Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Think Tank Tuesdays: What Do You Think?

This has been on my mind for quite some time now, especially now that I'm part of a 15,000 person nation, essentially, where this tends to be a very visible difference between people. Changes of perspective come in different forms. Visiting another country, getting a new experience, becoming politically active, going to college. In fact, just today when I was studying with a friend I was given an 'awareness' survey and asked various questions about on-campus and off-campus happenings. The girls who gave me that survey probably regretted it, because I elaborated on every non-multiple-choice question. But then again, if you're going to ask me about American history and what America has learned from it, sit back and make yourself comfortable because I will talk about it for at least ten minutes.

One of the very vital parts of a person, the part that differentiates one from another, is ideology. What another person thinks, their perspective of how the world works, and how they plan to do in that world are very individual. This part of a person is one of the most important factors in characterization, as well. Why? Someone with no drive and no sense of how the world works is either a badly done character no one will root for or connect to, or they're not long for this world. Diverging ideologies separate hero from villain, families from each other, or even individual people from others.

Take, for example, Anthem by Ayn Rand. Prometheus's diverging ideology that being just like everyone else is a waste of human potential separated him from everyone but his lover, Gaea. He's the hero of the story because his ideology is different. To go a little more contemporary, the ideological difference between the Order of the Phoenix and the Death Eaters shouldn't even need explaining. Magical genocide versus inclusion and support? Are you kidding?

I've been chugging my way through my second draft of TA, and I've noticed that as I write the characters again, they're becoming more distinct. Not because I've decided that Oliver suddenly has freckles or that Collins now seems to have more of a law-abiding nature, but because I've delved into their ideologies. Ideology stems from your background and experiences along with your knowledge, and the more you learn about a character's past the more their ideology stands out. There's always the flat, isolationist 'if it doesn't benefit me, I'm not doing it'. Yawn. That's always part of an isolationist ideology, but it's not very interesting. In fact, it's the basis of just about every 'edgy' character you can find in literature.

Instead of something simple, complexity is important. Take, for example, Collins, my protagonist. She's grown up in impoverished conditions, relying on her brothers to take care of her and feeling responsible to pay it back in spades. Her ideology is shaped by the way she was raised and the experiences she had - be more open to taking care of the family first, if people approach you then they definitely want something, decisions made always need to be made with family in mind, with work and security in mind. This thought process differentiates her from the artists, especially Oliver. Having lived in relative comfort and security most of their lives, their ideologies are varied, but a serious divergence from hers. I mean, the reason they meet is because of Oliver's ideology: Do what you love, make time for what's important, take care of the artists, fly below the radar, but say what needs saying. Collins wasn't going to seek him out, he had to have the mindset to find her.

And I think that this lacks in literature in general. Especially now that I'm in writing classes (for real, not just an English class creative assignment that allows anything with good grammatical structure), and I'm reading about many different protagonists experiencing many different events, reacting to them in many different ways. If you're looking for a great example of divergent ideologies and how that changes characters, I highly recommend the graphic novel Watchmen. It's a masterpiece (won a Hugo award, you know. No graphic novel has done that) and with the format it's very easy to see the differences in thought and how that makes a person act.

Hey, I just made two posts in a row, go me! Stay tuned for more posts on depth, and stay warm, dear followers. I just had my first snow of the year, and it's nineteen Fahrenheit.

Hot cocoa and political discourse,