Friday, February 5, 2021

Unspoken Agreements and How They Drive Characters in Fiction and Memoir

In real life, people operate under unspoken agreements that try to keep the status quo--whether that status quo is calm or the opposite. I'm enjoying a winter novel by Frederik Backman, author of A Man Called Ove, that brilliantly depicts a group of characters acting in an unspoken agreement to preserve a town that's rent by scandal. Although a young girl is raped, there's also a hockey final coming, and the star player is the perp. Everyone, except a very honorable few, chose to ignore what happened and keep the team forefront. Backman ratchets the tension higher and higher until everything breaks apart and people have to face the falsity and injustice square on.

Unspoken agreements drive story. There's a real difference in how a character, or group of characters, "presents" to the world and how they really feel. The dichotomy is what creates that wonderful tension that keeps us reading.