August 6, 2010

Commandments for Writers Series: #3

I'm continuing with Sol Stein's Ten Commandments for Writers, from Stein On Writing.
3 Thy characters shall steal, kill, dishonor their parents, bear false witness, and covet their neighbor's house, wife, manservant, maidservant, ox, and ass, for readers crave such actions and yawn when thy characters are meek, innocent, forgiving, and peaceable.

I had to think about this one. I have learned there are a few things your main character should never be (for example, an adulterer), and this commandment challenges that. But what about the other characters?

Conflict, anyone?

In the previous post I mentioned Edmond Dantes, the young man betrayed by his friends through his meekness, his innocence. I have just begun reading The Count of Monte Cristo and have been warned it is not much like the movie I love, so for the purpose of this post, I'll refer to what I know from the movie because it came to mind when I read the above commandment.

Because Dantes' friend, Mondego, stoops to nearly all the mentioned vices: he covets all Dantes has, including his fiance, his living, his future,and so frames his friend, bearing false witness, sentencing him to life imprisonment and stealing all Dantes looked forward to, including his love, Mercedes, lying about his death. The act itself kills Dantes' father.
It was easy. Because Dantes was meek, innocent, forgiving, and peaceable. And we want to scream.

We begin to urge him on, to look for ways to hope, jumping on any chance for Dantes to win his life back, to, even, exact revenge. To change. And he does. He is angry, vengeful, scheming, and distrustful. A liar. We want him to move forward with everything he has, with all the momentum he has gained... but do we want him to become Mondego?

No. I don't. I want him to exact as justice demands. But I want him to trust, to feel, to hope again. Without innocence. I want him to be the hero.

Okay, now I have to go watch the movie.

Thanks for making me think, Sol.


M. Gray said...

Ah, I have always *loved* this movie. I saw it with a friend who had read the book and she didn't like the movie--said Mondego was a much better hero in the bk. You'll have to say if you agree!

Great application of Sol's commandment. Isn't it such a great book??!

Krista said...

Thanks, M! The book (CoMC) is one of my sister's faves and she had mixed feelings about the movie, too. But she said the casting was excellent. I can't imagine Mondego any kind of hero, but you've piqued my interest!

And yes, the book is great!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...