How our culture hates a goody-goody! I think we hate virtuous people almost more than we hate child traffickers. Or so it seems.
As I write MY HISTORICAL FAMILY SAGA it’s easy to hate the virtuous because it almost feels as if there’s nothing to say about them. I sometimes imagine a virtuous person having no struggles, and this, I know, is unfair. My tendency is to focus on the lost and sinful elements of characters and heap tons of sympathy upon them while the virtuous remain alone in their human toil.
The virtuous, we think, are bland like vegetables to the person inclined toward sweets. Yet broccoli can be a tasty thing when put in the hands of a good cook. And so it is with virtue. Those of us who struggle to attain even a modicum of humility realize the great difficulty involved in becoming virtuous. There is a faith necessary here. One must believe that life, and the characters you write will become even better with a sprinkling of virtue.
When a person wakes up each morning expecting a do-nut (that in one half hour will make them feel sick to their stomach) they find it hard to believe that a warm glass of lemon water and some protein will will produce better results.
Anti-heroes intrigue me, but the characters who challenge me to take a hard look at myself and my icing covered flaws annoy. More than annoy, they tempt me to run from them. A virtuous person (albeit with some flaws) causes me to contemplate my own place in the race of life. Sometimes that’s not enjoyable.
The anti-hero understands our hidden parts, asks us to wallow a while in the shallow comfort of self-pity and despair, but the virtuous character asks us to stretch ourselves in uncomfortable ways with only scant promise of success (or that elusive thing called joy).
The further along this racecourse of life the more I’m ready to tackle the virtuous in writing with admiration instead of suspicion and jealousy. Buck Crenshaw as he grows through each of my novels is moving out of his anti-hero costume into something more compelling and rare: a man who (timidly at first) is drawn to the good race. Yet Buck is a clumsy runner and always will be.
Surprises sometimes come in the shape of a mate. Around the final bend Buck is brought to his knees, but along comes a virtuous friend. I can’t wait to see what Buck does with her.
Humility – Humility is the virtue that counters pride. As pride leads to other sin, true humility clears a path for holiness. Pride is a sin based on undue and inappropriate appreciation of one’s self worth. Conversely, the virtue of humility is about modest behavior, selflessness and the giving of respect.
Liberality – Liberality, or generosity, is the virtue that is counter to greed – the sin of immoderate desire for earthly things. The virtue of liberality is focused not merely on the appropriate concern regarding one’s earthly things, but furthermore on generosity and a willingness to give, freely and without request for commendation.
Chastity – Chastity is the counter-virtue to the sin of lust. Chastity embraces moral wholesomeness and purity, and in both thought and action treats God’s gift of sexuality with due reverence and respect.
Meekness – Meekness, or patience, is the virtue that counters the sin of unjust anger, also called wrath or rage. Where the sin of wrath is about quick temper and unnecessary vengeance, the virtue of meekness focuses on patiently seeking appropriate resolution to conflicts, and on the ability to forgive and show mercy.
Temperance – The virtue of temperance or abstinence counters the sin of gluttony. To be gluttonous is to over-indulge. On the opposite hand, the virtue of temperance is centered on self-control and moderation.
Kindness – Kindness, or brotherly love or love for one’s neighbor, is the virtue which counters the sin of envy. Envy, in contradiction to God’s law of love, is manifest in a person’s sorrow and distress over the good fortune of another person. Conversely, kindness and brotherly love is manifest in the unprejudiced, compassionate and charitable concern for others.
Diligence – Diligence, or persistence, is the virtue which acts as a counter to the sin of sloth. Sloth, as a capital sin, refers to laziness in matters of Faith. Diligence in matters of the spiritual combat laziness and this virtue is manifest in appropriately zealous attitudes toward living and sharing the Faith.
Excerpted from: AQUINAS AND MORE
“There is a stereotype of literary fiction shared by both science fiction readers and non-science fiction readers: that academically-sanctioned, “serious” contemporary fiction is all about dull middle-class people having affairs, and that the writers of this fiction do such things as use a couple hundred pages to describe events that could quite easily be described in a paragraph.”
An interesting thread on romance in fantasy writing:
“But for people who want verisimilitude and detailed characterizations, romance is going to be there. Real people deal with romance in their actual lives. It’s a huge part of being human.
Romance doesn’t mean the book is plot-less or spends all its time dealing with vampire-werewolf three-ways. Badly written romance means the book is plot-less or spends all its time dealing with vampire-werewolf three-ways.” unconundrum
“The stereotype is not just about elevating certain works of fiction, but overdetermining their value.”
“(And yes, you cried deeply at The Notebook, and hated yourself for every minute of it.)”
This is a hard thing to do, isn’t it? My characters struggle. They wonder if God is good. They wonder if people can be good. They often turn away from God (or try to forget about Him completely) like the first garden inhabitants who hid in shame with a new awareness of good and evil.
Even the best humans have dark hearts (some would take issue with the word BEST ). Anne Lamont once wrote how easy it was for her to slip from elevated thoughts of God down to heated arguments with her son over trivial matters.
