I was born in observation mode. As a kid I was extremely quiet, content to be left alone, and distantly interactive with the outside world and its occupants. I watched others like a scientist observing animals in their natural habitat or a scout sent to log the activities of nascent civilizations.
This default wallflower setting allowed me to hone my skills of understanding human behavior. I learned to glean the true meanings behind people’s dialogues, read body language, and ultimately get into the brains of those around me.
This extra-centered focus of the world kept me from adopting true convictions or taking an unwavering side to most issues. Some days I considered this a weakness, and people were forced to assume me politically nihilist. Outside of becoming a contract killer or working in marketing, I wasn’t sure what benefit there was to living life on the fence. Then I started writing.
Writers are called upon to create worlds and the citizens within, and for readers to believe these worlds, conflict must exist. There must be differing opinions, and the presentation of these opinionated people must be given fair treatment.
Being so long on the fence, I am gifted with a higher vantage point. I can see both sides of any argument, finding truth and understanding from all angles, and it is this unbiased writing style that allows me to give every character a strong voice. I let them speak their mind because I have no opinion or agenda in the matter.
I hope that comes across in my books. I have read novels where the writer is pushing a certain political view or arranging the scenery and events to drive the reader into a valley of thought. I am not against this tactic, and true to my fence-straddling ways, I get what they’re doing and see the point, but it’s not what I want in my own work.
For Father’s Creed, there are many fathers, and many creeds: pacifist and pro-war, integration and annihilation, destiny and willed control. Things unfold as they do, and I don’t say who is right and who is wrong. That to me is for the reader to decide. There are characters with points of view the reader will hate, but, in keeping a balance, the reader should also find a character with which they connect.
In catering to many voices, I should not only cater to many readers, but give each reader validation and strength in their views. One of the themes of my book is defining one’s self through conflict. Who you choose to hate or exclude says more about you than your enemy, and sadly, people crave that definition. Without exclusion, they can’t feel included. Without another group being wrong, how can they be right? Perhaps living on the fence fails to bring me the comfort of belonging, or maybe it gives me the power to belong anywhere.
I am unbound and free, and for a writer, that’s good news.
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