Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Next Aristotle

Hi guys! I meant to post this and start off your weekend with a post that's not me flailing and just having crazy feelings, but Special Needs Prom, an event that my Key Club hosts for special needs kids around our area every year, swallowed up most of my time.

Anyway, my topic for this post is, as you might have guessed, philosophy.

And no, I'm not going to talk about whether I like Aristotle or Socrates better. That's what Philosophy courses are for and for you to decide. That's why it's philosophy, there's no right answer.

I mean the philosophy of characters, and those ever-coveted, quotable lines that characters seem to randomly spout that the book's fans will quote until the movie adaptation comes out. These tend to be the most memorable lines from a character or long bits of dialogue during one character's drawn-out monologue to make a point. You can find them all over tumblr, reddit, and even Facebook nowadays.

A few examples:

"Not all those who wander are lost." ~J.R.R. Tolkien in the Lord of the Rings series.

"My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations." ~Aristotle, NOT Augustus Waters from John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, said this.

"You cannot change your journey if you are unwilling to move at all." ~From the book Reached, part of the Matched trilogy by Ally Condie.

(You also have what are more like 'trademark sayings' by characters, such as Severus Snape's famous "Always", but we'll get to those another time.)

These kinds of ideas are wonderful to put in books, because they give books substance. Anyone can write a book about wizards and witches battling an evil master wizard trying to take over the world. It's been done and done again.

What makes Harry Potter different? J.K. Rowling's philosophy. She very casually slips in deeper meanings in the book, generally from Dumbledore or one of the other adults, while they're still alive. They're comments given when they're comforting Harry, or explaining why he's the Chosen One. You read them and then sit back and think, "Oh."

J.K. Rowling is a great example of good philosophy writing. However, there are many, many more authors who aren't so graceful. In fact, it's getting to be more of a problem in YA fiction, because it seems like the authors are trying too hard. Not everyone in a story is going to be wise and able to say these things.

For the sake of my argument, we'll take some characters from The Artist as an example.

As much as I love my characters, and believe me, I do, many of them aren't really qualified to be saying such deep things. A character with experiences, generally older or at the very least someone tried and tested, is a good character for this kind of writing. Therefore, someone young and inexperienced, like Razzo or Eoin's sister, Eire, are probably not good candidates.

We'll take Rowe, Collins' oldest brother, for example. He is twenty-four years old and a miner. In a normal case, he'd be considered rather young. However, he and his siblings were orphaned when he was eleven, when he was forced to become the head of house and try to provide for all his younger siblings, all of whom are ten or younger. He's been forced to do things he isn't proud of, face imprisonment and beg for food to provide for his siblings. He has had an extremely difficult run at life, and so him saying something to Collins would make sense.

However, Razzo is different. He was forced into exile around the time he was fourteen, and then has lived in Haven ever since. Haven sheltered the artists, including Razzo, from the outside world, allowing them to live almost like children. Therefore, Razzo probably wouldn't have many worldly things to say.

So, who would say, "Claro...It’s like he’s sticking his head into the beehive and is too distracted by the honey to see the bees." More than likely someone older, and who has seen that kind of behavior before.

Who would say, "Tough as nails, are we? I always thought there was something in the water over there."? Probably someone more immature, light-hearted, someone who is still pretty young.

So make sure that you're not giving someone like Razzo big, beautiful, deep-thinking lines. Wisdom comes from experience. Just because you want your love interest to be philosophical doesn't mean that he can say things like that if they're nothing more than a rich kid from old money at a prep school. Give them something they would know best about, and that's their source of wisdom. We can't all be Dumbledore, unfortunately.

Wishing you a most excellent adventure,