Saturday, June 20, 2015

Sympathy

While I reread Wintergirls last week, I realized something--I'm much more sympathetic toward the main character now that I'm older. While I loved the book the first time I read it, Lia really infuriated and annoyed me. She sounded like such a brat. I just could not, for the life of me, understand why she was so aggressive toward her parents and so ignorant about her own problems and flaws. I still liked the book, but I was as angry at Lia as her parents were, which I think is the reason I didn't cry at all the first time I read the novel, even if it did pull at my heartstrings (and stomach >_>).

I've always had an inclination to write older characters and to try and see people as objectively as possible. I could never write a self-insert farmer-turned-hero-via-prophesy (cough) because I never saw someone my age (and background) as being capable of great things. It's why, at thirteen, when I started Redemption, I decided to age up Hitomi on the realization that "war was no time for a kid." In the original planning I did with Yaziris, my characters were a lot younger. Hitomi, Marcus, and Erick were all the same age--around eighteen--and her father, Akira, was in his 40s. When  I altered it so Hitomi and Marcus were in their 20s (an age that now seems too young), Akira in his late 50s/early 60s, Bellatrix and Erick became "the children", despite being 15 and 17 respectively, comparatively older than their creator/writer.

I guess I was never one of those teenagers that saw themselves as being wholly mature and adult-like, even if I was, at any point, dealing with things in my life that would be considered mature and adult-like. If anything, those situations made me want to proclaim, but I'm still a kid! I still do that now.

I'm remembering this because of something my fiction workshop professor said once. We read a short story--can't remember the name right now--where a young woman calls her father to tell her some news. She's pregnant, she's getting married, and her lover in question is her much, much older professor (older than her own father by like a decade or something). The story takes place entirely through a phone call, and it's from the perspective of the father, who implies he's having problems at home with his wife and who is, rightfully, flipping shit at the news.

At class discussion, my professor asked us who we sympathize with more--the father or the daughter. I wanted to say the father, because to me, the daughter was acting like a complete fucking idiot and would regret every choice she'd made. If I could, I would have reached through the pages and tried to slap some sense into her. (Yeah, yeah, violence is never the answer).

The thing is, I understand relationships with people of authority are generally not to be blamed on the younger person because the predator usually grooms them and should know better. In this scenario, I should be sympathetic to the young woman because she's technically a victim. But an irrational part of my brain is angry at her, in the same way an irrational part of my brain was angry at Lia the first time I read Wintergirls. I guess because that same irrational part of my brain wants to say, you are in university. You should know better.

Most of the class said they mostly just felt bad for both the daughter and the father, and my professor said our perspectives would change the older we grow. She said the first time she read that story, she was angry at the father for being so judgmental, that he should leave his daughter alone, that she knew better and could handle her own life, etc. But now that she was older, she told us she sympathizes more with the father. She said that when we are older we should reread the story again and see how our perspectives change.

And I think my professor got it backwards. At least, I don't know if that's a universal reaction toward the story. Or maybe it's just me. Either way, I sympathized more with the father than I did with the college-age girl.

It seems it's always that way. The older I grow, the more sympathetic I am toward very small children, and I want to protect them from other people and their stupid comments about how children are all evil, spoiled, disgusting, noisy, etc. I can't stand that kind of talk and it causes actual anger out of me.

As a teenager, I think I hated most other teenagers. (Which probably influenced the way I interacted with YA fiction, tbh). I hated our problems and the ugly ways in which we treated each other. When I read a post by John Green were he said he didn't give a shit about adults because he found adult problems inherently boring and that's why he didn't write about them and blah blah blah, I rolled my eyes. I kind of wanted to tell him--and to a shameful extent, still stand by this opinion--that teenagers are also inherently boring and stupid so that assessment makes no sense.

I think because I'm still in that doorway between adolescence and adulthood, I'm not yet entirely sympathetic toward people my age or a few years younger. I won't be writing any YA stories any time soon. But it's kind of nice to be aware of this shift in perspective. I'm not even sure how that awareness might change (or accelerate?) things.
~Becky

P.S: Should I start a "rambling" tag?

IDK, I blog more when I'm writing more, for some reason. Avoidance, probably.

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"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.