Monday, May 28, 2012

Guest Blog: Unintended Consequences

Guest Blog by: S. Evan Townsend

I'm a fairly straight-forward writer. I don't weave in complex subplots or subtle motivations for my characters. My heroes are generally good and my villains may think they are doing good but they either use poor methods or have bad motivations.

So sometimes I am amazed at what readers see in my book that I didn't mean to be there. I really think this is projecting their experiences on my writing, which is not a bad thing. Each of us sees something slightly different when we gaze upon the Mona Lisa. Me, I still haven't figured out what's so great about it. But people see different things than I intended. Again, this isn't bad, and art is supposed to mean different things to different people.

For example, in my latest novel, Rock Killer, a company called Space Resources, Inc. (SRI), mines asteroids for the resources a crowded planet needs without degrading Earth's environment. One of my main characters, Alex Chun, works in a job where he's gone from Earth for six months mining asteroids, comes home for two weeks, then leaves again for space. He's married so he only sees his wife during those two weeks on Earth. One reader asked me, "Why does he leave his wife in preference for Space Resources, Inc.?" There is a scene early in the novel where his wife asks why he doesn't quit his job and stay on Earth permanently:

"You could quit SRI," Kirsten speculated. "Join my life full time. You've met most of my friends and get along with most of them. You have enough money in your SRI account we could both retire."

Alex shook his head. "I can't. I mean, I can, but I won't. I owe SRI. They took me and educated me and gave me a job–and kept educating me."

Alex doesn't leave his wife, as in divorce her. They are both very much in love. But he does not quit and he goes off to the asteroid belt to mine another asteroid. He's like the whalers and sailors of old, doing his job, his duty, even though it takes him away from his wife whom he loves. The modern equivalent would be the military personnel who get deployed to Afghanistan for a year.

But I never thought about Alex making a choice between his wife, Kirsten, and his job. Kirsten is independent enough that she doesn't need a man around full time. Their marriage works for them. But this reader saw conflict where I didn't mean for there to be any. Which may tell us more about her than about me.

One reason I love to write is so I can share things with readers, sneak in stuff while they are being entertained. But it's the stuff my readers sneak in that I never intended that is interesting to me.

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1 comment:

  1. Perfect theme for today; there are so many choices that a person feels must be made in the name of a higher calling...

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