I went to hear Neil Gaiman talk a couple of weeks ago, (for a great recap of his talk, check out Sherrie Peterson’s blog) and I was struck by something he said.
Someone had asked him if his characters wrote themselves, and his answer was something to the effect of, “No, but I would love to live in a world where they did.” And then he had this hilarious riff about forcing them to write faster. (And boy, do I wish I could run off the cuff like that; I would have thought of that comment two hours later on the way home.)
Anyway, it occurred to me how much we do determine what sort of world we live in; sometimes in a good way, by consistently seeing the good in people or being hopeful in spite of the odds, or sometimes in a bad way by denying reality even when it is smacking us in the face.
That really resonated with me, both on a personal level to pay attention to how I’m perceiving the world that I live in, but also as a huge reminder of how critical it is to really put our character’s filters on and view the story world through their eyes; do they see it as a scary place or a hopeful one? Do they feel that they have any control over their world or are they powerless within it? What are they afraid lurks in the shadows? What do they hope is waiting for them around the next corner?
Even two siblings raised in the exact same family with no changes in parenting protocol live in different worlds; the first born having experienced a world where once only he held his parents' affection, and the second born child always living in a world that included other children.
It is also one of the reasons why I write fantasy; the world I live in feels too full of joy and sorrow, contains too many dark shadows and moments of incredible magic to ever be explained my mere reality.