Thursday, June 10, 2010

Saint or sinner?

I was listening to Bowie and Tina Turner today when cleaning - yes, I did so much cleaning that I needed several cds! Bowie was good, wasn't he? I forget these things.

Anyway, I was belting along with Tina, 'You don't need another hero,' as I polished - those are the words I was singing; I don't know about her - and I was pondering about heroes.

Any creative writing handbook or course will tell you you have to create believable characters for your stories. That means the hero can't be totally perfect and the baddie shouldn't be completely evil. Jane Austen knew this. Elizabeth Bennett, for all her admirable qualities, was prejudiced against Mr Darcy. Coming up to date, almost, Morse was a grumpy old sod yet we loved him.

Compare Morse with Barnaby from Midsomer Murders, for example. Barnaby is just another television policeman; Morse will live forever. (Barnaby is, in fact, a stupid policeman as he hasn't yet worked out that anything group or activity his wife gets involved with, will soon have a murder. Or maybe he just doesn't want to acknowledge the nasty truth that his wife is a serial killer.)

I was going to say that popular fiction ignores the 'be real' maxim but I've just disproved that by talking about Morse. However it is true for many of today's novels. Not the great ones but the ones that get promoted and sold in huge numbers.

One of the characters in the book I'm currently reading is a practically perfect nanny. Mary Poppins with sex appeal. Another is an actress who loves food and doesn't want to be famous. Yet another is a size zero zero actress who dotes on her pug and will do anything for fame. Yet another is the unbelievably handsome make actor who is sleeping his way to the top. They're stereotypes of stereotypes. (I don't think that sentence means anything.)

I've forgotten where I was going with this ...

Oh yes: we're not like that. Not in real life. We're neither saint nor demon. We're a mix of both. In my case I am only too aware that my bad qualities win over my good far too often. And I don't know anyone who would qualify for the title of saint as it's used in modern vocabulary. (In his letters, Paul the apostle, addresses followers of Jesus as saints, but that's not quite the way we think of the meaning today.)

I think you can't call anyone a saint unless you know them really well and if you know them really well then you'd know they weren't saints.

Now I could go into a Christian rant about sinners being saved by the blood of the lamb, but I have a much more serious dilemma.

Bearing in mind what I said about great literature needing believable characters, how can I make Munch the Cow more convincing? She's far too nice.

(Did I tell you I'm writing a story about Munch the Cow for a competition? In 600-800 words.)

3 comments:

Gledwood said...

I think you just put your finger on the difference between memorable pop fiction and the purely humdrum.

The "literary" world is full of wannabes with no real spark of their own, people unduly influenced and trying to tread in the footprints of others. I wouldn't worry about the "competition" or even being "the best". You just have to know there is a you-shaped hole out there that your book will fill, and then you'll do it right.

I answered your queries about the Latin. The good day to die one brought up loads of potential translations but the other phrase was simple.

I'm surprised Google Translate don't do Latin. It's not as if we don't come across enough quotes /etc etc in the language.

I think German grammar and declensions are hard enough ~ everything I write Gattina has some correction or other (you should have seen my old schoolwork, haha!; Latin's are said to be legendarily fiendish!

The reason they're so hard is because they're "inflexional" languages. There's some guide for English speakers learning foreign languages that gives the number of weeks full-time study at which a certain (clearly-defined) competence is achieved.

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikibooks:Language_Learning_Difficulty_for_English_Speakers

French/Spanish/Italian etc 22 weeks. German got a special category: 30 weeks; Indonesian-Malay and Swahili 36 weeks; nearly all other languages including Russian, Hebrew and Vietnamese 44 weeks; Japanese, Arabic, Korean, Chinese 88 weeks.

Welsh wasn't listed but I'm sure it would fit the 44-weeks category. I think they got German's rating wrong because I did Welsh GCSE at the same time as German. Welsh as anyone who's studied several languages can confirm is NOT the easiest tongue to learn ~ but I would say German is considerably harder! (Latin must be exceedingly difficult!!!)

Anyway must go. Hi to George!

Furtheron said...

Can't Munch nip off around the back of the cow shed for a quick smoke?

I like what you say here though... somewhere along the line the polarisation of images has lead to the view that you have to be all this to be that. It's like when a celeb is caught out in some way - it's all across the tabloids front pages. When often the act that they are being vilified for is no doubt being acted out by a large number of the readers of the paper but with total anonimity.

katney said...

Do you know Jessica Fletcher?--of Murder She Wrote fame? (When we were in Russia our son's friend there was watching it, so it must surely have reached your TV sets as well.) When a few too many residents and visitors to Cabot Cove, where Jessica lived, had succumbed by nefarious means, Jessica went around the country visiting friends. Beware if Jessica wants to visit you. Really beware.

(This doesn't happen when I visit. I promise.)