How cynical are you stories for NaNoWriMo?
The website TVTropes, in addition to being the single biggest time-waster on the entirety of the internet, has a section called the “Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism.” That page talks, at least in part about how dark the attitude an author is towards the world of their story.
It made me consider how cynical my works are. I don’t think they are overly dark and cynical, although at least a few of the characters tend to be very cynical. I know that in my 2012 novel, the character of Mitch Adelson, who is first introduced in a scene where he is called by Michelle, who is telling him that their team mates, who include Michelle’s estranged husband Andrew have been discovered as headless corpses on the steps of the Washington Monument. A dialog excerpt:
“Well, at least this saves you and Andrew money on a divorce lawyer.” Mitch said
“That’s not funny. You’re still an asshole.”
“Keeps me sane.”
“You sure about that?” Michelle asked.
“No. What have the others said?”
That quickly establishes Mitch as something of a jerk, and definitely insensitive. He becomes more cynical throughout the story.
In my original idea he was slated to be killed off fairly early on in the book, but he became so much fun to write for that his part expanded to a much bigger role. He basically acted as a cynical counterpoint to the events of the story and the more positive attitude of the surviving team mates. He almost became a co main character alongside Michelle and Sean, another member of the team. This did throw off the focus somewhat, but when Mitch was assassinated towards the end of the novel’s second act; it made it a much bigger deal.
My 2011 story was more upbeat and was trying to subvert the cliché of the burnt out law enforcement officer (an FBI agent in that case) and also the idea that’s become increasingly prevalent in fiction (or at least in the fiction that I read) that all humanity are basically a giant bunch of jerks who expect the worst out of people and are usually right. I tried to have the characters be more upbeat than I am, as I’m something of a cynic in real life.
2013’s story definitely leans far more towards the cynical end of the scale. Though I’m not necessarily going this route, I will say that character arcs are certainly far more likely to end in bloody reprisals and simmering feuds as opposed to any form of redemption. I think some of that is that a medieval/renaissance world seems like a fairly horrible please to live in when viewed from twenty-first century eyes.
Of course, sometimes you want a world where the bad guys are obviously delineated and get their comeuppance, and the hero is clearly good and earns their just reward at the end of it. There’s a reason “and they all lived happily after” is a fairy tale cliché. Everybody likes the reassurance that things will work out fine in the end, and only fiction can provide that. Reality is far too messy to pin down.
How dark/cynical are you as a writer? Do you think that’s an outgrowth of the standard trappings of your chosen genre? Is your NaNoWriMo idea this year more or less cynical than your typical fare?
And on a completely unrelated note, has anyone used Skype or similar software to attend a “video write in?” Does it work?