Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Do our Personal Beliefs Colour our Stories?

 I have realized that most of my personal beliefs (the values I have been taught from childhood) affects my writing in a big way. Whatever values have been inculcated in me colours my characters and impacts my stories.


It’s scary because my sense of right and wrong has always been very strong right from childhood. The one and only time I lied to my mother as a child, I was awake the entire night with guilt. The next morning I sat outside her bedroom and the moment she emerged I confessed the truth and was engulfed in a tight hug.

The reason I use the word scary is because as I write Middle Grade fiction, I need to add gallons of naughtiness and spice in my stories. No child will like reading stories about good kids who drink their glass of milk, eat spinach, obey their elders, do their homework on time. Children will find these kids pretty boring.

I do create naughty characters, but I have noticed that even these characters of mine have their intrinsic good qualities. I became aware of this when toying with the idea of my protagonist Rahul, the MC of my Paranormal Middle Grade Trilogy who develops   the  ability to do Spirit Magic decides not to use magic to excel in his maths exams. This would be something I personally would have done.

If it came down to a choice, I would have preferred failing than using my new found magic abilities to pass an exam. I don’t know why I made that decision for my character. Not as a writer, but as a person. When I realized this, it made me a bit worried.

Should I have let my character Rahul decide whether he needed to use magic to pass an exam and make his parents proud. Rahul’s low marks always get him into trouble at home. This was a perfect opportunity for him to shine in his father’s eyes. Why did the writer in me not grab that opportunity?

I am wondering why did I make that decision for Rahul? Does this happen to you? Have you made decisions for your characters? Have you let your personal beliefs cloud your writer’s or story telling decisions? How do you balance between your own beliefs and the need of the writing hour? Any advice for me? 

22 comments:

Rahul Bhatia said...

A very well meaning post, Rachna! It is difficult to detach one's value system in the writing, but sometimes it is necessary otherwise true depiction of the character may be difficult:)

Rachna Chhabria said...

@ Rahul, I have realized that I am influencing my protagonist a lot. My beliefs and values are somewhere along the way restricting my main character's thoughts and actions.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think it's natural that our own moral compasses enter into our writing. We also have to decide for ourselves how far we're willing to go before we feel compromised.

Richard said...

I think every writer puts a bit of herself in her characters. It it fits the story line it's a natural thing to do. I don't think we're obligated to put our own beliefs into our fiction. We often write stories that have nothing to do with us personally and we have to create our characters from scratch. Doing a good, thorough character biography for each character should keep us on course as to what our characters do and say.

Ken Lindsey said...

I agree with the folks above me. I think we all put a bit of ourselves (or at least a bit of how we see ourselves) into the characters that we create. I also think that this is one of the reasons that we can tell stories that are similar to other stories, and still find people to listen. The part of you that goes into a character is what makes that character unique! :)

Langa Tenzin said...

Nice one as always ma'am. Yeah, the writings we do are affected by our life and experiences and the same is happening with me. Luved reading it. :)

Stephen Tremp said...

I gave many of my beliefs to my antagonist and not the protagonist. Just to mix things up a bit. Of course, I don't kill people because of my beliefs. My my bad guy does.

Mark Noce said...

It's great to incorporate your beliefs into your stories, but the fun is you can still do different things with your characters. i.i. have them do things you would never do, that's the fun part:)

The Golden Eagle said...

I think most writers put their own beliefs into their stories.

It's interesting to read other writers' perspectives on this--when I come across a book where the characters make such personal decisions, I have to wonder if it reflects the author or not.

Lynda R Young said...

absolutely!I llike that you've held onto your values and inforced them into your characters. I do the same thing. I will never write an 'edgy' book for that reason.

Life Unordinary said...

I think it does for all of us but perhaps more so for writers like you who build characters and plots. P.S. I really do want to read your books now!

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

You raise an important question. No, I think you were right to let Raoul decide not to use magic in a self-serving way. Young readers don't like characters they can't identify with either because they are too good, too flawless, etc., showing a perfection none of us can achieve. But they also don't like characters they can't identify with because by their behavior they become basically in-admirable. Who, for instance, really wants to identify with a cheater? Unless, of course, the cheater struggles with that and ultimately does the right thing. Young readers like the conflict -- because they face that conflict. But they like just outcomes.

Donna Hole said...

My first drafts have all my biases and world views. But the story is there for me to edit myself out later. It is hard to go against our own upbringing and natural instincts.

Some writers can do that right off the first words out. Not me. It does make the writing journey interesting :)

.....dhole

PS: I would have let him use the magic so he could achieve personal growth later :)

Madeleine Maddocks said...

Absolutely, though i did write a short story about soldiers in which I tried to see the profession from the other side of the coin.Hubby said it was best ever! LOL!

Interesting what you say about naughty characters. Because of the way I was brought up I always found naughty child characters in stories very stressful. I would get very anxious that when their mum found out boy would they be in trouble!

Terri Tiffany said...

I to have trouble making my characters do something I might not do--at least my main character who I always connect with.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi friends, we all find our personal beliefs not just creeping into our stories but also finding their way into our characters and influencing their decisions.

@ Donna, will keep your suggestion regarding my character's decision whether to use or not to use magic in class in mind during the next draft. Thanks a lot :)

Lydia Kang said...

This is a hard question, because there is a lot of me in my books. I can't always separate them, but I try.

Dave King said...

I think the bulk of what we are and what we do comes to us, often incognito, from our childhood. No way to avoid it, even if you want to.

Rosalind Adam said...

It's impossible to do anything without it reflecting a little of who we are and this is especially relevant with writing but I guess the key is to keep the similarities subtle and allow our characters to develop as fully fledged beings. Not easy though.

Karen Lange said...

I think our writing can't help but reflect our personal beliefs. I think it helps to have critique partners for an outside perspective. I know this has helped me keep a balance.

momto8 said...

so interesting that I was just asking my 10, 11 and 13 yr olds this same question!! and interesting enough they told me the men authors seem to write with more sensitivity and the female authors (Hunger games, harrry potter) write with more violence.

Rachna said...

Absolutely, desirable or not, a part of you would start dictating how your characters or stories turn out.

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