This is last month’s contribution for the More Than Writers’ Blog.
“Do you think I’m violent now?” His one eye looks at his siblings, the other one has a cute penguin-stickered patch on. His little cherub face is looking delighted when he announces, “Well, when I’m seven, I will be a lot more violent!” He cackles a menacing laugh, whilst his chubby hand brings the spoonful of chocolate cereal to his mouth. His siblings smile indulgently, telling him he is dreadfully violent. He sighs contentedly, telling them he wants a very fighty birthday, with water pistols, handcuffs, the lot.
Context is a funny thing, I thought, standing in the queue for the supermarket, feeling the warm sun on my face, a slight breeze, birds singing… So idyllic. The stress and mess around us feeling surreal. In fact, hard to remember that the whole reason of me standing yards away from the supermarket entrance, drinking in the sun, was so as not to endanger myself or others. The taut faces and suspicious glares from other shoppers forming a weird contrast to the beauty around us. Somehow the sunshine felt wrong, a dissonant. Things should match up, unlike my boy’s birthday warnings where little boy and dangerous words were at odds.
Like it should be grey and drizzly for funerals, the sky crying along with us. It works in Midsomer Murders where pounding rain and lightning prepares you for bad happenings. Real life isn’t like that though. Real life is sitting in a sun-drenched garden hearing from acquaintances fighting for their life in ICU. (Such a cliché, my idea left over from working in ICU was that the machines, praying families and staff did the fighting, the poor patient was knocked out by nasty drugs.).
I must admit, I do like cliché. Partly because it gives me an excuse to roll my eyes, and say, “I knew that was going to happen!” Like when somebody arrives home in the dark, finds their front door open and walks straight in, calling out in a trembling voice, “Hello? Anybody here? Who is it?” Just to get clobbered over the head. I mean, everybody knows that was going to happen. I kind of enjoy it though, the whole predictability. Reading for me is an escape, like an active nap, full of enjoyment, fascinating words and unexpected twists. Where the most likable character is of course the villain, and where ominous words were in fact innocent miscommunications. (Seems unpredictable, but is a cliché in itself!)
I believe the expected stuff helps us to feel grounded, making us remember that some things are the way they should be. Like happy endings, justice for all, integrity being rewarded. At the same time I wonder, should we as Christian writers put more emphasis on the fact that God is sovereign, and in control at all times, even when we don’t understand? That justice rests ultimately with God? “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen18:25). Should our settings prove that, the characters in our stories flawed in unexpected ways to make our readers think, reflect and be challenged?
The struggle is real!