Unlike most Americans, I have never seen an episode of “Breaking Bad”, and from what little I know of the show’s premise, I don’t think it’d be my cup of tea. I do understand that it was a well-thought-out, well-written show. I came across this interesting comment today from the show’s creator, Vince Gilligan: “A character that at heart seems at peace with himself is intrinsically undramatic.”
As an author, this piqued my interest in a rather pointed way. It got me thinking–about the stories I write, the people I write them about, and to what extent I agree with the statement. I realized that I’ve never written a novel about a character who was, intrinsically, at peace with himself or herself. The young boy who is the title character of Eternity wonders again and again if he is old enough to make the kinds of decisions about his life he is trying to make. Martin Cabot, the central vampire protagonist of Dark Road to Paradise leaves his mortal life behind in a quest to evade the changes of time, only to find that immortality brings no true still point of peace within–only contact with another does this. And Annah learns, in the novel that bears her name, that not only is reaching both within and beyond oneself essential to changing one’s circumstances, but that as we change ourselves, we nearly always change the world as well.
I think it might be possible to write a good book about a character who is at peace, or seems so. Such a state would be bound to provoke some non-peaceful reactions in others–and I think this may be the case for Annah in her second novel, Annah’s Exile. It’s certainly true that conflict drives story, and creates story–and if the conflict doesn’t come from within the central character, then it surely must come from somewhere outside him or her, and connect back.
In fiction as in life, even if one strives to avoid drama, we’re inevitably never far from it, whether we cause it ourselves or merely get caught in the crossfire. What leads to those moments, and what we do in them–well, that’s the story. And it’s one for another day.