Walking Along

Lately there are videos going around the social media that show people of different ethnic or gender backgrounds learning to get along through doing something together or just looking at each other. Those are great exercises, and akin to what writers have been doing for millennia: allowing people to see things from a different angle and so create tolerance and prevent dogma.

Of course, some people prefer to stick with what they know; they feel safer in their own environment. Writing stories of good and evil, of romance and of adventure allow a writer to plunge right into the story, because there are plenty of readers ready to swim along; they don’t know the exact story, but they know what they can expect. Many readers prefer that; they do not want to be confronted with different; they read to escape complex social issues and just want to be entertained.

But when a writer wants to introduce a new point of view or get readers to acknowledge that there is more than one way to look at things, they cannot simply jump in and hope the reader follows. Coming back to the example of homosexuals before, who, as little as fifty years ago, were not seen as human; many people were afraid of them, afraid it was a mental illness or contagious, and the topic was not mentioned. By allowing readers to step into the mind of gay characters in books, writers allowed them to begin to understand that homosexuals were people just like them.

In short, fiction books allow readers to see the world through different eyes; to step into the mind of somebody with a different outlook on life and in this manner overcome a fear of differences and help create tolerance.

Thus, when writing a fiction book, I am taking the writer on a journey to a different point of view. I could fly them to the destination, but they won’t appreciate the road. They would be startled or scared off if my conclusion, my idea, is too radical; they will dismiss it.

Instead, I invite the reader to walk with me through the minds of multiple point of view characters, so that different readers may find somebody they understand and somebody they do not, just like in real life. I invite the reader to consider the thoughts and beliefs of many different people by looking through the eyes of these characters; to consider as many as possible sides of the situation. Some of those characters might slowly change their mind about the same things I ask the reader to reconsider. If a character in a book has trouble with a new idea or another person, it might help the reader feel they are not alone and maybe, at the end, they’ll appreciate the outcome.

But walking, step by step, to a different point of view takes time, which is why some of my stories are quite long. My young adult novels, each allow the reader a peek into the perspective of the odd one out; the child who does not fit in and who tends to be berated for that in our society, or, in the case of In the Real World, two perspectives.  My adult novels allow for many different viewpoints.

The most dramatic example is Of a Note in a Cosmic Song. Not only does it have eight point of view characters of diverse cultural, social and religious backgrounds, different ages and genders and different experiences, but through them the reader gets confronted with many more different personalities and opinions. Each of them has a realistic point of view when seen through their eyes, but that is not always realistic in the eyes of others, which is why they get into conflict, so that every reader will be able to find a character with a personality like their own, who they will be able to relate to, but also some characters they cannot understand. In addition, these characters are on a journey together, having left behind their home to start a colony on a new planet; they are looking to restart justice and democracy and a better society… and each believes that their own viewpoint of ‘better’ is the best for everybody.

I ask for tolerance of the reader to, at the end of the story, accept a ‘different’ that may be more shocking than the murder, rape, evil minds, mass shootings, gangs, drugs, deceptions, greed and other horrors to which, sadly, most westerners have become desensitized.

Dear reader, I do hope you’ll be willing to walk with me, and find that, no matter how alien an idea, it may just bring us to a more positive future.

Thank you for reading.

 

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