Prompted again by some readings in Peck‘s book I was thinking this morning about perspective and worldviews. In general our worldview probably lines up quite a bit with the dominant views of the culture we grew up in. A person from New Delhi is most likely going to have a worldview that is more similar to his or her neighbour’s view than to a person’s view from Romania. But sometimes, our views can differ greatly from our neighbours’, and this probably has to do with the world we grew up in within our own families (and often their religious beliefs and connections) rather than our broader cultural environment. Peck mentions that our parents and other strong authority figures have the strongest impact on the way we see the world, and that view is determined more from their actions than from what they say or strive to teach us.
These thoughts sent me down the path of introspection and left me contemplating for almost an hour the ways in which I see the world, the ways in which my views and thoughts have changed in the past several years, the ways in which, despite those changes, there are beliefs from my formative years that I can’t seem to overcome, and the way that this reality has left me somewhat damaged and with what I imagine may be some very real psychological issues.
After spending that time considering where some of my struggles come from and how my conflicting past and current worldviews battle against each other I was left not knowing what to do about the situation. . . and so I took my thoughts down another path. A more practical path. As a writer, I can choose to write my characters with the assumption that the worldview I hold is the worldview most people hold, not acknowledging how incredibly false that is. It’s possible that through doing this I can still write very real, engaging characters but I imagine that after awhile the characters and the stories will end up seeming very similar and lack a certain depth.
In acknowledging the way my worldview differs from someone else’s, and theirs differs from another’s, I’m opening myself up to adjusting and perhaps revamping my own view. I’m enabling myself to better understand another person and perhaps, in the process, better understand myself. I think this can be true of our characters as well. It makes no sense to assume that Elizabeth Bennett sees the world in the same way that Darcy does . . . and it is their different viewpoints that create the tension and the struggle and the eventual ability to have a relationship that has enthralled generations.
I think that sometimes in my writing I’ve naturally made assumptions about the way a character views the world because of that character’s background and experiences . . . but I’ve never taken the time to sit down and really contemplate the intricacies of how those differences affect each word, action, and thought that comes from him or her. Now, perhaps I’m thinking too deeply here and a really good author would inherently know how to write in a way to reflect a character’s perspective and view of the world, but perhaps not. Some people have a decidedly pessimistic view of the world, some people optimistic, and others opportunistic…I’m guessing which view a character holds would greatly determine how she reacts to even the most simple situations, such as her car breaking down in the middle of traffic.
Writers – any thoughts on how worldview affects your character development? Do you consciously consider it?
Everyone – have you ever taken a moment to consider your worldviews, perspectives, beliefs, and where they stem from? In so doing, have you learned anything about yourself or ways in which you think your views are in need of change?