The Cat is out of the Hat – History is Repeating Itself

I normally write blog entries about things that I love and find interesting and almost never rant here. I have decided today though, to speak a bit of my mind, because I am worried about where ‘we’ are going with freedom in this world of ours.

By now every reader had probably heard about certain Dr Seuss books being withdrawn from the market. You can find out about it here: https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-56250658

I don’t know why we always have to be seen left or right when we raise an opinion. What happened to be decent, having common sense, choosing the midway? Sometimes things are not just black or white, but actually grey or yellow or purple or blue or orange with green dots. This is after all something liberal thinkers fought for throughout the centuries! Many even died for it!

(Maybe it is because we are mostly exposed to/dependant on American commentary and entertainment and they – the biggest democracy in the world – has only two political choices available – either Democrat or Republican! You guessed it – left or right. The in-between parties are for all practical purposes non-existent. And maybe this – their political choice – had spiralled downwards into every other inch of society. But, that’s just my [in-between] opinion.)

I look at events these days and think that modern liberal thinkers had lost the plot, because one see more and more Nazi-like censorship from liberal (!) sources everywhere. It makes me sad, and frankly, quite scared. Like the SS did in the 1930s, we are being told what to believe, what to discard, what is right, what is wrong etc. and this is all done under the flag of political (and social) correctness. And by doing so, they kill those fighters for freedom of speech all over again!

What happened to common sense? What happened to reading literature in context and then have discussions over it instead of just banning authors. Isn’t that one of the reasons why we read? How will our children learn to think critically if they don’t have access to read (even politically incorrect) literature and ask questions about it? Do ‘we’ want little obedient, non-thinking, political-correct robot people? It seems more and more that it is coming to this.

Are ‘we’ back to burning books again? Yes, ‘we’ are. ‘We’ have just burned Dr Seuss books.

History is repeating itself.

This Dr Seuss-like story is a reply to the sad affair by author Laura Ainsworth: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8N6RiNuMAX8. Quite sharp I thought.

(WARNING: This is not socially or politically correct reading.)

Let your Characters Reveal Themselves to you

By Fielies de Kock

I am always amazed by how my characters can surprise me. Just this morning I wrote a flash fiction story. Yesterday the ending of the story popped into my head. I decided to write it on my phone last night whilst in bed, but I was too lazy to figure out the plot details. This morning I decided to sit down and labour over it a bit. I knew the ending was words uttered by a soldier in a war, but I had no idea about how I was going to get there.  But when I started writing, Uwe, the protagonist turned out to be a dentist in the German Army during WW2 who was experiencing a crossroads moment. I didn’t make Uwe up. He created himself before my mind’s eyes. All I had to do was to start writing a few words. The moment Uwe was ‘born’, he developed a life and a voice of his own.

The same happened years back when I started writing a novel (which is still only two thirds into the creating phase of the writing process). I wrote a chapter in which the two main characters – a couple – invited a new friend over for dinner. This friend plays the other main character in the story and they were chatting away soon enough. At that stage, all I knew about my couple was that they previously had a relationship, were reunited and were engaged now. During the dinner conversation I learned that they both left South Africa at different times to work on kibbutzim in Israel. They eventually ended up at the same kibbutz, fell in love, got pregnant, lost their baby girl in a bus bomb during an intifada and then the woman went home brokenhearted. They met again years later after she got divorced from her abusing husband and finally had counselling – and were now sitting, engaged to be married, at a dinner table, telling their new friend – and most importantly, me – their whole story. I was flabbergasted by my characters’ secrets. I really didn’t know all those things about them until that scene.

Listen to your Characters

So the moral of the two stories is to learn to sit back and let your characters do the talking – literally! We live in a world of helicopter parenting, controlling our every move to the finest detail and fomo, and writers sometimes tend to overkill on character development to a point of stereotyping (just watch any Hollywood movie) – like the police detective whose boss hates him, is divorced/getting divorced, has a drug/drinking problem, is an absent father and has a heart which is just waiting to attack him. Where are the out-of-the-ordinary detectives who are kind-hearted, crochet with their grandmothers, are happily married, romantic husbands etc? Are they really too boring to write stories about or are we are just too lazy to work out great story lines for them? (And there’s another challenging story idea right there! Don’t steal it – it’s mine!)

We should sometimes just sit back and just listen to our characters telling us who they really are. Maybe they have more to offer than the one dimensional stereotype we so often mould them into.

How do you Listen to your Characters?

Go about your character developing the way you normally do. Give them their eye and hair colour, pet peeves, characteristics, likes, weaknesses, family ties, problems etcetera, as much as you like, but don’t limit their back stories because of your own preconceptions. Put them in different circumstances and see how they react. Listen to how they talk to other characters and to what they tell them. You might be stunned at what they might reveal. The best way to do this is to sit down and whether you write to a strict outline or if you are off-the-cuffing it, free write your scenes. Follow these guidelines.

  • Don’t think too much or wait until you have everything figured out before you start writing. If your character do or say things that you didn’t plan, let him/her without interrupting or censoring them.
  • Explore the character by keep writing. Don’t hesitate if weird things flow from your pen or keys and don’t stop writing for even a second! And never, ever stop to correct anything until the free writing is over! Allow freewriting sessions of at least ten minutes per character.
  • Write whatever comes to mind – even if it scares you a bit or if you didn’t plan things the way it plays out. You can always adapt the story line later or edit some of what you have written. It is better to have and to do away with than not to have at all!
  • Trust your instincts (or those of your characters), because when you free write, your instincts take over and most of the time we write better this way than when we are forced to write according to a plan.
  • Just keep going until you reach a point where it feels as if it is done – even if it takes longer than the time allotted for the session.
  • Don’t edit immediately after writing. Leave your work until the next day or even a few days later. This will give you time to think about the revelations you characters made and how it will influence the plot and your story line and if everything still fits in the greater plan. Most of the time you will be pleasantly surprised. If you really find after rereading your work that it is not the case or that it really is a bunch of Charlie Romeo Alpha Papa, you can always delete what you don’t like and/or edit it until you are happy.

Learn to start trusting your characters to reveal themselves to you. You might discover a whole new approach to character development for future use.

© 2019 Fielies De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopefullest writer. Foreverest dreamer. Living in a coastal village in the Overberg, South Africa, with her husband and two dogs in a small heritage house, and their adult, graduate, job-seeking son in the garden cottage. His CV is available on request. 🙂