Do you believe in Destiny? The Plan the Universe has for you?
~ Or ~
Do you believe that the path of your life is directed by your actions? The sum total of your decisions, both good and bad, that lead you to where you are?
Yeah, these are questions best suited for deep discussions over coffee or wine between philosophy majors with endless hours to debate each side and every nuance of questions pondered since the Roman scholar Boethius first fixated on Fortune's Wheel in his work The Consolation of Philosophy....
....but these are also things novelists and playwrights think about when lying awake at three in the morning. Writers have been pondering these questions for centuries. Shakespeare himself once wrote "It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves." * If you think about it, fighting against fate was a running theme in so many of his works. And yet, if ever there was a writer to make Fate an actual character with power over others, it was Shakespeare.
I feel like it's more than the plotter/panster division of thought, because there are pantsers who go into their story knowing what the ending will be, just not how their characters will arrive at their ending.
Maybe the question of "destiny" is unfair in the context of writing novels. As authors, WE ARE the ultimate arbiters for the fate of our characters. We decide who lives, who dies and who gets the Happily Ever After in the end.
We are - or can be - the wielders of the deus ex machina, twisting the plot to reach the desired outcome... but books are more interesting to read when they make sense. When for every action there is a reaction - and a consequence. Plot twists that include Divine Intervention or Suddenly Revealed Superpowers... not nearly as interesting as a story that builds layer upon layer, brick by brick, to allow the characters to learn, to stumble, to grow... and to find their own destiny.
I keep coming back to the idea of consequences. I truly believe there should always be consequences and it bugs me when there aren't. In books and in life. Insta-love is too easy.
What do you think? Do you think about these things when you're twisting your characters and their emotions into pretzel-shaped knots on the page? Do you make them pay for transgressions? Learn from their mistakes? Earn their HEA?
Chime in and let us know what you think about the philosophical nonsense I'm ranting about today. C'mon, if Shakespeare could throw in his two cents on the topic (and more than once) so can you.
Which brings me to the asterisked quote above - I came across that particular Shakespeare quote on a magnet in a bookstore - but it didn't cite the play. Does anyone recognize it as a real quote, and from where? I've had it taped to my computer monitor for over a year now, and I'm starting to wonder if it's a bastardization of Cassius from Julius Caesar, where he's egging on Brutus, a quote made famous by John Green. Extra points if you can tell me the Green book I'm referencing.
Happy Writing to ALL!