Friday, February 22, 2013

Actions have consequences

I had this observation recently while reading:

I noticed that I was keeping a sort of mental/emotional budget for characters. When a character was wronged, I expected him or her to react accordingly--whether with anger, disappointment, whatever, I expected some kind of backlash. It didn't have to happen right away, but I carried this expectation in the back of my mind, and when the character finally expressed it (directly or not), I felt relief and a renewed trust in the writer. In books where the reaction never comes, I feel disappointed, as if the book is incomplete. As if the author has forgotten something, or didn't truly put him/herself in that character's shoes. As if it rained but nobody got wet, and that's just not real.

Even characters who are outwardly accommodating will accumulate inward resentments if they're treated unfairly. It's part of human nature. Some way, somehow, bad treatment will out. It may come out sideways, it may be subtle, it may even turn inward, but it will happen. To get all Newtonian on you, for every action there will be an equal and opposite reaction. I don't mean that every character will get justice--that's not realistic either--but the negative energy absorbed by that character will go somewhere. It will have consequences.