I have always been aware of how a simple gift can lift a spirit, how a kind remark or compliment can make a day, or even be remembered for years by the recipient. I also know that a mean action or gesture or comment can wound a person for life.
I have analyzed these most of my life. My parents were aware and showed small, meaningful kindnesses to many people. They were kinder and more patient with each other’s family members than they were to each other, (and often to me). I was taught that a good gesture was worth more than anything in the world to most people, and that you should not hurt anyone’s feelings on purpose…(unless it was a close family member, but again, I digress).
I have been pensive of late, remembering small kindnesses that have come my way through the years. Some were no more than a simple phrase, but I took them to heart and they had a bigger effect than the speaker could ever have known…or did they?
I know that cut-to-the-quick remarks by some were meant to hurt me and they did, oh, boy, did they. If I had only seen the reasons when I was younger! But I let them fall away as much as I can now.
All of this is leading to is: Do most writers see this?
In most of what I have tried to read lately, (and note that I said TRIED to read), the writers have used sledgehammers to drive home a point, or repeated themselves until I could scream. “Does he?/ doesn’t he?” a character thinks all through the book. People are more complex. “Does he this, or does he maybe that. Or, gee, maybe I had it wrong and he the other?”, is really more like it and how we analyze, right? Sometime people get a wrong idea/misconception and those stick, but don’t following words and actions change our thoughts?
In good writing, it does.
In many novels, people are one-dimensional:
1).The all-good, always cheerful, or GASP! There must be something wrong! Let the protagonist straight-out ask them and accept their “I’m fine” answer,(even if he/she has doubt, let THAT be repeated interminably through the next 10-20 chapters.
2) The always cantankerous, which will remain so until the end, where they will make a 180 degree turn around, unless it is a series of books, where it will take at least the first 3 to get them to show what softies they are inside and how really kind they are; people don’t work that way.
3) The continually unscrupulous, who won’t do anything nice, who never have a genuine smile (“ the smile never reaches their eyes”), whose seemingly uncharacteristic good-gestures are always masking ulterior motives.
4) The kindly, older, all-wise eccentric who knows everything, has all the answers and is never-failing in perfect tea and advice, or has the tool you need and will fix it all for you, both mechanical and moral.
There are few truly evil people in this world, (although I have met a few that came close). Everyone is a product of their environment and the consequences of their own acts or by those of others with influence over their lives. Even so, it is a person’s choice as to whether the unkindnesses shown to them will inflict the same to others as ‘payment’, or that they will realize how much they suffered and want to help others avoid the pain. The same with the privileged; do they think that they deserve all that they have been handed in life, (be it material goods, power, health, unconditional love), and lord it over others, feeling superior, or do they realize how fortunate they are and use what they have to help others and/or just to be cognizant of the fact that they are fortunate and not hold those fewer less of their gifts in contempt?
In real life, most of those described above are a mix. Few are all-giving, (they wouldn’t have much to give if they gave it all, even if it is a gift of health), nor are most of those who feel entitled always without kindness and compassion. Kind people can be unthinking and have lapses in charity; many wounded souls unexpectedly show sympathy and generosity; many who generally understand can lash out.
Do we see that in many books? Again, not unless it’s the end and the ‘bad guy’ makes a miraculous conversion and suddenly, where there was a notorious skin-flint, you have another St. Francis. No, we do not often see anything like it.
My mother used to rearrange a quote from one of her favorite authors, (she usually misquoted people, misheard lyrics, etc.) But she would say: “If you live with someone, you will neither idolize or despise them”, meaning that even a great person has their flaws as a human, and even the worst person will be shown to be human, (in the good way).
Most novels have people as one or the other, or sometimes, within a series or story, both. First bad, who turns good, first good, (or seemingly so), who ends up very bad.
I suppose what I am saying is that I wish more writers made their characters more like real people.
Have you seen what I am talking about? Does it seem more prevalent these days, or is it that there are more books being published? Is it, perhaps, that ‘classic’ novels became classics because of better-written, more rounded characters?
I’d love to hear your opinions.