Thursday, February 25, 2010

Embrace this Day

Every now and then you have a Sunday that is just exceptionally great. This week, we had a Sunday school lesson on agency. And it was incredible! I never really realized how important agency is. I guess I always knew it was important, but I'd never really thought about it before. In Moses 4:3, it says, "Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down." Wow.
It was a great experience thinking about what influences my choices. And how I can utilize the gift of agency to better myself. Here is a great video the teacher shared with us. It is about six minutes, but is incredible, well worth your time watching it. It shares a great message on what to do with our lives and in what manner to live them.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Of Characters

My mom and I realized something over the Christmas break: that she likes books for their plot lines and I love them for their characterization and writing style. I love reading about a character whose traits fit perfectly. I think of characters as 3-D puzzles with unique curvature, outjuts and inlets, each their own shape. These characters have so many talents and weaknesses, fears and quirks, that you'd think all the descriptions of them would bulge out awkwardly and make a ragged outer surface on the container that couldn't contain. But, they don't. Somehow, they don't. The surfaces are smooth and the containers seem to have the ability to be all-encompassing. There is no limit to a person.

Once you know the character well enough, you know what makes him upset, what types of people he gets along with, what makes him nervous, and what his dreams are. There comes a point in the book when your response to his action is, "Oh, John, he would do that.." or "Of course that bothered him.." And you don't know this because you've seen him before. He's not a cookie-cutter character we see over and over again. Nor did you predict his action because it fulfilled something that needed to happen in the typical storyline and was therfore assigned to a character--any character--regardless of whether or not it's actually something the character would do. No, you can predict him because you understand him. Because looking at his traits you see hundreds rather than twenty. And they all connect and interconnect.

Your character John has some of the same components as does Huck Finn and Frodo Baggins and Scarlett O'Hara, but none of these characters have every one of his components. Someone may have a dominant personality that is very like the person John feels he needs to be and tries to be when Sarah is around. But the characters are still different. Nowhere in the world is there another like John.

Sometimes these different characteristics seem as if they could never describe the same person. But they end up doing just that, going into the same person. And they do so unexpectedly smoothly, like those smooth curves of the 3-D puzzle. They go together differently in John than anyone else. And their arrangement in John fits perfectly, just like their arrangement (amongst other descriptors) in Huck Finn fits perfectly.

Now, characters can be introduced in many ways, but they all fall under two main methods. The author can list traits flat out or can show you traits through events. An example of each is below. The two quotes were taken from Little Women, one of my favorite books of all time with perhaps the greatest character development of all time.

"Poor Meg seldom complained, but a sense of injustice made her feel bitter toward everyone sometimes, for she had not yet learned to know how rich she was in the blessings which alone can make life happy." (Little Women, p35)

"That night, when Beth played to Mr. Laurence in the twilight, Laurie, standing in the shadow of the curtain, listened to the little David, whose simple music always quieted his moody spirit, and watched the old man, who sat with his gray head on his hand, thinking tender thoughts of the dead child he had loved so much. Remembering the conversation of the afternoon, the boy said to himself, with the resolve to make the sacrifice cheerfully, 'I'll let my castle go, and stay with the dear old gentleman while he needs me, for I am all he has.'" (Little Women, p136)

The latter exerpt is one of my favorite passages; the imagery and characterization is so beautiful to me. So many things about the characters of Mr. Laurence and Laurie can be pulled from this. The two unwind from a long day by listening to Beth play; we know Beth is precious to Mr. Laurence because she reminds him of his child and that she is precious to Laurie because he loves each of the March girls; we also see that the music is a means of relaxation to the two, which, in the case of Laurie, who loves to play and compose, is no surprise, but in the case of Mr. Laurence, who seems to wish Laurie'd play less, is a surprise. Laurie standing hidden in the curtain, listening to "the little David" is not only a beautiful image, but shows a bit about his character and his relationship with his grandfather. We learn Laurie must feel strongly toward those with whom he discussed in order to want to change (March girls). Mr. Laurence's character and occasional harshness could be due to the death of his beloved daughter. . .

Obviously I prefer the second method. There is so much to deduce. And often times I can see more or less--or simply differently--than someone else. Therefore, the Laurie in my mind is different than the Laurie in yours. And, of course, my Laurie is based off of me--my experiences and my preferences--as is yours based off of you. So he means so much more to me than yours would to me. And he reminds me of me. And I LOVE that. That's why we read. To create our own.

You can give me the most boring story ever written and as long as I can fall in love with characters that are beautiful in their complexity and with a writing style that is effortless and artistic, I'll love it forever.

Welp, that's that...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

There are No Ordinary People

There is a C.S. Lewis quote I LOVE. By far my favorite. I found it in high school when I was preparing a talk on charity and showed it to my Dad. We've loved it ever since. For Christmas, my Dad bought me Weight of Glory, the book it's from. I can't wait to read it and find more inspiration. Here is the quote; I've added the bolding and italics. Let me know what you think!

It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinnerno mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Longing for the Imagined

One of my favorite songs right now is "Liz On Top of the World" from the "Pride and Prejudice" soundtrack. The following is what the song sounds like to me, not what's actually going on in the movie. I love the high point of the song, which moans an ache of yearning that sounds as if it has, until this point, been suppressed. And now it is released and sings out its refrain. It's not a sadness, but a longing for something that can't be had. This something is so ideal, so perfect, so beautiful. You can't fully comprehend it; it is only an idea, a wish of a world and of a life that you can only gaze at through a foggy glass window. A window that is far in the distance; a distance that can never be crossed. Because that distance is the dichotomy between reality and things that will not be.

No, this isn't a sad post on my dreams that will never be. Nor are these the feelings the character feels as the song is playing. It's just what the song sounds like to me. I love listening to music--to gentle lyrics, to the sighs and moans of a violin, to the whispers of strings and the hopes of the winds--and hearing a story that only I can hear. That means one thing to me at one time, and something different at another. I love hearing a story that probably wasn't the story intended by the composer but speaks to me far more personally than his would have. Another beautiful longing song I'd recommend is "Rose Garden" from the "Becoming Jane" soundtrack. Oh, and "First Impressions" from the same is a great song as well. Yes, I love sad, beautiful songs :) "Liz On Top of the World" is below. I couldn't find "Rose Garden," or "First Impressions" but they're on iTunes. I bought "Rose Garden" and think I listened to it 40 times in less than a week!

PS There's a new Great Quote to the left. And... I haven't changed my room picture yet! Terrible.