A sound of thunder

It’s interesting where we get inspiration for posts, isn’t it? At some stage everybody gets blogger’s block; there might be an infinite number of ideas for posts but something has to grab us in just the right way to spark that inspiration, and we have to recognise it when we see it as well. For me blogging is about mood; if I don’t feel something in a topic then no number of hours hammering away at the keyboard will help me get through it. But if I feel like I have something to say (often inspired by something I’ve seen or read), it makes all the difference.

Muse wrote an interesting post a few days ago about “being of service”. The post looks at the way many spiritual and religious teachings include being of service to others as an important part of their doctrines. I found Muse’s point of view very interesting and I agree; we all want to help people less fortunate than us, but to do that we have to be in a place where we’re able to, and often that comes from how we think about ourselves. That may not sound particularly altruistic but it’s true; when we’re obligated to do something, we’re much less likely to feel charitable, and it becomes simpler to look at someone less fortunate as being lesser in many other ways.

There were some interesting comments after the post, particularly from Muse and Dovelove, and what I found interesting again was I didn’t – couldn’t – disagree with what they said. I admire their points of view greatly and though our thinking differed on some points, I think for the most part we came to similar outcomes. I find it fascinating to think that you can arrive at a viewpoint through so many different ways; that the journey you make can mean something different to each of us, but the outcome unite us. The human mind is an amazing thing.

I’ve been thinking about Muse’s post for the last few days and it sparked something for me. I often say that a constant theme in my writing is the human impact of science on society; my work is hard to categorise into one genre because I’m more interested in the characters, the rest is just the setting. At the moment I’m going through a bit of a rough patch with it; I thought I was getting somewhere with Shards at last, but it turned out I was just shovelling shit from a sitting position. 🙂 Well, maybe it’s not that bad, but I think I’ve worked out what the problem was, and Muse’s post helped. Something happens in Shards that’s difficult to remain objective about, but the success of the story hinges on it not seeming like extremism; the reader has to understand that sometimes people do good things for bad reasons, and bad things for good reasons.

What I’m trying to get at is that nothing is ever really black and white; you’re never just for us or against us, never just locked into one mindset. And for me that’s something I find myself facing every day. It’s there as I try to bring a character to life, but also in the decisions I make every day. When I answer someone’s question, or take on a burden, there’s a knock-on effect that sometimes can have more of an impact than the initial problem. Nothing’s ever black and white, and sometimes my strengths might actually weaken someone else, and I have to think about the consequences.

You know Bradbury’s story A Sound of Thunder, where a group of people travel back in time, but the death of a butterfly changes the future irreversibly? That’s kind of what I’m talking about. We act a lot more than we think about and we don’t always consider the consequences. And yet we each of us (myself especially) value being able to act on our instincts; we don’t like overthinking things because then we hesitate and we’re uncertain. There’s just as much danger in thinking about the consequences too much as not at all. So what’s the balance?

I think the answer is it has to feel natural. Whatever you say, or do, on some level you know there might be consequences, but you can’t let that stop you from speaking or acting either; otherwise you’re paralysed by fear. Someone might not like it or disagree with you, but that’s outside of your power to influence. We have to trust what we feel is right in a given situation – and most of the time, what we feel is right, is right.

I think that’s the problem I’ve been having with Shards; I’ve been letting the characters overthink the events, when really they need to trust in what they’re doing. Their decisions need to feel more natural. Sometimes good people do bad things for good reasons; it doesn’t have to be justified, just presented in a way that’s real, and hopefully it will be believable.

So thanks to Muse and Dove for their comments; you probably got something completely different from that post (and this one!) than I did, and that’s the nature of blogging, but you reminded me as well of how important instinct is and I’m grateful for that. And you might have helped me solve one of the biggest sticking points in my story too; for that I thank you again. My readers will too, all three of them! 😛

PS. If anyone’s wondering what happened to my post on personalities, I know I said I’d be doing that next in my last post, but I got distracted when I got back into writing again. So that’ll be my next post. Promise! 😉

One thought on “A sound of thunder

  1. Ain’t blogging grand? cj, I’m honored and flattered that my thoughts could help to inspire you, and in ways that affect your plotting, too! How cool is that? I so agree that nothing is ever black or white, and the best we can do–and I mean the word “best” in the best possible way, here–is to trust that instinct you mentioned. I’ve read your intro. for SHARDS, and it seems there are some moral choices going on there–always sticky, at best.
    I’m enamored with paragraph 7, above, regarding things needing to feel natural. That’s a brilliant word to use, in my opinion, one I didn’t think of during my exploration.
    I believe if you can convey that–naturalness of thought and action–in your writing (and I’m sure you can!) the reader will be entranced and care about the characters. Although I don’t know much of the plot of Shards, yet, you’ve got me wondering what moral dilemmas I will face as a reader.
    Regarding “all three of your readers”: While I have fewer than many blogs do as well, I like to think that what they lack in quantity they make up for with quality. I hope you can see your readers that way too, especially given I’m one of ’em. 🙂 Cheers, and many thanks for this!

    CJ: Hey Muse, it should be the other way round really; without your post, I’d still be stuck staring at a blank page, so my gratitude knows no bounds! 🙂

    I just think it’s so simple to look at something and categorise it as being one thing or the other, but it’s never that simple. The more we define something as black or white, right or wrong, the easier it is to make the jump to something being immoral, or someone else being “lesser”. It’s something the media loves to do; you’re either for or against the war, liberal or conservative, but in the end doesn’t our need to put something in a neat box just show how narrow our point of view is?

    I know I consider myself none of those things; I just try to be true to my instincts, and to do what feels natural in a situation. It’s worked so far. 😉 There are a few moral choices in Shards, but really what I’ve struggled with is making those choices seem like they’re something people might really make in dire circumstances. But I don’t think that’s what I have to do now; it’s not about justifying it as much as making it feel like an extension of their choices. In turn (I hope!) that should make them more real.

    The crux of the story is just how far would you go if everything around you – your family, your life, your society – was threatened? Faced with something new that could destroy your way of life, is there a point you’d cross in protecting yourself that means you’d stop being human? And would you willingly cross it? That point is different for everyone, but I’d like to think I wouldn’t; there are some things that are just too important to lose.

    Hehe, well I do have a few more readers than that! 🙂 I have some very loyal readers of my blog and my stats are usually good; I meant more that I have a few less readers with my fiction. It’s been a while since I finished anything, so I need to rebuild my audience. I actually started Shards because an agent asked if I had anything to show them; I’m not sure I would show it to them now, but it’s definitely the novel I needed to write to know that I could. And I hope once I get these last few details ironed out that it’ll be a good read. 😉

    And blogging is indeed grand; I mean, where else could I bore people to death with the little details of a writer’s life? 😆

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