Belief Systems and Literature

I recently wrote a story that required presenting an unbiased view from several different perspectives.  My primary goal was to write a story that would not appear to favor either viewpoint.  This is what I learned.  It is very difficult to present a point of view that you disagree with without somehow belittling it.  The reason is because you see it as inferior and the only arguments you have are inferior arguments.  It will be biased.  Often, we believe we are representing a viewpoint that we don’t necessarily agree with in our writing but it is highly unlikely that we are.

As I read back on my writing I realized that for the most part, I was presenting weak arguments for the perspective that I disagreed with, probably because that was my mindset.  That wasn’t my goal and it required re-educating myself in order to write the story the way I wanted.  That is no small challenge.  In fact, in order to do it, I not only had to come to an understanding of the opposite view, I had to come to an appreciation of it.  It had to make sense to me.  I had to no longer view it as an inferior viewpoint.

The beauty of this was that it turned out to be a very mind expanding opportunity.  Often, we think we understand another’s viewpoint but we remain sure that ours is right.  I suggest that until you are no longer sure your own is view is superior to another, you cannot write a truly engaging story.

The reason is that if you are presenting a story to an audience with multiple viewpoints, it is a very fine art to make people question their own beliefs.  Unless you see the true merits of differing views and have questioned your own beliefs, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to present an argument that will cause others to question their own beliefs.

That being said, I believe that beyond having a command of the written word, the greatest authors tend to be neutral, non-judgmental observers of the world.  If you’ve ever read a book that caused you to question your own belief systems you know what I mean.  In my humble opinion, some of the greatest literature makes readers of several opposing belief systems scratch their heads and question their own beliefs.

I’m not talking about politics, or religion, or any such major issues in particular, though that would be a major coup.  Something as simple as making me wonder why I like the antagonist serial criminal and don’t want to see him go to prison is sufficient for me. If you can offer such a mind expanding opportunity, I want to read your story.

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