Despite this I find real and imagined humans lovable. I wonder if I’d love them more without their hang ups and flaws. It’s a silly thought since perfection is impossible in this life. How is love so powerful even when we only do it fair to middling? The tiniest drop of it ignites huge cravings even in the steeliest of people (though some of us tend to seek love out in troubling and destructive ways).
There are a few characters of mine who seem to have fallen completely under dark spells, but in those dark places lie hidden hurts and desperate attempts at numbing those longings that have so often met with abuse and neglect.
I’m not so naive to think the world can change with a song and a Coke. Some people choose a path of darkness and willfully blind themselves to everything else, but most people just struggle. Those people are the ones I like to write about.
**featured image from Pinterest
ENTER THE GOODREADS GIVEAWAY! (The winner gets the much prettier new cover)
Despite my best writerly intentions, late July brings a bevy of visitors (all of whom love our crazy dogs–and cat) and excursions. It’s the price I pay for living in the beautiful Adirondacks–I’m not complaining! I’m enjoying my time, but look forward to visiting all the wonderful blogs I follow. Hope you’re having a great August!
So I thought I’d show a few pics of our RESCUE DUCK “Chip.” He’s now taken to spending his dog days on the hammock:
If you’re lucky enough to have storytellers in your family you may have experienced what I’m naming Soul Holloways. Holloways are sunken, endlessly trod-upon paths. Their histories are sometimes buried deep, but the roots are exposed in places. Some holloways date back to Roman times and some to Native American trails.
Soul Holloways are those fleeting times when you remember what you don’t remember. The past opens through an old picture of a great-grandfather with mischievous eyes and the trace of a smile under his mustache. This great grandfather was the son of the son of Charles Foster who was hung from a tree when he was 6 and whipped all day for being late. He came to Christ at age 21. His father was a drunk but strong and cut the first roads through New England.
The women of the Foster Holloway Clan were spirited but given the burden of walking with drunks or very strict and straight-laced men–the tension between insanity and stability always being great.
Holloways are mysterious and beautiful but have been used in times of war to trap men in their depths or hide them from enemies–making them sometimes famous and sometimes infamous.
It’s easy to get trapped or saved in a Soul Holloway–exposed roots tell you where you came from, but you must not get mired in them for the holloways can be muddy in spring. Walking your Soul Holloway makes you feel you can touch every kindred spirit since even before they landed in the New World in 1630. You say, “Yes, I know that about myself now. It’s how it has always been in my family.”
Once, in the forest we found an old paved road. Within ten years of no one caring for it the forest had reclaimed much of it. We may try to cover or pave over our holloways, but holloways are more like beautiful scars than roads that cover earthy smells and allow us to rush by in fast cars.
Soul Holloways are beautiful scars, too. They ask us to linger a while.
I write about family scars all the time. Maybe you’d recognize a familiar Soul Holloway in one of my novels! BUY ONE TODAY. 🙂
Glade by the Sea by Frederick Ballard Williams
James Madison rocks, doesn’t he?
Once upon a time there lived on a Saratoga hillside surrounded by lakes a tragic little family of wealth and privilege. Spencer and Katrina Trask lost every child they ever produced, but gathered countless friends, many of whom were artists and poets drawn to the couple’s generosity and toughness in the face of Job-like losses, year after sad year.
Henry van Dyke was one such friend who wrote the following inscription for Katrina Trask’s garden sundial dedicated to her four dead children:
“Dr. van Dyke is the kind of a friend to have when one is up against a difficult problem. He will take trouble, days and nights of trouble, if it is for somebody else or for some cause he is interested in.” Helen Keller said of him.
“I’m not an optimist. There’s too much evil in the world and in me. Nor am I a pessimist; there is too much good in the world and in God. So I am just a meliorist, believing that He wills to make the world better, and trying to do my bit to help and wishing that it were more.” Wikipedia
There was once a time in America when it was quite fashionable (even among the intellectual elites) to see something good in America. Does this mean there was nothing bad? Surely not, but van Dyke’s poem always tickles my fancy especially when children recite it in schools that still teach that America is a pretty great place to be:
AMERICA FOR ME
‘Tis fine to see the Old World, and travel up and down
Among the famous palaces and cities of renown,
To admire the crumbly castles and the statues of the kings,—
But now I think I’ve had enough of antiquated things.
So it’s home again, and home again, America for me!
My heart is turning home again, and there I long to be,
In the land of youth and freedom beyond the ocean bars,
Where the air is full of sunlight and the flag is full of stars!
Oh, London is a man’s town, there’s power in the air;
And Paris is a woman’s town, with flowers in her hair;
And it’s sweet to dream in Venice, and it’s great to study Rome;
But when it comes to living there is no place like home.
I like the German fir-woods, in green battalions drilled;
I like the gardens of Versailles with flashing fountains filled;
But, oh, to take your hand, my dear, and ramble for a day
In the friendly western woodland where Nature has her way!
I know that Europe’s wonderful, yet something seems to lack:
The Past is too much with her, and the people looking back.
But the glory of the Present is to make the Future free,—
We love our land for what she is and what she is to be.
Oh, it’s home again, and home again, America for me!
I want a ship that’s westward bound to plough the rolling sea,
To the bléssed Land of Room Enough beyond the ocean bars,
Where the air is full of sunlight and the flag is full of stars