Thursday, February 11, 2016

Arrows and 12 Year Old Girls

Today's lesson is . . . you kill each other off.
The following names have been changed from the following to protect the . . . ummm . . . innocent?  Yeah, let’s go with that.

The post was from a: "Jane Doe". -- come on now a (12-yr. old girl) with an arrow in her lung --- and asking; "How long she has to live in order to speak?" There is no amount of potential hopeful proceeds from any sane literature that could justify that train of thought.

Suzanne Collins, Stephen King, Veronica Roth, Patrick Rothfuss, and George R.R. Martin (of course) would beg to disagree, and they would only be a few of the major writers who have beaten, wounded, maimed or killed children (and animals) for the sake of telling a strong and compelling story.  Audiences don’t like to be reminded that children die, and yet, but Richard Paul Evans wouldn’t have a career and the collective tears wouldn’t stream down our faces.

This comes in the wake of the “Nick Cole banning” incident where Cole has claimed his publisher gave him the heave-ho after his opening chapter somehow offended their editor.  I haven’t been able to dig up much of an opposing viewpoint, but the incident certainly strikes a chord in the same way as the commentator above was equally struck.

Warning—Invisible, Onion-cutting Ninjas ahead.
Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, “Suffering is justified as soon as it becomes the raw material of beauty.”  Story telling doesn’t have to be based on suffering, either real or imagined.  Most children’s books have very little in the way of conflict.  Venture into more mature fare, even middle grade and young adult, and you’ll be hard-pressed to name a major or good piece of writing in which at least one of the major characters doesn’t suffer hardship, pain or loss of one form or another.  Not impossible, mind you—there’s sure to be a few out there—but those would be the exceptions which prove the rule.  Dramatic conflict is what storytelling is all about, and characters only grow through experience the legitimately effects their lives.  You don’t even have to venture far out of the hack-and-slash or scifi-explosion genres—The Fault in our Stars is told through the point of view of a sixteen year old girl suffering through cancer.

Telling a good story doesn’t mean the writer has to kick puppies on the way to the keyboard.  But the “author as bastard” is a long-standing tradition that can be traced back at least as far as the ancient Greek tragedies.  It’s a reflection of life, in a world from which none of us gets out alive, and sadly some of us leave far too soon.  Reflecting that reality might be a grab for “potential hopeful proceeds” but it might just be writing what we know—life is hard and unfair on the best of days.  On the worst, it's downright cruel.

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