Thursday, March 18, 2010

Songs of Experience

Cast out of the garden is often the image attached to that of being driven to the world of experience from a state of innocence. I don't see it that way simply because I don't think of the transition as being so sudden. It's more a long path from a sandlot, through the woods, until ultimately you reach a strip mall on a highway somewhere. It's a long path. Most of adolescence is that transition and while it certainly can be a painful transformation, it's not quite the horrifying experience of becoming a werewolf on a full moon, despite the fact hair plays an uncomfortable role in the whole deal.

As I mentioned before, I believe Coming of Age novels are very much about exploring this journey and finding a balance between the two states. I don't believe one ever wants to live solely in Experience. Those who do tend to be the jaded, cynical type of practical people that are entertaining only in their ranting rages. The trick is borrow the best from both while recognizing the shortfalls of each as well.

In some ways, the main characters in all of my novels are steeped in this process. They try to figure out how to hold onto a sense of wonder and interest in a world where horrible things happen. By the end of Perfect World, the main character does find this balance in one small moment:

-I see the sun through my tears . . it sparkles in them and everything twinkles like the first few flakes of a snowstorm and something about that makes me stop running . . something about being able to see something so beautiful in the middle of so much that's painful.-
Perfect World page 275

So ends my examination of Innocence vs. Experience and hence my boring semi-term paper-esque analysis. But for young writers, or any writer of child characters, I think these two opposites are a good way to think about character development and wanted to discuss them for that reason. After all, you have to know your character before you can tell their story.

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