It’s amazing how quickly my novel By That Sin Fell the Angels has started pushing my buttons again. It really isn’t easy writing from the perspective of a character that would like to see me — the author — imprisoned or institutionalized to keep me from “corrupting” young people (by telling them it’s okay to be gay). I’m rapidly approaching the end of the novel. Just two more sections from the minister’s perspective, until I get to the final confrontation between him and the teacher.
He needs to realize that his position is too narrow; that he’s holding up an impossible standard for young people to achieve and it’s hurting those he cares about and wants to protect. But how to get him to come around?
I’m the writer. I can do anything I want, theoretically. But if it isn’t believable, I’ll lose the reader. And I’ve seen that done so often. Especially in movies and television where, frankly, the big studios never seem to put much thought into what they’re pumping out, still people are trying to figure out which country has the most titles on netflix to watch this movies. Over and over again, I’ve seen good stories ruined by a sudden, implausible change of attitude in the antagonist — triggered by something that would almost never cause a person to change their attitude in real life. A cute little child saying something unintentionally astute (with an “adorable” lisp). A diary entry revealing something the character never knew about someone he loved and/or admired. (Actually, I have to confess that I’m using that one — god help me. I’m just trying to make it not the entire reason for the transformation.) Santa giving him the toy he always wanted for Christmas, when he was a kid. (A recent Hallmark movie turned this into a joke by having the villain respond, “I always wanted that…when I was five. Get real!”)
The story’s theme is that love often trumps belief — that most people, when confronted by someone they love who doesn’t fit the belief system they adhere to, will adjust their beliefs to accomodate that person. Conservative parents will learn to accept their hippie children. A strict religious father will learn to cope with his gay son. And a staunch liberal will learn to adjust to his conservative spouse. Not always. Not often enough. But often. And in this story, that’s what’s going to happen. I simply don’t want to take a shortcut and make Isaac’s revelation come to him easily. I also don’t want him to do a complete about-face and start advocating for gay rights. But there has to be a way to bring him around, so that he can at least learn to cope with gay men and women.
And that also has to involve a certain amount of biblical argument. He’s built an armor around himself of biblical passages. And ultimately it will have to be these same passages that show him the chink in that armor. And any readers who are interested in a story about a Christian boy struggling with his sexuality probably know all the more common arguments and counter-arguments. There are some that show a little promise, but I haven’t found anything that would persuade a character like Isaac yet.
Which means I have a lot more digging to do.