Vulnerability can be overrated.
Can be, people. Can be. Not always.
I love a good chat. I like getting to the heart of people, how they feel, what makes them tick. But sometimes it’s important to realize that there are moments when people make certain decisions just because they want to. Digging into every action can be exhausting and frustrating. And throwing up on a page about your personal angst over how that guy who cut you off had a traumatic childhood needs to stop. Writing is more than that, and while I want you to be vulnerable about your feelings, to open up and really delve into them, I don’t need a complete autobiography. Let’s leave some things to mystery.
You could argue I’m talking about two different concepts, and I would agree that I am. There’s vulnerability in writing, and there’s analyzing writing. One is by the writer, and one is by the reader (although this is technically still because of the writer). I can take them apart, and I probably will in a future post. I just think it’s important to point out their connection first.
People mistake vulnerability for great literary works. Great works can be vulnerable, but not all vulnerable works are great (see what I did there?). You could say that being a writer is being vulnerable, and I guess I would concede and say okay, whatever floats your boat. But all art then is vulnerable. And my point is less that, and more pointing out the fallacy in people exploiting their vulnerability. I’m starting to get sick of that word.
There are moments where I can’t keep the disgust off my face. Someone can have a really moving story, and completely bomb it because you can totally tell it’s being manipulated. I hate that. I hate when people throw up in their books, and I hate when their throw up is published. It’s very frustrating (though not as frustrating as a series with the same plot in each book, but that’s a whole other topic…).
You may think I’m being harsh, and perhaps you’re right. But one day you’ll hit that point. You’ll read a book and think to yourself, “oh, that’s what she meant.” And then you’ll come back here and post a wonderful comment about how on point I am. I await the day with eager anticipation.
But aside from people using themselves to write and publish, what also bothers me is people forcing connections that don’t necessarily exist. I love digging into literature, don’t get me wrong. But I’ve read such far-fetched conclusions that I can only become bitter and want to strangle nearly anyone who writes “An Analysis of…”, and try to brainwash the rest of you into joining me.
I love discussing books. Especially Harry Potter. Take me out for a cup of tea and a good talk on the finer points of Harry’s choices and I’m all over that. But never once will you hear me say, “you know, I really think JK chose to make Harry’s eyes green because that’s also the color of the curse that killed his parents.” It’s a fair guess, and I’m sure it has tons of meaning and blah blah blah. But having absolutely no way to back that up other than pure conjecture, I will never put weight behind those words. Maybe his eyes are green because that’s her favorite color? Maybe she laughs at anyone who tries to find a deeper meaning? I know I probably would.
I think these strong feelings come largely from being in this stage of life (cheesy blog plug here). I’m at a point as a twenty-something where I hate people looking at my choices and making their own judgments from them. Sometimes I have a reason for doing what I do, and sometimes I don’t. For all my psych friends out there, I’m sure there is something deep in my subconscious that is steering me and whatever, but if I’m not aware of it, then I’ve decided it doesn’t count.
And I guess this fierce desire to protect my own decisions has driven me to protect my characters as well. Yes, they don’t get as much leeway as us real people. I mean, they’re decisions have to be realistic or else readers will say BS (see my blog post about my Hogwarts letter). But if I want to put my character in a red sweater, don’t sit there and tell me it symbolizes her clinging to a long lost love or some nonsense. Maybe that’s just the only thing she has in her closet. (But here I will admit, that if it has no meaning, I should leave it out. Still, my point stands, because I said so.)
I hope I haven’t terrified all of you with my little rant. It’s something that’s been on my mind lately, and I felt like I needed to share.
So the moral of the story, is to tell me the truth, but don’t use it to your advantage, that’s dirty. And also to read a book and enjoy it. Make reasonable conclusions, and run away from Oxford scholars who want to tell you differently. I don’t think they like reading as much as they like knowing things.
And to show you a visual example of vulnerability done right, please enjoy this music video. But, like, just enjoy it. Watch it. Watch it twice. On your third try then you can make some comments about it. But only then.