Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why I Like to Disagree With People

This post is a direct result of my reactions to this post by Matt over on The Vanshing Blog from about a week ago. It's not necessary to read the post in order to understand mine here, but it's a thoughtful piece and worth your time.

Now, to draw attention away from Matt's overall point and narrow in on what I want to talk about today, a quote:
I'm not a big fan of MovieBob. Although I find him occasionally interesting, he comes off as something of an elitist to me. Also, he is coming from worldview diametrically opposed to mine. He seems to have no problem insinuating that those who disagree with him are small-minded. Plus, at the end of this video he basically says he'd like to be a supervillain.
That's from Matt's article. It does not reflect the main purpose of the article in any way, shape, or form, but it brings up what I have discovered is a rather fundamental difference between him and me.

I like it when I disagree with someone.

Now, for those of you who know me, you might be crying "Foul, sir! You are insufferable, stubborn, and stupid when you disagree!" And... yeah, you're probably right. But that's not what I'm talking about. I might not be a pleasant person to disagree with, and I may appear frustrated and unyielding when I get into an argument with someone. In the end though, usually after I've had a chance to look back on the argument, I try to find things that I can learn from it. I find myself motivated to learn more, both about my side of the question and about differing views. I don't always follow through, but the simple exposure to other ideas helps to broaden my perspective. And oftentimes, though the other participant in this disagreement usually never sees it, I find myself coming around and agreeing (in part) with what they've said. They convinced me post-argument.

This is why I have grown increasingly fond of MovieBob and his opinions. Almost every single week, he challenges me with a new thought or opinion or twist on an idea that opposes my own perspective on life. True, he just as often reveals a rather stereotypical and narrow-minded view (but then, so do I, I'd imagine). Even so, the times that he challenges my established perception makes it worth tuning in every week to see what he has to say. Besides, he's a very knowledgeable fellow and I'm always willing to learn.

Now, that's the personal bit. This idea of enjoying disagreements also applies to writing (big surprise, I know).

Villains. I love villains. Again, those of you who know me are already quite familiar with this fact. You know that I played the stereotypical, mustache-twirling, black-cape-wearing villain for four years in high school melodramas. For those of you who don't know that, now you do. If a story doesn't have a strong villain, a sinister-enough force for the heroes to reckon with, then the drama in the story feels hollow.

Call me a mercenary if you will, but this disagreements are an excellent way for learning about villains.

If, as it is often posited, all of our characters are a piece of ourselves given life, then our conflicts are going to be sadly one-dimensional. I don't think there is enough variety in both personality and opinion within myself for me to flesh out a fully-living cast of characters for one novel, let alone upwards toward a hundred. Even if I begin taking cues from my friends and family (as it is also often posited) and start inserting them into my stories, that only deepens the cast and conflicts by as much as I know them. Even though I've grown up with my siblings and my parents and have been close friends with several people for many years, there is a lot that they do and think that I don't understand or know about. So if I just take what I see, it's not going to help too much.

However, if I find myself disagreeing with someone -- be they friend, family, politician, or internet video host -- and really try to understand their opinion and see it from their point of view, that can really help to deepen the conflict in my characters. It will not only help to strengthen my villains, making each one a believable person with understandable motivations instead of one of my mustache-twirling gentlemen from high school, it will also help to increase the tension between my heroes. After all, nothing ever stays calm on the home front, especially when there are people involved.

Thus far, I'm somewhat surprised to say, the villains in my stories have been somewhat lack-luster. I suppose I rebelled against my younger love and have been striving to make my heroes shine. However, I know that there are some truly impressive villains in my roster. I just haven't gotten around to writing them yet.

Hopefully the disagreements I have will continue to help me build them into fully-realized characters. Maybe I'll even be known as "that writer with awesome villains." That'd be fun.

UPDATE: I have another new post over at The Vanishing Blog. It's the first in a series. You can check it out here.

1 comment:

  1. Like I told you on Skype, I don't entirely agree with your assertion that I don't like disagreeing with people. I don't mind it so long as it's a respectful disagreement. I don't get the idea the if I met Bob Chipman (MovieBob) he'd be especially nice about some of the things we disagree on. Maybe he puts on a bit of a character for his shows. I don't know. But he's fairly unapologetic about saying people who are skeptical of technology and progress are small-minded idiots.

    I am probably less easy to disagree with than you. That's why we get along. ;)

    Seriously though, arguments, debates, and clash of ideas... this how you learn to make real people in your stories. It's a fantastic method to learn more about people. The more we are able to see each other as well-rounded human begins and less as caricatures and labels, the more we are able to show Christlike compassion to others. We can only love properly when we realize that the people we disagree with and have the tendency to dislike are people just like us. And we are certainly not without fault. In as much as our debates and discussions lead us to that attitude, they are wonderfully healthy exercises.