I Don’t Want To See Through Another Person’s Eyes Unless I Am Writing Fiction by Miriam Sagan

I Don’t Want To See Through Another Person’s Eyes Unless I Am Writing Fiction

Some of the national dialogue, or at least the tiny liberal bit I’m engaged in, is full of exhortations to try and see things from “others’” perspectives. But I don’t want to see the world through racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, homophobic eyes—thank you very much.
I already have enough trouble with myself.
It’s fine—necessary even—to see the beast within. Luckily I saw it young and early. I was in the SDS in college and I was on a picket line when a scab truck crashed through. I started beating on that windshield in a blind rage whose existence I was unaware of. I was only nineteen or so, but I thought to myself “Hey Mir, better pay attention. This isn’t good.” I thought of it later as “freeing the inner Nazi.” It isn’t good, and I’m betting most of us have been more plagued by it in our intimate relationships than anywhere else. I’ve thrown dishes. I’ve wanted to smack a child I said I would never smack.
A huge issue in writing fiction is the ability to develop characters “different” than the author. It’s more of an issue at the beginning, though. The deeper the practice of writing, the more likely it is that characters will have a life of their own. And that they will appear and act spontaneously.
However, I’m tormented by one of the characters in the novel I’m currently writing. She’s an individualist in a go-along-to-get-along group. And I like her. I’ve taken care of her! When she was an orphaned child, I found her foster mothers. I got her a dog. A passion in life. She even had a baby.
I felt betrayed when at the end of the story (I’m still on the first draft) she abandoned her pregnant daughter to walk alone into an unknown future, based on an obscure possibly incorrect apocalyptic vision. I tried to talk her down, but it didn’t worked.
So—is this character me, part of me, or…an actual character with her own destiny and karma. I’m hoping the latter. If she’s me, she’ll end up staying, and the novel will make less sense.
It’s pretty easy to write psycho killers. From Shakespeare’s Richard the Third to “Criminal Minds” the audience enjoys second hand sadism. Our level of identification may vary—but we count on our sense of justice and harmony being restored in short order.
The same cannot be said of our current world. I don’t want to see through the evil doer’s eyes today. I just want that evil stopped.

3 thoughts on “I Don’t Want To See Through Another Person’s Eyes Unless I Am Writing Fiction by Miriam Sagan

  1. Thought provoking Miriam…I don’t think “seeing through another’s eyes” is where I want to be either. At the same time, it’s so easy to demonize so many at this time. And, I too just want all the evil to stop. And your question, “…is this character me, part of me, or…an actual character with her own destiny and karma.” The answer for me (and I don’t say this lightly or simply), is both/and. How could she not be part of you and yet, she’s arrived, you’ve breathed life into her. Let the story stand on its own merit. Maybe it’s about trust. (and so many other levels too). You’re making me think….this is good.

  2. Thanks for such a thoughtful read, Mary. I sweated this one through because I felt I was bringing two somewhat disparate ideas together but wanted to explore that sense of human nature–good and bad–within. It’s a challenge at all levels for me! So appreciate hearing from you.

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