Worldbuilding our real world

I followed a link courtesy of author friend Teri Brown to a thoughtful piece by Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station about the, er, interesting times we find ourselves living in at the moment. It’s about dogma, fanatics, and fear. It’s a clear and rather terrifying glimpse into a mindset I sometimes have trouble understanding, so if you’re like me and frequently find yourself thinking, “WTF, humans?” you might go check it out.

(I know the post risks a tl;dr dismissal, but it’s worth reading, and a lot of the comments too.)

As a writer, I know well that THE hardest thing I can make a character do is face his or her cherished, long-held, clutched-to-the-chest-like-Grandma’s-pearls worldview. To question characters’ worldviews (their identity, as author and story consultant Michael Hauge calls it) challenges the very heart and soul of who they have been and offers only an uncertain glimpse into the future of who they might become.

Those characters who can’t accept the challenge have three options:

  1. Be left behind.
  2. Die.
  3. Become villains.

Sucks to be them. No wonder they are so afraid.

Those characters who are willing to face the challenge should be even more afraid. Because they will be hurt. They will find themselves on the run, usually stumbling, probably barefoot, most likely over rocks. Rocks with nails sticking out. Nails coated in salt and lime juice. They will lose whatever they cherish most, including Grandma’s pearls.

Whatever they fear most will inevitably loom up before them.¬†How do I know this? Because it’s in the Author’s Handbook of Torturing Characters, of course.

But in the end, the characters willing to challenge — and change — the flaws and weaknesses in their own beliefs become heroes.

As readers, we demand such fortitude from our fictional characters. I wish we could expect the same from our real-life leaders.