Friday, June 24, 2011

Those Little Bits of Insight

"'I was thinking,' I said, 'that when my time comes, I should be sorry if the only plea I had to offer was that of justice. Because it might mean that only justice would be meted out to me.'"
~The Vicar Leonard Clement in Murder at the Vicarage, discussing the necessity of mercy when considering a person's fate
by Agatha Christie

I think that readers appreciate smart writers. Writers who can tell a great story are heroes without saying, but the ones who can also show a reader something about the world are remembered and returned to. Readers like writers who can make them think -- not just about the puzzle in a mystery, but about the bigger world. Whether or not we agree with the writer.

Agatha Christie does that, in my opinion. I haven't picked up one of her books yet where I wasn't thoughtful at the end. The line above is the one that stuck out the most for me in Miss Marple's first case. It reminded me of a Maya Angelou quote that goes something along the lines of "Don't pray for justice because you might just get some."

Great stuff to meditate on. Ya know?

I have read far more Agatha Christie than I anticipated while working on this mentor section. (Yep, I'd never read a word of hers until I did this....) A great part of that reason is that, every now and then, she brought me up short. Not to sound too cocky, but that doesn't happen very often. (But it does happen.) I like it when someone can do that. I like being knocked around as a reader.

It's a tricky thing to do without sounding preachy, these insightful bits. As it is, the one quoted above runs along that line...I just happen to agree with the vicar/Christie in the thought process presented here.

In my own stories, I don't think I have pearls of wisdom like Christie's. Part of the reason is my GREAT fear of sounding preachy in fiction. =)

(Or, you know, in blogs.)

In the end, I'm pretty sure you have to let the story tell itself, how it wants to be told. The little insights, and the big ones, will grow organically. Right? That seems to be the best way to do it. Like the vicar's quote...it relates directly to the story being told. What is justice? How should it be delivered? Is mercy ever an acceptable alternative to inevitable 'justice'? Justice is definitely a theme in the book and the quote is all about justice.

Didn't even have to look far for that one, huh?

Plus, I think you have to emphasize the convictions of your characters. Declarative statements make stronger quotable material.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever been preached to in a story? Has any writer consistantly impressed you with their pearls of wisdom?  

4 comments:

  1. I put a hold on Murder at the Vicarage just today. You inspired me. I recently listened to Dorothy Sayers, 'Strong Poison'. It was set in the '20's, contemporary with Agatha Christie. It was very enjoyable, full of humor and a wonderful antidote to 'House of Sand and Fog', which I listened to right before.

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  2. Yay! You'll like it. It's a really quick read. (Super-different from House of Sand and Fog.)

    Did you know that Dorothy Sayers and Christie and their mystery 'dinner' group did some round story type novels? Looks like we're following in some good footsteps!

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  3. Little late commenting, but I have been preached to in stories. The one that springs to mind (and I know you've heard me say this before, Jenny) is Starship Troopers. Heinlein really hammered his point home multiple times. And the real problem with this, I think, is when the reader doesn't agree. The over-the-top preachiness just turns you off. Whereas, a well thought out, subtle approach can often make those on the other side go, "Hmmm, she just might have a point there."

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  4. I didn't know about that - the round story novels. Our houseparties have some illustrious precedents!

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