February 24th, 2010 – Purpose


A person wants to know they have more to do in this life. Most people who take initiative for themselves strive for more than a simplistic existence. While none would argue that earning a working man/woman’s wage and raising a good family is enough, and in my opinion it is. However, there is possibly something that can either lead to regret or proved to be something never achieved but always reaching for.

That football game that was never won, and therefore they shut down aspirations for a career playing the game. An artist who had a gallery at one point, but they never sold enough paintings and had to shut down. A singer who won a state contest at one point, but they never truly researched the industry and pursued a career properly.

One would say there are only a few groups of people who have accomplished everything they sought out to achieve in their lives. This is where some of the best characters can be derived, in the flaws and struggles. Think of some of the best novels, movies, TV shows, where you were absolutely blown away by the quality of the product. Where every aspect of the product is so breathtaking, you find yourself wanting more the second the credits roll or you finish the book.

I feel that some of the best characters ever written in fiction are inherently flawed in some way. Superman has always been a hard character to relate to, that’s why I think the best storyline they ever did was when he fought Doomsday and died. He finally showed some flaw and weakness. The most astounding literary characters make some horrible choices in their lives, but it is typically driven by a purpose.

The great characters are driven by purpose. I’ll go back to one of my favorites Old Man and the Sea. He is so driven to catch that fish and bring it in and he is willing to go through hell to get it. The amount of time and torture he endures by the end of that book is excruciating. A man thinking clearly would have let the fish go or let the sharks have it. Instead, he fights the fish for hours and then tries to fen of sharks with a boat paddle. His drive to bring this fish in is what makes him have these irrational thoughts. Yet you don’t question why he has to do what he does.

It is with this that I have been analyzing the purpose of the characters in Current. In my first novel, it takes a look at nine people working on a state of the art facility providing renewable energy to the west coast of the United States. They are set up inside a submerged station that utilizes ocean current power to generate electricity. The nine struggle as a political game is afoot above the surface that directly changes their safety and success in the station they are working on, the Thales.

Each character accepted the job for varying reasons. Their reason for acceptance is dependent upon their reason and purpose for doing so. One character just lost his wife and wants nothing more than to escape the sympathy and pain he is feeling. Another has a large family to support and the increase in pay and benefits proves to be his reason. Another character does so because he has not found his purpose yet, and merely follows his older brother like he always has. Yet the younger brother hopes that his following will result in some sort of purpose for his being there.

This is where two different approaches come in with the novel. I am striving to have a few conflicting or varied purposes. The characters choose to come because of what they think is their purpose. However, fate/God/ultimate design has brought them there for a different purpose. By the end several of the characters will have realized their ultimate purpose in being there.

One recent example of extraneous character use what the movie 9. While it was good, it was far from amazing. The main reason was that I perceived the movie to have nine characters for a reason. Each character would serve a specified purpose in driving the story forward. By the end, I came to realize that the movie might as well have had only four, maybe five characters. Several of the nine did not do anything excessively relevant to the story. They were merely pawns in the chess game that were expendable.

The Lord of the Rings is the opposite effect. The nine members of the fellowship served a specified purpose. Without each of the nine characters being there, the story would not have come together so well to be the second most read books, following only the Bible! The readers find a parallel in their lives that is driven by purpose. Frodo finds himself outmatched in a world of menacing creatures and a task so much bigger than him. Yet, with the help of Samwise he achieves his goal. If I just spoiled Lord of the Rings for you I feel no shame. You should have read it by now or at least seen the movies!

So as the book is nearing readiness to begin the actual process of writing the book page by page, this is what I struggle to keep at the forefront. In a science fiction political thriller like this, I am finding some elements being taken over by exposition and research. However, the exposition can be laid into scenes and the characters can develop and build their relationships by keeping purpose as the priority.

It is coming along very well, the Thales manual that is part of the three deadlines by the end of March is coming together (see blog from Week Two). It is getting very lengthy but will provide a great base of information. If the science and technology is clearly outlined, the details of the book will not suffer. My hope is that it will find ways to creep into the story and not take over. I also hope that it will give me the chance to focus on the more important elements of the book, character and story. See you later this week for some Friday relaxation!

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