I outgrew that notion when I realized how truly difficult it would be, and how impossible it would be to test a “perfect crime”.

Later I faced a certain trepidation about political correctness.  I reasoned that as a product of my culture and my time I had a responsibility to adhere to the mores and standard of my current society.  In other words, to stay away from saying things that would offend the reader.  What a pain!

How in the world could I make believable characters in a believable world, if they all sounded like me?  Get the drift? 

Of course the answer is you can’t.  If your characters can only sound like you, can only use your voice, your views, your habits…  how in the world—except for attribution tabs—could your reader tell one character from another?  Clearly they could not… or at least not without more work than a reader should have to do.

So, for me, at least, it came down to this: not all of my characters agree with the current standards of speech, behavior, religious or political thought, or… or just about anything.  They are, each of them, self-made (or at least as self-made as anyone can be), they each have their own foibles, belief systems, prejudices and notions.  They each understand—or misunderstand—their world, their country, their government, their homes, relationships, and themselves in their own way. 

Bottom line: that is what makes a character live.

We cannot be shy about letting our characters speak their minds.  A walk through a school yard, down a busy city street, through a mall, or anywhere public will inform you immediately that people speak their minds, and do so loudly, and often.   …and, lo and behold, some of what they say offends.  Even us.

Today’s challenge—you knew we’d get around to it, didn’t you?—is to experiment with the thoughts and speech of characters who do not think the way YOU do.  Do two, each a paragraph in length.  Stretch yourself.  Embarrass yourself if necessary, but get out of your own head for a bit, and into someone you have created to be different.

Your thoughts?

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8 responses to “Daily Writing Challenge: What Can You Get Away With in Your Novel?

  1. Not going to do the exercise. There is a contrasting possibility. One character ‘tests’ a variety of beliefs and philosophies, within a never ended process, to find the best in each, without judging same. Such a character does not appear to have an opinion or life philosophy of his/her own, but what may not be so apparent, is that this does not necessarily men that he/she embraces any of the competing philosophies wholeheartedly. He/she believes that the dichotomies within the world, as contrasted with the ‘self’ have not yet found a solution. (Not even the prescriptions as to what constitutes happiness, or virtue, specifically that one or the other is the key which will allow life to be lived.
    The other character is quite adamant about what is needed to secure not only his/her ‘salvation’, but as well evangelizes his/her point of view, never admitting defeat or allowing controversy with respect to his/her chosen philosophy.
    Is this possibly, the dichotomy that could be operable with respect to what is and is not held to be politically ‘correct’, in any day and age, and within any, segment, or within all segments of a particularly society and/or culture. Was not for instance the Catholic Church held at one time to be ‘politically correct’. Does not New Age, even, vie for this acknowledgement very often at this time.
    So I suggest that this could be developed if taken as the theme to a story, to produce a poem, a narrative, or even a science fiction.

  2. Thanks for your comments, Loreen.

    Agreed that each generation has its own truth. It is also true that we can smugly look back at an earlier generation’s truth, safe and secure that we moderns have it right.

    The possibilty of this challenge was to push out of our own comfort level and try on other characteriztions like a new coat.

    • It’s good to try on other ideas, like new coats too. After all, how do you ever know what is ‘good’, ‘right’, ‘true’, unless you ‘test’ it against other possibilities. Thus the contrast in the above thematic. I believe it was an elaboration of your possibility of challenge. That is, staying open to possibility, and now wearing that coat day after day until it’s ‘a rag’. (Pun on rag intended). grin grin.

      • P.S. I also believe I benefited to some degree in being constantly given the ‘character’ parts when I was an actress. But there came a time when I found the need to embark on that quest for an essential and integrated personality. However, I like to have a lot on the agenda to ‘integrate’…..

  3. This sounds like fun to try, I’m working on a few sections of dialogue between a few characters that I don’t quite have a handle on yet. Until I do get a handle on them figuring out their manners of speech is downright impossible!

  4. “Where the fuck is the manager? I want to speak with the manager!”

    “Sir, calm down, we’re working on . . . ”

    “God damn it, I am not going to calm down. I ordered a cheeseburger 20 minutes ago.”

    “We’re working on it right . . . ”

    “The hell you are. Where the fuck is it then?”

    “It’s coming right out, sir.”

    “Fuck you! That’s what you said 10 minutes ago.”

    “Sir, if you just calm dow . . . ”

    “Why don’t you get off your asses back there? Try putting the FAST back into FAST FOOD!”

    “Here you are, sir ~ a Juicy Double Fried Burger and Triple Size Fatty Fries.”

    “What the fuck? That’s not what I ordered. You guys are such morons! You have the collective intelligence of a jelly donut.”

    “Sir, I’m checking your order, and it says here . . . ”

    “I don’t give a fuck what it says. Fuck you, moron. I’m out of here.”

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