Wednesday, 12 February 2020

The most deadly sin?

The concept of deadly sins - sloth, greed, envy, and the rest, have provided quite a bit of material for writers, film makers and artists as a collection - the full seven. Often in creepy thrillers.They are also the motor power of a great deal of work individually, as themes or character traits, even in romance writing. The villain can quite generously possess all of them, but even a hero or heroine can exhibit elements, with maybe one in particular  that becomes an issue of the story, where its significance has consequences - maybe that one moment when laziness led a protagonist to fail in something vital - and/or the journey to overcome what is recognised as a potentially fatal flaw.

All writers are human, or we claim to be,  so we try and write characters who are human or have a semblance of human emotions, or how will a reader identify with them? I doubt if there is a human who has not experienced all the sins at some stage in their lives, even if it is only envying their sister for her curly hair when theirs is is poker straight, and vice versa. I'm not sure if there is a sin that covers that contrary human thing of of perversely wanting that trait that you don't possess, but a lot of people are not giving up on their hair straighteners any time soon. Isn't technology wonderful?

But the thing that struck me from my reading this week, and inspired this post, was how often what might be called the sin of pride is the king pin of a lot of romance writing, and crime too. Not in an overt way, but as the underlying force for keeping secrets, saving face, not wanting to be patronised, the object of pity, to look to be  lacking in some way. How often has the heroine in the romantic suspense insisted that she can stand on her own two feet, the hero retreated from an instance when he judged himself to have failed in some way, with consequences that stretch across the book?

Secrets are the life blood of romantic suspense, and pride and self worth are a great motive for having them and keeping them.  Having had the thought, I'm going to be watching my own work, looking for times when my characters are letting a variation of pride motivate them. I suspect it might be more often that I expect.

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