Thursday, January 21, 2010

Personal Reality

Let consider personal reality, but before we consider that specifically, let me say that I believe in absolute truth. I believe in the God who created the Universe and I believe that he knows exactly how things really are, even though we may not see them the same way. So, please don’t construe what I have to say about personal reality to mean otherwise.

Every character in a story has a unique personal reality. Take the recent earthquake in Haiti, for example. As I write this, I am looking at an Associated Press report online that says there estimates that 200,000 people have died, 1.5 million people are homeless and the U.S. military has begun dropping prepared meals and bottled water, though they were previously reluctant to make airdrops for fear that it would create fighting on the ground. Next to the article is an ad for NFL Total Access and an ad for a personal injury attorney. People are dying by the hundreds of thousands in Haiti, but back in the comfort of our climate controlled buildings, furnished with more than we really need, we’re just as worried about who will go to the Super Bowl. Though I feel for the people hurting in Haiti, the personal reality for a man in Haiti who has lost not only his home but his wife and children is very different from mine as I listen to the news filter in from Haiti and then switch over to another website and learn what is happening in the NFL. The truth is no different, but it just isn’t as real to me.

As we consider a story, we should pay special attention the unique personal reality of the characters. Suppose we were to write about a natural disaster similar to the one in Haiti. We can talk about the thousands dead, but the reader won’t get it until we bring it down to a personal level. We need to focus on the personal reality of one character and not necessarily a character located in the disaster area. As devastating 200,000 people dead may seem, the death of a single person that we know is much more devastating. Suppose instead of focusing on the widespread destruction we focus on a man who has moved to the United States from Haiti, but he still has family in Haiti and he wants to do whatever he can to help them. Even though the story is removed from the event, it is the personal nature that makes it interesting.