Apr 10, 2010

H in Fiction

The H is Silent

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I guess the ol' silent H routine isn't going to fly for this post :-).

Actually H should be easy for me, it's what I look for when I read fiction.

Regardless of whether the novel is about cats, aliens or trees, for me it has to be about humanity, how we deal with things and what we are capable of.

Humanity can be shown many ways and I have three favourites:

Aussies are generally known for their sense of humour which can be a bit off-beat and probably stems from our strong Irish connection. We try to laugh off everything. Especially people who think they've got the upper hand, no one is above a ridicule. Even Chris Vogler refers to our 'tall poppy syndrome' in his book Using Myth to Power Your Story, Aussies don't like seeing someone get 'too big for their boots'.

Of course, not everyone is funny. But sometimes that character can be hilarious because they're not funny. In Good Morning Vietnam, Robin Williams' humour is contrasted with a binary character that thinks he's funny, but has absolutely no sense of humour. I laugh at that character a lot.

And there is a boundary (well for me anyway), somethings are beyond being funny. I really have to prepare myself to read a book that I know will show humanity's unkindness :-(.

Even if I'm reading a book for children, I want to see a character with heart. Someone that will stand against the odds, even if failing is inevitable. I don't want it to be easy for them, that's what makes their actions meaningful - because it hurts to try. I heart the people. I want to find the best in them and sometimes that means showing the worst too, so we can see the journey for our character's true potential.
I don't have to have a happy ending to like a story, but there does have to be hope at the end for change. If things simply return to normal I feel like I've made no progress (hey, I was on the journey with the main character while reading, so I get to share in the credit for the outcome don't I?). Even in post-apocolyptic tales, I need to see humanity's hope at the end.

One of my favourite films for showing the potential in every person is Changing Lanes with Ben Afflick and Samuel L Jackson. This film starts with an accident between two seemingly very different people, but through the film we see the darkest things they are capable of and then we see the lengths they are prepared to go to when they try to right their wrongs.

I try to keep humour, heart, hope and humanity in mind when I write, but it can also be a topic to address in the editing process.

So, I HEART Humans, what do you HEART to read in fiction?


  1. Hi, I love the book, "The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein. I can't read it aloud without tears near the end. I also like the little book, "Love You Forever" They both just brim over with humor, heart and hope.
    Best regards,

  2. Great post! I <3 the human dynamic and overcoming one self. The exploration of finding one's true
    strength and weaknesses, as the writing lures you in. I think seeing all the h's you mentioned no matter what type of fiction, provides a common thread. We all can relate~

  3. I really enjoyed this post. I couldn't think of anything to add.

  4. Just finished watching the film A Serious Man and your post made me think of that. The humor was dark and quirky. I felt badly for the characters and everything seemed so bleak and depressing yet there seemed to be a hidden sense of wonder as characters just continued on thru troubled lives. The essence of humanity is multifaceted in real life and needs to be portrayed as such in fiction.
    Good post.
    Blogging From A to Z April Challenge

  5. Yes I know what you mean about the Aussie humour. I'm always making jokes that no one lughts at! (except my fiance who has finally learned why my jokes ARE in fact funny) hehehe :)

  6. I think the three things you've mentioned are important and I like to find those things in the novels I read. I also like honesty. I like when the author is real in his writing, when he/she says things we feel but are sometimes too afraid to speak of.


  7. Awesome read is A Seahorse in the Thames...by Susan Meissner...very wonderful and heartwarming story! Great post!

  8. I love all your points on what's good in fiction and definitely agree.

    A book I read recently "In a Perfect World" didn't really have a happy ending, but it had a hopeful one, which was perfect for the tone of the book :)