February 5, 2019 at 6:54 pm #76902
Hey everyone! It’s been a long time—and I now emerge from my writer’s cave. 🙂
I’m working on editing a short story I wrote awhile ago. It is a fantasy allegory, but it’s rather simplistic. The overall theme of the story is redemption, and I’m trying to figure out some new angle to address this topic from—something unique.
Any ideas for some great focusing questions? I’m a bit stuck.February 5, 2019 at 8:10 pm #76926
This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately too. I don’t have any easy answers, but this is what I’ve come up with: I think redemption works well when we have such a connection to the redeemee that our heart breaks for their flaw. I recently finished Doctor Sleep by Stephen King, the sequel to The Shining, and it put the redemption arc of Jack Torrence in my head.
In the book (but not the movie), Jack Torrence is a father who struggles with a violent temper and alcoholism. He wants to do right by his family, turn his life around, get some writing done, and stay sober. On one level or another, the reader empathizes with Jack. We see he does truly love his wife Wendy and son Danny, even if he has given into his flaw terribly in the past, having broken his son’s arm in a drunken rage.
Over the course of the story, the haunted Overlook Hotel tries to corrupt Jack. It desires Danny’s psychic Shining, but can only directly act upon Danny a little bit. If it can fully corrupt Jack, he will kill his family and the hotel will win.
The hotel, through crazy phenomena that Jack thinks are mostly hallucinations, drives Jack to believe he is the hotel’s chosen one, rather than Danny, and to give into his alcoholism. Jack devolves into a more and more violent and drunken person up through the climax. At the climactic moment, Jack regains a sense of perspective, forcing his pride to channel into a sense of duty and violently protective love for his family. Jack sacrifices himself to destroy the hotel, and his family lives. (and in the Kubrick movie for some reason Jack is actually the chosen one and he instead gives in completely and becomes part of the hotel and that’s why I don’t like the movie very much)
I don’t think The Shining is the perfect salvation story by any means, but I think it hits some great points.
- We have true empathy for the flawed character. We aren’t simply told a terrible person has some good qualities (or none at all), like I see in a lot of redemption-based fiction.
- The character’s flaws drive the plot. They should seem to lead to some good things (Jack, in The Shining, is fiercely and almost violently protective of his family when he can be convinced there is real danger) and be tied in with truly positive character traits.
- The plot should prove the character cannot actually live with his flaws, and they should lead directly to his downfall and to that of the people he cares about.
- I think it’s fair to say the character’s lowest point should also be the climax in redemptive fiction. This is different to derivatives of the Hero’s Journey which have the protagonist pick themselves up and save the day after they sink to their lowest point. In our case, the redemption is the actual saving of the day.
- The protagonist must make a meaningful sacrifice to prove their redemption, because actions speak louder than words. Traditionally, this is death (maybe because it’s simple to not have to worry about writing that character any more), but it can mean other things too. This might be where you focus on your uniqueness. Note that this points to an issue many people in the real world have concerning Christianity—a common sentiment for a person claiming salvation on death row is “it’s too late, pal!” When a person seems to have crossed the line of no return, apparent salvation is seen by some as cheap. Maybe this is because they aren’t actually giving anything up. I don’t know. This is sort of the thing I’ve been thinking about a lot =P
- Consider making the protagonist’s salvation meaningful to the rest of the world. Would Saul’s redemption have been so powerful if the account had ended with the restoration of Paul’s sight? Definitely not, but I’ve read sooo many redemption stories which end on an equivalent.
Anyhoo, those were some of my thoughts. Hope something here is helpful!
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