Sunday, July 18, 2010

What Are They Thinking?

Have you ever watched characters in a television or movie show and wondered, "What the &#$& are they thinking?" I think, really, we're saying, "That's stupid. Don't DO that!" We're not only questioning their choices, we're also making a value judgment.

Granted, I think that some of the time, the shows want us to suck in our breath and shout at the screen. They've built the tension on purpose and let us see the danger or uh-oh moment lurking around the corner. While we're questioning choices, we're also wishing we could warn the characters, "Stop! Before it's too late!"

Unfortunately, all too often, the show or movie "jumps the shark" and just makes the characters look like dumbasses. Then I'm more likely to wonder, "What the $#$& and I thinking watching this show?"

Stuff like this happens in real life. We see family members or friends risking heartache, professional snafus, financial messes, and what not and want to jump in with the, hopefully, kinder version of, "What are you thinking? You don't want to do that!"

I've been on both ends of that -- giving that kind of advice as well as receiving it. Understanding how someone implying that I'm out of my mind for considering a particular course of action makes me defensive as hell, I finally wised-up. I think I've gotten much better in the way that I listen to friends and offer suggestions.

Actually, I try to avoid giving suggestions. It isn't my function as their friend to tell them what I think they should do. I'm not the one who will ultimately field the consequences of their decisions and actions. Instead, I try to help them spread out their options and consider the possible results of each.

I'm employing what someone just explained to me as the Platinum Rule. The Golden Rule suggests we treat others as we would like to be treated. The Platinum Rule says treat others the way they want to be treated.

I'm mulling this over right now because it applies to a character I'm developing for a story. Up to the point of the book's beginning, she's lived her life to everybody else's expectations. For several excellent reasons, she's broken away from that pattern. There are people in her life who don't approve and they're delivering the, "What the #&*@#& are you thinking" message loud and clear.

My character doesn't like this, and at the same time, it's difficult to not feel like she has to justify her choices or consider their displeasure. It's even harder to reject that displeasure and not take the actions that will make them happy.

Difficult, but not impossible. She's learning how and that's all part of her growth.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

Sounds like a story I'd like to read. I think there's a difference in disagreeing with a character's actions and having that person act out of character. As long as I believe the character would behave a certain way, that their actions don't violate the core of who they are, I can follow along. For example, Stephanie Plum became a bounty hunter despite everyone telling her not to - it might not have been the smartest move, but it works with her personality. If she suddenly became a fearless vigilante type killer, that would not work, cause she hates violence, and I would not believe her character would change so completely.

I'd love to hear more about your story.