Gary Guinn

Literature of the Ozarks

Month: February 2017 (page 1 of 2)

From the Forge: Characterization, Creating Complex Characters, Part III

Because human beings are inherently complex, characterization in fiction is itself a complex process. Appearance and action, the two methods of characterization we looked at in my last From the Forge post, obviously reveal character, but they may also be used to hide or disguise some elements of character. A character’s actions may even be used to mislead the reader temporarily.

This complexity of characterization is heightened when a writer turns to speech and thought as methods. Janet Burroway, in Writing Fiction, says that “speech represents an effort . . . to externalize the internal and to manifest not merely taste of preference but also deliberated thought.” Put simply, Burroway is saying that we attempt to say what we mean, what we think. But there, of course, lies the problem. As Hamlet says, “Words, words, words.” We have all experienced the struggle of putting our thoughts and feelings clearly into words, while avoiding misunderstanding. But that very difficulty can create great opportunity for the writer.

What is more human than hiding our true feelings and either saying nothing or saying what we do not really mean? What is more human than misunderstanding our own intentions, or more human than hurting another person with words that were innocently spoken?

The writer can use these struggles, manipulating the conflict between methods of characterization—for example, between what is thought and what is said, or between what is thought and what is done—to great effect.

In Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Hills Like White Elephants,” one of the two characters–the man–says to the other character–the woman–four times, “I don’t want you to do anything that you don’t want to do.” The reader knows, has in fact known from the first time he says it, that the man does want her to do something she doesn’t want to do, which is have an abortion. His selfish nature and his duplicity are revealed by the conflict between what he says at those four points and everything else he says and does.

Hemingway doesn’t have to tell the reader anything about the man’s thoughts or feelings, because he has revealed the man’s nature through the clash between his words and actions.




Book Giveaway on Rafflecopter: Sacrificial Lam


Just wanted to let you know that I’m doing a giveaway on Rafflecopter. Hit the link at the bottom of this post to go and enter for a chance to win a copy of Sacrificial Lam. Good luck.

Here’s the blurb and excerpt:

Blurb: When English professor Lam Corso receives a death threat at work, he laughs it off.  A liberal activist at a small Southern conservative college, he’s used to stirring up controversy on campus.  It’s just part of the give and take of life.  Even when violently attacked, Lam is convinced it must be a mistake.  He can’t imagine anyone who would want to kill him for his beliefs.

When his home is broken into and his wife’s business vandalized, Lam is forced to face the truth. His wife—a passionate anti-gun crusader—is outraged when Lam brings a gun into the house for protection. The police can’t find a single lead. Left to their own devices, Lam and Susan are forced to examine their marriage, faith, and values in the face of a carefully targeted attack from an assailant spurred into action by his own set of beliefs.

What will it cost to survive?

Excerpt: When he dropped Lam back to the pavement, he said, “You dodged a bullet Friday afternoon. My bad. But I won’t miss this time.” And then the attacker stepped away and waited, breathing hard.

Another shock of fear and clarity ran through Lam. The car had been trying to kill him. He’d been a fool. He thought of Susan, sitting with the boys on the sofa, watching TV and sipping a glass of wine. He couldn’t let go of her, he couldn’t bear to leave her and the boys, lying there in an empty parking lot. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. He had imagined dying hundreds of times—cancer, car wreck, drowning, plane crash—but never this, beaten to death by a lunatic who didn’t like his politics.

A desperate sound, short, high, and strained, broke from him. Blind without his glasses in the dark, he was helpless, but he refused to lie there and be killed without a fight. He tried again to stand. But as he struggled to his knees, a blow to the side of his head sent him sprawling against the bike rack, and he thought he was passing out.

The voice came again, “Time’s up, Lambert.”

When Lam looked up, the man stood above him with something, a knife Lam thought, in his hand.

The voice said, “You were warned.”

The link:  a Rafflecopter giveaway





Evangelical Christianity Redux: Moral Issues?

Here’s a guest post that considers the problematic nature of moral issues in the political realm. It’s a response to Friday’s post on Mike Huckabee and Higher Education

Evangelical Christianity apparently would have us believe abortion and gay marriage are the great moral issues of our day. Undoubtedly these are moral issues, but Christians are deeply divided on these issues. That said, all Christians should agree on this: both the Old Testament and the New Testament teach us that the great ongoing moral issues revolve around loving justice, walking humbly with your God, and practicing kindness and mercy toward “the least of these my brethren,” which includes taking care of “orphans, widows and the poor and welcoming the sojourner” (read immigrants).

In that light, taking away healthcare from 20 million Americans who need it most is most certainly a moral issue, not a political disagreement. Advocating building walls to separate us and excluding immigrants from certain Muslim countries are also moral issues. These actions are clear political ploys to stir up racial and religious hatred and to make us fearful of each other. Racial bias is still prevalent in our communities. Ignoring this prejudice under the guise of “law and order” is dishonest and wrong.

We are failing to live up to God’s charge to us in Genesis to be the gardeners of this Eden we call Earth. It is a grave moral issue to refuse to deal with climate change and pollution because it reduces the profits of the wealthy.

Finally, Micah calls us to “walk humbly.” Any person who engages in demeaning, belittling, disrespectful, bullying, name calling behavior, who fosters fear and hatred between communities and countries, who ignores the poor and disadvantaged, is doing wrong, plain simple wrong. Especially such actions by a person in great power should be vigorously condemned by every practicing Christian, regardless of their denomination.

Indeed, in our day, there are many moral issues that need desperately to be addressed.

George Benjamin, MD


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