30 Degrees of Perspective

June 3, 2009 by Jen

Sometimes, I do strange things when I’m sleeping. Sometimes I remember them. Sometimes I just wake up with a really sore neck. 

Like today.
I’m currently walking around with my head tipped 30 degrees to the right because it hurts to keep my head upright, tilt it 31 degrees to the right or tilt it at all to the left. 
So you could say, I’m seeing life from a different angle today.
Haha.
I think sometimes that small shift is all it takes. For me, reading and writing trigger a lot of those “ah-ha!” (or “uhh”) moments. I’ve been working on a novel and a few short stories lately. I wrote the novel before I started college, and now I’m rewriting, trying to give it greater rounding and complexity.
I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to analyze how my fictional characters would behave, and how to make sure their actions are grounded in their personalities, past history, and prior experiences.  I want them to be human. I want them to be sympathetic. I hate one-dimensional villains. 
I was working on that project yesterday when it hit me: I spend far more time making fictional characters human than I do granting the people around me the right to be human. I am far more eager to discover the rationale behind my characters’ actions than I am to discover the reasons behind the actions of people I struggle to love.
Unlike the literary characters, they are acting in the same play and scene as I am. They antagonize me (and I them), not another fictional personality. That makes it harder to want to know their story. I can manipulate my fictional characters. I can give them a rationale that makes sense to me. I can’t do that to real people. I can’t always understand why they do what they do.
And then I have to stop again. Some of the most complex, compelling literary villains/antiheroes in existence are not entirely comprehensible: Macbeth, Iago, Heathcliff, Javert, Messala, Ahab, Rogozhin… I dislike them, but they also draw me because I have this deep belief that they too have reasons, a story, even if I can’t see the whole picture or understand it fully. I still care, because I think of them as human. 
So why not people I know are human? It would seem that I care more about people who only exist on a piece of paper than I do about the real people God has placed around me. 
Ouch.
Life lessons can be such a pain in the neck.
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