Tuesday, December 16, 2008


The exercise of writing fiction allows me to develop social perspective that I might not otherwise have. I imagine characters set in circumstances that differ from mine. For example, in my first novel, Time for All Eternity, my protagonist lives in the Midwest, and his wife of over twenty years leaves him for a polygamist who is from the Wild West. In another novel I have in process set in the Great Basin where I reside, my protagonist moves into Mormon country and into a neighborhood less diverse than she is used to but more diverse than is typical in the Great Basin. She is nearly 60 years old and investigates toxic spills and pollution violations for a living. She is unmarried --- an old maid, if you will --- but she loves children and makes alliances around the neighborhood with the school-age kids. In still another ongoing novel, my protagonist is in the United States with his parents, and they have lived there for his entire life, except for one day, the day he was born. He is, along with his family, undocumented and they face the constant threat of deportation.

These characters and their situations cause me to contemplate their lives and how they would differ and do differ from my own. I have to consider their relative wealth or lack thereof as it comes into play in their lives. I have to consider how their circumstances --- how much they make and where they live --- determines where they live and the type of schools they attend or attended and the type of education they got that led to what they do now to make a living. All of these things impact their careers, and how they live their life every day in the here and now.

When you start contemplating significant changes in the lives of others over against your own it makes a big difference. Wealth, schooling, health care, religion, and sex make big differences in people's lives. In order to imagine characters for fiction you have to consider all these things: family life, social class, religion, sex, education, and race. If you don't consider them all carefully, you fail to correctly draw your characters. Their script in life is dependent upon all of these factors.

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