“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln
So I kind of left you hanging last week with the problem I encountered with my new novel. You’ll recall that a wrench had been thrown into the works.The plans I had for one of my characters had changed. So his storyline had to change.
I contemplated getting rid of him all together. But how? He came to me fully formed. I heard the lie in his charming voice, saw the glint of silver on his capped tooth, and felt the tarnished gritty silk of the multi-coloured scarf around his fedora. I’d already fallen in love with him.
Whatever I did, whatever power I exerted on the story, I knew there would be consequences, not only for him, but also for the other characters and the story too. And to boot, he wasn’t going to go without a fight. He was as tenacious as an earworm. He would not be ignored.
So what did I do?
I can tell you that I found a solution or rather a reason for my character to go by sea. And that resolution created even more twists in my plot line. I won’t reveal here what I’ve done. You and I will both have to wait and see.
In a novel, I can tweak, make changes, go back and right past wrongs. Sure my characters will scold me, but I’m used to that. The consequences with real world decisions are far greater.
I know what you’re thinking: oh, oh, here comes her soapbox.
Yes. I’m afraid so.
We, the coalition of the unsure have very limited information about what we’re getting into in Iraq and Syria. When we decide to go into war in far away places, you can’t suddenly say oops, so sorry chaps, we made a mistake and exit stage right (wait, isn’t that what the Americans and Brits did in Iraq not long ago?).
We (well, thankfully not Canadians in the last Iraq war) have gone to war based on misinformation. And yes, I could go on and on about how those past mistakes have resulted in what we are currently experiencing in Iraq and Syria, but you’d likely tell me, we can’t fix the past, all we can do is fix what we have now.
And my response would be, if we made mistakes before, what makes you so sure we aren’t making another one now?
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t necessarily go into battle against ISIS. In fact, I’m not sure. What I am saying is: I’d like to make sure we’ve thought through all the consequences before we thump our chests and start something that will only make matters in those countries worse, and the rest of the world more dangerous.
Intelligence as I said is scantily available. Who is the enemy? What are we trying to do? What is our end game and how will we know we have accomplished it? Will our actions create more barbarianism and spawn further acts of terrorism? What are the intended and unintended effects of our action?
We should be asking those questions and so many more and engaging in meaningful, non-partisan discussion. Testosterone-driven egos need to be checked at the door.
Sure, no one has a crystal ball. I get that. Bad things happen even from the best of intentions and the most meticulous planning. But all I ask is that we look at this situation realistically and honestly before committing our countries to aggression in foreign lands.
I never know where I’m going to end up in a novel. Not really. But I can switch course, make changes, manoeuvre this way and that. I don’t have to be sure of anything when I start. All I have to know is that I will finish it and that any change is possible with the stroke of my fingers.
Unlike art, war demands that we are bloody sure before we act. Otherwise, we will be the ones who are left bloodied and irrevocably altered.
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