Monday, May 9, 2016
Great novelists understand that truth is neither black nor white. The best characters are filled with shades of gray. Black and white characters are boring and leave little to the imagination or the heart. As readers, we connect most with the characters who are conflicted and whose behavior is neither purely evil nor purely good. The best stories communicate the nuances of the human soul.
When it comes to the interactions of human beings nothing is black and white. You can always find some gray. Every person has some good in him as well as some bad. For me, very little truth is black and white. Most truth, if not all, has various shades of gray. No human being has a monopoly on truth. We all make mistakes.
Yet, many people choose to see the world as black and white. They quickly choose sides and set up barriers which give rise to conflict. Sometimes writers and artists fall into the trap of seeing the world as black and white: "Only our style of art is good. Everything else is bad." For much of the 20th century artists moved away from realism and adopted cubism, abstract expressionism, surrealism and magical realism. Realism became a negative word. In writing, we have literary novels and the genre novels. Mysteries, science fiction, fantasy and romance novels are considered by literary snobs not to be as good as the literary novels.
I grew up in a church where congregations would split up over such simple things as whether men should wear clothes with buttons or the fish and hook. The fights between the groups of people occur because each group believes they have cornered the market on truth. They probably agree on 95% of the issues, but they allow the five percent to divide them. They don't see the gray because they are blinded by the black and white.
Who in your life are you separated from because you each think you own the truth? A story does not just have one or two sides. It has thousands of sides. Nothing is black and white. Everything is gray. Break down those black and white walls today and gather those you love in your arms.