The Human Side
One person can make a difference. If my students come away knowing in their soul that this statement is true, I will have been successful. It’s the same warning Ayn Rand makes in “Anthem” about what happens without individuality, or the danger of doublethink explained so well by George Orwell. The collectivist theory that claims one person is useless without the whole, and at best dangerous when acting alone is a message that leads to what I like to call theRand shrug.
I realize I just used the same author twice in one paragraph, I hope you’ll forgive me, or when you write the rebuttal I will allow you to quote Karl Marx… twice.
Anyway, it’s this type of battle Jack Payne is fighting in my short story, “Eyes of Payne.” More important, Jack is equipped with the idea that he can make a difference. When creating this character I used a ton of what I had learned from past heroes and villains. As I tell my students, some people in the past can be a hero to some, yet a villain to another. For many years Christopher Columbus was touted as a hero here in America. However, and rightfully so, many Indian tribes would look upon him as a villain. Then there’s the paradox of Thomas Jefferson who wrote the words that created a nation and inspired the world; but, owned more slaves when he died than before he wrote all men are created equal. Abigail Adams, probably the first woman suffragette, and the better half of America’s first love story, also made comments that we would say are racist at best today.
Yet, it’s the humanness of these people that make us fall in love with them. It’s also the reason why the scrubbed clean of any controversy history textbooks make students want to slit their wrists when they come to your social studies class. In one word… its borrrring!
Okay, so I have to admit I haven’t had to clean up any blood in the classroom yet, but the point I’m trying to make is our flaws are what make us interesting. My favorite priest likes to ramble on and on about the beauty of sin. No matter what walk of life we come from we are fascinated by the contradictions we see in others, but either ignore, or can’tsee, in ourselves. This is where the true essence of character comes from in writing.
So, “Eyes of Payne” is a mixture of taking these ideas and applying them to real and fictional characters. Write with purpose, I always tell my students, and that’s what I try and do. To start, I always want to entertain, call it the egomaniac in me; but I also want to leave the reader with something to think about, regardless if they agree with my assessment or not. Overall, my main character Jack Payne is a good man, yet he’s not perfect. While struggling with the need for revenge, he hopes to keep enough love in his heart for his daughter, Abigail. Just like the myriad of reasons why the founders fought for independence, or why soldiers took sides, sometimes against their own brother, in the Civil War, as individuals we need to know more than anything that we can make a difference.