Writing: Fiction With A Point

The good Bishop Berkeley (for whom University of California at Berkeley was named) contended that, in a somewhat simplistic interpretation of his theory, what we know of the world we call physical reality is nothing more than what we construct in our brains.  In essence, the real physical world does not exist beyond our imaginations.  To that Samuel Johnson, while out walking with a companion, said, “I strike with all my might that big rock, that the good Bishop says is only a construction of my mind, with all my might with my foot.  I break my foot, thus refuting the good Bishop.”  I may not have the quote nr theory quite right, none of which matters.  What matters is the point.  We writers construct our own realities through our own senses and imaginations.  We construct worlds where our words and thoughts matter.  We decide what the rules are and how they are to be applied.  Even if I write: See Dick, see Jane, See Dick run, Run, Dick, run.  There is a point being made.  It is a rather very simplistic one at best, a point of view approach.  It is action oriented.  I may be issuing a request or an order.  It is certainly present tense, not concerned with the future.  Beyond that, it says nothing and it risks nothing.  Of course Dick, if he is a real by, may run the risk of tripping and scraping his knee, or running into the street and get run over by an eighteen wheeler.

So pick your genre.  A love story is one.  What moral standard do we talk about?  Maybe you character runs around hooking up, in today’s parlance, without thinking of the consequences.  It is immorality we should discuss?  Or perhaps the fct that when do not risk our emotions we risk very little having indiscriminate sex.  Perhaps we might want to show that hooking up is only slightly removed from masterbation.  Or that such activity only increases one’s sense of loneliness.  Of course we may wish to show the difference between aloneness and loneliness.  Sharing intimacy is a risk, we invite someone to judge us based on what we allow them to see and what they see for themselves, for we can’t really hide as much of ourselves as we believe we do.  Intimacy is a mutual invitation but it is rarely met with an equal openness.  So love relationships, basic friendships, involve both risk and conflict.  Emotions are tricky things that are difficult to control.  Loving is something we learn as an activity.  The writer amy even try to define love according to the dictates of his or her mind or beliefs.  That attempt of definition is making a point, a judgment, a statement of belief.  And dating is a dance we do in half darkness lest we show too much of ourselves at one time.  Dating is both selling ourselves and buying what the other is selling.  Dating is full of conflicts because judgments are required and thus rendered.

Hey, I’m writing a comedy, so why should I care about making a point?  Because there isn’t much difference between comedy and drama.  Both are about misunderstandings, are they not?  Dramas have their points of comic relief while comedies have their dramatic moments.  They are really two sides of the same coin.  Comedies have the same formula, so to speak, complete with their twists.  Both have the climax and the resolution.  Name a comedy that doesn’t.  But comedies aren’t about morals, are they?  Of course they are.  We love to make fun of those who are too full of pride, too sure of themselves.  Just as in drama is not about the biggest and meanest brute winning over the punny little people, comedy is about those same punny little people getting to best of the biggest and meanest brutes and living to tell the tale.  And if our wisecracking hero wins, he also emerges with a bit of egg on his face as well, showing that it was all in good fun and no hard feelings.

Dramas make the moral point the hard way.  Consequences to risks made mean loss of some kind.  It may be financial ruin or physical injury,  It may even be loss of life, whether the individual or a loved one or friend.  Perhaps we do not always understand that loss until much later.  A father who drives his son to be a man after the father’s image, and yet, as hard as the son tries he can’t live up to that standard.  The son sees his father’s love attached to that goal and perhaps hates his father for making such love come at an impossible price.  The father, seeing his son constantly fail become disgusted with his son and pushes him farther away.  Then an incident causes the father to take his own life when he sees that he is a failure.  The son is not set free but will forever wander in search of that love he will never get from his dead father.  This estrangement is a very common there and yet there are enough variations to write about it again and again.  Why is That?  Because as men and sometimes as women, we don’t always measure up to the standards imposed by our fathers or mothers.  It’s not that they don’t love us, it is that they have confused love with a yard stick.  Our job as writers is to explain that point, if possible.

Well, what about action or adventure or even Si Fi?   It’s all the same thing.  You need a reason and a map and a compass to set off into that wild blue yonder.  You also need to carry your book of rules with you, for it’s the one thing that will keep you sane in a strange land.  The moral is that what you seek is not always what you find or want. If you and your friends are searching for that lost gold mine, what good does it do to find it and the gold only to lose all your friends trying to recover that gold?  Did they sacrifice themselves or did you sacrifice them?  And not everyone lives, do they.  If you write they all are safe then there was little ventured, little risked, and nothing gained.  Your reader will ask you what was your point.  In the novel A Walk In The Sun by Harry Brown, a rifle company’s unofficial slogan is “Nobody dies.”  Yet quite a few do die.  The first one is the company Lieutenant, whom the author takes great pains to develop in the short space of ten pages.  But he dies first.  Then comes the second death of someone we have learn of a significant history and yet his death is almost senseless, pointless, as indeed most deaths in war appear to be.  A couple of men get a passing mention either before and immediately after their deaths.  Still, we hear it said again and again, “Nobody dies.”  Perhaps men in combat and facing an impersonal death need some small ray of hope to believe.  And if so, then why not the fiction, “Nobody dies.”  We make points when we discuss the world, life and death, health and happiness, and all and everything between.  That is what a good writer does, the bad writer simply ignores life and living.


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