Hope in Fiction

Note: This is a companion article to Cynical Fiction.

Why do people read or watch fiction?  Entertainment is the short and easy answer, but there is undoubtedly more.  After all, we can be entertained by non-fiction as well.  Fiction, particularly speculative fiction is a window into the possible.

Fiction shows us what happens if we allow evil to take control, it also offers shows the potential of the human spirit and hope.  Hope for what we can be, what our would and culture can become is the importance of fiction.  Ideally, fiction and stories will show us what we need to learn so that we do not fall into tragedy and oppression ourselves.  However, that is not always how it works.  For it is no secret that humanity has a great capacity for evil.  That doesn’t mean that some people do not pay attention.  After all, how many fictional stories written in the past are becoming increasingly plausible every day?

Through stories we teach and learn, ponder what it means to be good, evil, and human.  This is the point of fiction.  Therefore, hope is necessary in stories, even those that lack a particularly “good” ending, there must be meaning.  Otherwise, what is the point? Anything can accomplish the simple task of “entertaining” an audience, but meaning, hope, and truth is where true art is found in stories.  That is my goal as an author.  That is the sort of fiction that becomes timeless, yet these are the stories that are becoming less common and less popular.  We shouldn’t let cynicism and hopeless fiction become the new normal.

More Thoughts on Characters

There is a trend lately I’ve noticed.  Perhaps it’s been this way for a long time, but it didn’t start to grab my attention until about five years ago.  I don’t know if it is the hypersensitive culture we now live in that’s contributing or not, but it appears that individual characters in fiction are viewed as representing a whole group.  An example, someone I used to know made the comment he doesn’t like the show Home Improvement because Tim Taylor is aloof and a bad example of a husband, father, and a man in general.  That assessment may be true, but that isn’t the point.  Tim’s character isn’t supposed to represent all men it is an exaggeration of what some men might be like, or more specifically these are traits specific to his character that are hyperbolic due to the comedy genre. 

I have come across countless critiques like this where someone will complain about a character poorly representing women, the LGBT, religion, race, or anything you can think of.  There may be certain isolated incidents where this complaint is warranted due to shady motivations from the writer.  However, unless there is evidence to support that the writer is using a character to propel stereotypes, that shouldn’t be assumed.

The personality traits of my characters reflect on them alone.  If a woman has a weakness that doesn’t mean I think all women are weak or need to be saved by men.  If there is a male character in my books that is a little dull that doesn’t mean I think men are dull or can only survive if a woman is there to prop him up.

Fiction, if done right, should not be afraid to have a variety of characters and the personalities of the individuals in the story do not necessarily reflect on a greater whole.