This morning in yoga, my instructor said something really interesting. This isn’t a direct quote, btw. Just an approximation. I wanted to write it down the minute she said it, but she frowns on note taking during practice. <g>
She said–approximately–The point of yoga is to steady your body so and allow yourself to fill with light, not cast aside the shadows, but to highlight them.
I love this idea … the idea that allowing in the light, growing as a person, or however you want to think about it, doesn’t require that I banish the shadows completely, but rather that I become more aware of them. We all have dark parts of our personality, of our soul. It makes more sense to be aware of them and keep an eye on them, rather than to pretend they’re not there. In many ways, the great struggle of humanity is the struggle between light and dark, good and evil, vegetable and cupcake … er, well … you get the point. That struggle takes place within all of us.
Highlighting that struggle between good and evil is fiction’s greatest gift to humanity. It’s the reason Story exists. And the reason people like genre fiction, such as Romance, is because genre fiction dares to say, “Yes, Good triumphs over Evil! Yes, the light is stronger than the shadows.”
In Romance novels, the light always wins. I love that. But at the same time, you still need the shadows. You don’t have much of a story without them.
As a writer, it’s a fine line. We all have shadows. Spend too much time talking about them, and the characters are unsympathetic. But if you ignore them completely, the character can come off as sanctimonious or, perhaps worse, boring.
I recently read the forth book of an epic and popular series. (I’m not going to say which series, ’cause … well, why be rude?) I was hugely disappointed in the final chapter of the story. Today in yoga, I realized why. Instead of using the plot to have the lead character face the shadows of her personality, the author used plot to simply remove the shadows all together. In the final book, the characters had no doubts, no second thoughts, no fears about themselves. It made for rather dull reading. And I was left feeling rather let down.
Coincidentally, at the same time, I’m listening to the last Harry Potter book in the car. I’ve read it before, but wanted to revisit it before the last movie comes out in the summer. It’s so good, I’ve been finding excuses to run errands, just so I can listen to more of it. And it’s reminded me all over again what I love about the series. The epic battle of good and evil, with Harry desperately clinging to good, but always wondering if he has enough light within him to hold the darkness at bay. Harry has enough angst and shadows for tons of books. That’s why we love him. If he were wholly good, he’d be hard to stomach. He has doubts and fears aplenty. He’s not afraid to look at the shadows or to make sure they stay in their place.
Who are your favorite tortured characters? Let me know and I’ll pick one person to win a copy of my new Desire, All He Ever Wanted.
(Btw, as a completely random side note … I tried to find more pictures to include in today’s post. Couldn’t find any. When you google “good vs. evil images” you get some very weird stuff. Seriously. You should thank me for saving you from that.)