When I research for a novel or article, I tend to collect quotes, ones that either sum up a character’s viewpoint or express an issue I want to explore.
While transferring the last of the files from my old work computer I found the following list on my thumb drive, dating from August 2008. The novel I was working on at that time ended up fizzling out in the third draft but reading these instantly brings it back. Wow, I have the itch to finish it now. Maybe after the five other projects currently on my plate.
- “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. ” ~Mark Twain
Hmm, I was born on the same day (though not the same year!) as MT so I have a special fondness for his incisive curmudgeonly-ness. I wonder what he would make of the fact that his observations remain apropos. As I doubt he was ever a believer in the perfectibility of humanity, he probably would expect nothing less.
- “Imagination was given to man to compensate for what he is not and a sense of humour to console him for what he is.” ~Francis Bacon
Uh oh. All writers live off their imaginations, science fiction writers possibly more so than non-genre writers.
- A witty saying proves nothing. ~Voltaire
I can see these quotes, collected at random over several months, now forming a conversation.
- “If you want to make a person angry, tell them a lie. If you want to make them furious, tell them the truth.” ~Arthur Schopenhauer
See, a witty saying would come in handy about now after all.
- “The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials” ~Lobsang Rampa
This one actually surprised me. I vaguely remembered some of the others but this one, nope, not a glimmer. Which is odd, because reading it made me gasp, as this ended up being the central tenet of the abandoned novel. I still remember one character telling another, “Sacrifice is the scalpel with which we sculpt our souls,” so clearly this line sunk in. Maybe that’s why I ended up blocking out the original–it had been so totally absorbed.
- “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul.” ~Carl Jung
I don’t suppose anyone will believe me if I say I was writing a comedy?
- “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.” ~Oscar Wilde
Ahh, so I had a master plan after all. Fancy that.
- “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” ~Jiddu Krishnamurti
If my mother was at all politically active, this is something she’d say.
- “The bad news is there is no key to the universe. The good news is, it was never locked.” ~Swami Beyondananda
- “If God appeared and offered you either, everything you have now…or exactly what you deserve…which would you take?” ~unknown
Now these sound like prompts for completely different stories. Mental “Clarion” file opening…
- “An idealist believes the short run doesn’t count. A cynic believes the long run doesn’t matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short term determines the long run.” ~Sydney J. Harris
- The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run. ~Henry David Thoreau
Again, I see the origins of my character’s view on life. I remember first coming across these while getting my masters, studying the use of violence as a political strategy and tactic. We all wanted to be realists because, c’mon, cynicism is for undergrads and idealism is for PhD candidates. At that halfway point, realism seemed the apogee before the fall but was in reality, merely us knowing just enough to be dangerous, (to shoehorn another quote in here). I remember us treating the Thoreau line like a mathematical formula, an algorithm of extremism.
All this time later, I still think that this remains my preferred interpretation, but now from, oddly, the idealists’ perspective. I trade my life for this, if not in entirety then in pocket change that still adds up to all I have to give. At least I can get something I want more, become something else in the process. But this also demonstrates the foolishness of giving all you are to one thing:
- I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong. ~Bertrand Russell
…Yup, definitely a comedy! Maybe I’ll find some quotes collected while mulling a serious piece and compare.