Suffering and Playing Favorites

I heard a sermon in church talking about liberation. One of the examples brought a reference to people who viewed god as a racist who preferred white people because of the suffering of jews and blacks and others.

But I think they might be thinking of this in the wrong way. Whether the world has a plotted history or if it unrolls by the seat of the pants, the idea of god as a racist is misleading.

God or nature or whatever force you want to put behind it brings the world into a different focus if you look at it as a writer. Sure, you can give this supreme deity any sort of career you want to, and it can be supported – but follow me for a moment.

God as a writer gives a different mentality behind suffering. Writers do it all the time. We create characters and people and we make them suffer. The more we love them, the more trouble we put them through. At time we have vinettes where no one has to worry too much. There are long periods of time where not much goes on, and the book of days overlooks those without drama and suspense.

People can dedicate themselves to an ideal and they still suffer. People can work to live without suffering and it comes to them anyway. Does this mean some force loves others more because they do not suffer? Or is it that the force has come to know some people better and is pushing them to a higher potential?

Perhaps it is more that some people have not gotten the same kind of attention, and their characters will be brought to more suffering later. It could be that the writer doesn’t identify with those people enough to figure out how to bring them low yet – or the culmination of their demise just hasn’t caught up to them yet.

I find as a writer if I love a character I hate to kill them, even if I know it must be done. I’ll cry sometimes, but I do it anyway. I’m sad when I have to torture them, but I have to do it for them to be the character that I know in my heart they can become. [Or that their companions need to become in the case of it being a final death.]

Do you ever wonder about minor characters that don’t do much? The ones you almost ignore as a cardboard caricature within the stories you read? Those are the unloved ones, the forgotten ones, the ones who barely meet a purpose and get cut by good editors. We have no place for them in fiction, and we don’t have places for them in the history books, either.

This deity or whatever you want to call it — the story isn’t all written and the plot hasn’t unfolded completely. We’re not done suffering and we’re not done with the changes our world needs. This book extends for millenia and we have no idea when it will culminate, if ever. The future may bring the supposed privileged people down, and it might create stronger fellows among the downtrodden. All we know for certain is that we’re not done yet.


From Janet Fitch: The writer is both a sadist and a masochist. We create people we love, and then we torture them. The more we love them, the more cleverly we torture them along the lines of their greatest vulnerability and fear, the better the story. Sometimes we try to protect them from getting booboos that are too big. Don’t. This is your protagonist, not your kid.

From Danielle Orner: Writing is a dangerous profession. There is no telling what hole you may rip in society’s carefully woven narrative.

From Nikki Giovanni: Writers don’t write from experience, although many are hesitant to admit that they don’t… If you wrote from experience, you’d get maybe one book, maybe three poems. Writers write from empathy.

From Harry Widdifield: If you’ve ever spent any measurable amount of time considering ‘cool’ ways to kill people… You’re probably an author.

I still read the books and wait for the characters I loathe to get what’s coming to them. Sometimes they get it. Other times they don’t. It doesn’t mean they weren’t loved by their creator.

From Natalie Goldberg: Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.

I don’t know why suffering is necessary, but it is everpresent in fiction and in life. I can’t say I know the nature of any deity or supernatural force. I only know how I wander through my books and the characters I create.

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