Tonight I watched a sunset from one of the beaches on Waikiki. What is it that drives us toward the sea? Is it some primordial memory stored deep within our cells that calls us back to the place where we spawned all those countless millennia ago? Is that why the sea so often brings us peace and solace?
As I watched, my turned to thoughts of how others might view such sunsets, not only real people I have known, but also how fictional characters I have created might each react to one. I also thought of my own life, the choices I’ve made, the decisions I have both faced and avoided, and of the events that might still lie ahead. Even in my own life, I find that it is as much a vision of future fantasy as much of my fiction. What of it will come to pass will largely be the result of chances I am willing to take, of prices I am willing to pay, and whether I eventually I decide that the costs are worth the accomplishments.
In the majority of my stories, it is the villains who are petty and selfish, willing to achieve their goals at the expense of anyone who might oppose them. The heroes are brave, noble and—while having their own flaws—are not willing to sacrifice their ideals or win their battles at the sacrifice of those they hold dear—nor at the cost of their souls.
I find that I seek such a balance in my personal life as well. But such a fantastic view of real life does not hold up to scrutiny under the harsh light of reality. Those who should be allies will—on occasion—succumb to pretense and pettiness. Those who have been cast as evil may provide the salvation we seek. It is because they are human and because they are real.
Writers can (sometimes) control the actions of the characters they create, casting them from specific molds, forcing them to perform explicit roles. Real people, being products of their own volition, possess no such limitations. They assume whatever roles they choose at the moment, regardless of the ones that the rest of us have chosen for them. Each of us, it seems, sits in constant judgment of those around us, weighing each word or act within the context of our own beliefs.
In a seemingly vicious cycle, when such judgments are given voice, we then react with judgments of our own on the correctness of such opinions. We often forget what the original purpose was, so caught up in the need to express ourselves, particularly when we perceive that we have been, in some way, wronged. We often to fail to recognize that our context is not necessarily any more right than anyone else’s, but it seems that most of us have an innate need to win—to prove that our beliefs are the correct and proper ones.
Does victory necessarily make one the hero of a story? While it is true that it is generally the victors that write history, it is equally important to note that many of those who have won have later been reviled by history. Words and deeds have a habit of catching up with us when we least expect it—unforeseen costs to acts we have committed. Like the fine print of a loan document, not all costs are evident at the time of signing.