Tis the season again. The political season that is. And Washington State being Washington State we’re facing a couple of contentious issues, including gay marriage, marijuana legalization for everyone over 21, and that old chestnut, the Presidential race. Although, it should be noted that since we are Washington State the REAL hippies are against the marijuana legalization initiative because it doesn’t go far enough.
I strongly believe in our democracy and I do my best to learn what I can about the issues and cast my vote accordingly. But I have to say it’s a bit of childhood dream dashed to discover that frequently both sides of an issue have points in their favor. What happened to absolute certainty and knowing which way to go? Who wants to grow up and see the other guy’s point of view? It makes me want to curl up on the couch and watch Rio Bravo (or Eldorado, really doesn’t matter which) because you know where you’re at with a John Wayne movie.
Although, it has recently come to my attention through this great blog entry by Anne Kreamer for the Harvard Business Review that my mother may have ruined my ability to see the world in black and white. By encouraging me to read fiction my heartless mother was teaching me to how to be empathetic and how to build a “theory of mind” (the ability to interpret and respond to those different from us). What was she thinking? Oh wait, I can totally understand what she was thinking because I have the skill to see the world from her perspective. Why, Mom, why??!!!
While being able to think from another point of view may have ruined my black hat/white hat theory of politics, it has served me well in writing. One the tricks I find most useful for teasing out a plot tangle is to write out a synopsis of the story from the Villains point of view. With all my attention being focused on the hero or heroine sometimes I’ll make the error of simply moving my Bad Guy off stage. For all intents and purposes he’s just out there in the wings, twiddling his thumbs, and waiting for his cue to come in and twirl his moustache and chew a bit of scenery. But when I write the story from his POV I realize that those plot holes have been holes because I haven’t been giving the Villain a chance to actually be a person. Real people have goals and motivations beyond moustache twirling and the story only gets better when I let my Baddy show there’s more to him than an awesome moustache. And although moustaches are great, I think we can all agree that no one will ever really be able to compete with Sam Elliot, and my Villains probably shouldn’t even try.
Bethany Maines is the author of Bulletproof Mascara, Compact With the Devil and Supporting the Girls. Catch up with her at www.bethanymaines.com or check out the new Carrie Mae youtube video.