I’ve mentioned that I am reading War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy. What impresses me about him, without being a spoiler for the book, is how he brings characters to life. Few authors can make you feel for a character that you know is destined to mess up everything. Tolstoy is able to write in such a way that you know this person is an expression of reality, a frail human being. You want the best for them, and are even pained when you know the path the author has carried them down is foolhardy.
I was reading today and winced as a character who I had already become attached to descended into a jealous depression, ending in violence, and eventually even into betrayal of a loved one, all mixed with denial and self-loathing. I can only hope that as the events progress, that some recovery can be made – but it doesn’t seem hopeful.
Ah, ’tis a tragedy. But this only makes it more “real”. Life is seldom neat, with your compatriots making perfect decisions without regard to a baser nature. Sometimes the ones you have high regard for you simply shouldn’t. Sometimes, you maintain a clear understanding that an individual is of a base quality, foolish and unimpressive – but this does not mean they are not dear to you, and that their failure will not wreak havoc in your own spirit.
These are the thoughts that such a writer can bring – especially when he does not limit himself to a dozen or so pages to convey the thoughts that compel the characters toward their self-destructive ends.