When you are writing, it can be hard to look beyond your sympathies with your main character. Every book represents the experiences and views of more than one person: and all will think and feel differently. For best effect, the differences in mindset will be profound! This is a skill I was frustrated with in fiction writing. I couldn’t be in two heads at once.
If you find yourself in the same position, you can find helpful inspiration via the friendly folks over at Death Star PR. They are an excellent example of how you can stomp around in the bad guy’s black boots, discovering a world you were morally trained to ignore. When I discovered their blog, I was startled at how effectively they spun the Empire’s side of Star Wars. I was used to looking at things solely from the Rebel Alliance’s point of view. They were the stereotypical good guys. I never thought about any other interpretation to events. I was led by the plot not to. Death Star PR mischievously spin doctors the Star Wars saga from the dark side. Their humour breaks down your resistance and you start to think differently about the storyline. http://deathstarpr.blogspot.com.au/
For example, Han and Leia are the archetypal, requisite love story. Han Solo was a hero to the Rebellion. While admittedly, a little rough, he just had to be Mr Wonderful underneath. To Death Star PR, speaking for her dad, Darth Vader, he quite correctly, was a smuggler, a cheat… and I agree now, he obviously had no sense of romance. Who answers “I love you,” with “I know?” It’s not the line most girls want to hear when these may be your loved one’s last words. From Vader’s point of view, turning him into a carbonite coffee table was “great parenting.” Who better to step in and get Princess Leia away from the bad boyfriend, but dad? Didn’t the plot show that Vader did have a soft side? Even Luke, saved from the Emperor by his father, forgave the misguided, heart-broken Anakin and cremated his long-lost father with dignity. Anakin lost his mother at an early age to his training; then lost her to violence; was publicly denied true love; was constantly criticised by his mentor: not an easy life… no wonder he cracked. With those early insecurities and the burden of his sensitivity to the force alerting him to other’s pain, he reached for power and control to stop all pain. Did I hear you reach for the tissues then? Isn’t he understandable now?
The writer’s mind trick of getting into different character’s heads, comes from their ability to pull themselves into the opposing mindset. You may find it helpful to sketch out a history of the person you wish to tap into. Build their boots, then step into them to imagine what it is like to be in their heart and mind. Look at their upbringing, positive and negative previous experiences and how the current events in their lives have affected them. Consider also, how their skills may drive how they communicate. For example, mathematically or scientifically minded people may be solution orientated, or black and white in how they think. They may not wish to listen to the character’s emotions and tiny details; they may just want to fix the obvious problem. The answer, to them, may be simple. Just do this! That can create tension as the character doesn’t have a shoulder to cry on. Anyone wanting sympathy or affection will be left with those needs unmet.
You can argue anything, from any point of view, if you can look at the scene from a different bias. For an example of rationalisation in action, have a look at the Empire’s explanation on why it’s OK to blow up Alderaan. “For years, the Rebel Alliance have been waging guerrilla warfare against the Galactic Empire, constantly disrupting our valiant attempts to bring peace, order and security to the galaxy (even if we have to very occasionally use extreme violence, oppression and fear to do it). Although the Rebel insurgents haven’t claimed responsibility for the attack, and indeed have quite vehemently and consistently stated that the Empire is to blame, the reality is that there would be no wars of the star variety or otherwise if the Alliance simply gave up… Said Eeval Tehryryst: “We’re fighting to free the entire galaxy from a ruthlessly oppressive totalitarian dictatorship led by two evil wizards.”
If it sounds a lot like political rhetoric to you, you’re right. Remember, politics isn’t just for government, it begins with everyday individuals trying to gain the better part of any deal in life. We all do it. We all look out for ourselves and aim to avoid pain and suffering. Regardless of who is right or wrong, gaining what we want is fought out on all levels of relationships. Who is right, just depends on who is doing the talking at the time.
If you like Star Wars, here is another take on the Han – Leia relationship. This is a 1950′s set view of their romance. It doesn’t look very healthy from this point of view… They should divorce before they marry!
This article / blog post is Copyright Cate Russell-Cole 2012. All rights are reserved Internationally. You may not reproduce it in any form, in part of whole, without Cate’s prior written permission. That includes usage in forms such as print, audio and digital imaging including pdf, jpg, png etc. A fee may be requested for re-using her work if it is for a commercial venture. Link sharing and Pinterest pins are most welcome as long as Cate is the attributed Author.
No images on this blog may be copied, captured, or altered for your own purpose without the consent of the originating owner. Where images are marked as being iStockphoto.com images, they are paid for and licenced to Cate for use on this blog. If you take them, iStockphoto.com has the right to take legal action against you for Copyright Infringement.
Please see the Blog Content and Image Copyright page of this blog for further information in regards to Guest Posts, other images, Cate’s checks on infringements and Liability.