Friday, March 26, 2010

GUEST POST: The Natural Order

Amalia Dillin is the proprietress of the blog Good To Begin Well, Better To End Well; and is an avid student of mythology. She is hard at work on several stories -- shorts and novels -- several based around Norse, Christian, or Irish myth.

Miriam-Webster defines heresy as "dissent or deviation from a dominant theory, opinion, or practice" or "an opinion, doctrine, or practice contrary to the truth or to generally accepted beliefs or standards"

Storytelling, to be sure, often requires a little bit of heresy to spice things up. Our characters usually have to go against the grain of an established order once in their lives, and that's what makes them heroes-- this strength to stand up for something they believe in, no matter what the consequences, no matter how heretical they might appear to the masses. Villains are often heretics too, from the extreme and simple example of devil worship, to simply setting self-interest and self-service ahead of the common good, and how could we forget the drive for power that sends a villain on the quest for world domination, heedless of all those who are crushed beneath his heel along the way!

You see, storytelling is a way to see the world, and a way to test the boundaries and the rules of the world. A good book challenges the established order, challenges the personal beliefs of its entire readership. The word controversy is maybe a bit more P.C. than calling it heresy, but it's usually something of the same coin. And there's nothing wrong with that. We are, as authors and writers, all heretics.

Maybe the comparison is most easily seen in writers of fantasy or science fiction, with the outlandish and impossible set out openly for everyone to wonder at, but this is only the most superficial of heresies. Fantasy writers dare to suggest that other worlds might exist outside our own perception, outside of what science can define at this time. But so do the writers in every other genre. Writers of historical fiction pry open the lives of the dead and find the conflict in their lives, raising up the struggles of those characters (often against the natural order of their times) from the ashes and birthing heroes we didn't necessarily expect or realize existed. Literary fiction writers send their main characters into the world hoping to challenge the essential nature of writing, language, and form. Romance writers use form to challenge ideas of love, relationships, and faith. And every book in every genre that has ever suggested that the world might find a better way of solving its problems than the established order, or touched upon the social issues which we find ourselves mired within, has challenged those content with dominant practice to consider something ELSE.

As writers, as ARTISTS, it's our job to question, to deviate, to be contrary. Don't be afraid to re-imagine stereotypes or well known archetypes into fully developed people who go against everything we expect they should be, and absolutely buck THE MAN in your books, whoever or whatever it may be. Don't be afraid to be a heretic! Embrace it, and keep writing.

What's the heresy in your current WIP? Is your hero a heretic? Say it loud and proud in the comments!


Joshua McCune said...

Great post - MCs definitely need to be heretics, IMO. My current MC is still figuring out her heresy, but she'll most definitely get there :).

Stephanie Thornton said...

Oh my gosh- I love this post!

I totally felt like a heretic writing the end of Hatshepsut. I lean toward tragedy and while I'm sure there was tragedy in Hat's life, I'm also pretty positive it didn't happen in the way I told it. However, I followed what we have in the historical record while making the novel accessible to modern readers.

Being a heretic is kind of cool! Well, in these days. A few hundred years ago, no so cool.

L. T. Host said...

Great post Amalia!

My MC is definitely a heretic-- in a lot more ways that I originally thought, haha. You've given me a lot to think about!

Amalia Dillin said...

Bane: I absolutely agree!

Stephanie: I loved the end of Hat! I was thinking of you when I talked about historical fiction :) And I think SOMEONE has to be heretical, so it may as well be us, since it usually makes for better reading!

L.T.: I'm glad to hear it! I'm glad this post went over so well with you guys! It definitely wasn't what I had intended to write when I started.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

What a great post! Thank you for writing this today. I think it's true that many characters are heretics. I know mine is in my last novel. He goes against lots and lots of regularly accepted things.

Jemi Fraser said...

My MCs definitely have heretical moments and attitudes - gotta fix the system :)

Libbie H. said...

Awesome post, Amalia! I agree with all the points you made. Very well put.

VR Barkowski said...

Brilliant post, Amalia. Love it! Oh yes, my characters are heretics. From the Catholic graduate student who finds solace in the tarot, to the college professor who practices Enochian magic along with the scientific method, to the disillusioned cop who believes truth doesn't always equal justice. They're all heretics.

And I am probably the biggest heretic of all because the story's denouement flies in the face of all accepted standards. Am I proud? Yes!

Amalia Dillin said...

Lady Glamis: The heretics make for the best read-- especially when they're going up against something the reader struggles against too!

Jemi: My MC's know exactly how your MC's feel :)

Libbie: Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

VR: Every time you talk about your book I am dying to read it! Your characters sound awesome!

Anonymous said...

denouement flies in the face of all accepted standards. Am I proud? Yes!