With a Critical Eye

I’m doing an Internet binge, the name of the show isn’t important, but my reaction to a plot pivot is—because it makes me think about my own writing in a constructive, critical way. Readers have no idea where the plot is going in The Betty Chronicles, in large part because I chose to not plan it out in advance and had no idea what the twists would be until the words formed on the page. The show I’m watching just lost me, the writers took a sharp turn that didn’t feel true to the character’s previous actions. Usually, I just stop for a random period of time and watch the rest of the episode with fresh eyes. I’ve also completely abandoned shows because of these awkward devices, even when the overall story and acting is stellar.

So, back to me. Have I done the same thing? Have I been guilty of using an ill fitting plot device? Ultimately, that is for the critics and readers to decide. I’m too close to the subject matter. My editors never hesitated to mark in red ink poor writing or ill advised angles and I only declared STET when it really mattered to me, so if there is such a stopping point in my books, it will be because of the individual reader’s tastes. Maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m looking too closely at the show’s writing and not just enjoying the entertainment, which would be ironic since I tend to live in the moment. The people behind this series are smart and extremely talented. Maybe I shouldn’t be so judgmental. What do you think?

Lord Acton’s Power Quote

A Goodreads member asked me this question:

Can you give an explanation on Lord Acton quote, please? “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” -Marvin

Thank you for your question. Lord Acton’s quote, while written with the Catholic Church in mind, applies equally well to any position of power. Power tends to corrupt when the holder of power uses it for personal gain or to preserve the position of power itself. Absolute power corrupts absolutely because of the nature of man. We are imperfect and therefore ill suited for anything such as complete control over other men.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s the Lord of the Rings provides an excellent example of the power principle. Even a creature so devoid of the tendency for corruption such as the Hobbit eventually succumbs to the evil side of power. Frodo doesn’t actually succeed in throwing the ring in to the molten lava, the ring has gained power over him and he is unable. Only a tussle with Golem and his unfortunate plunge into the abyss saves mankind from the one ring and absolute power.

The men who found themselves in possession of the ring, even for brief periods declared they only wanted it to do good, but that is the slippery slope of power. Rather than do what it takes to negotiate a resolution, power provides a quicker and simpler route without the mess of compromise. We want to do the right thing and often justify the means (the use of power) to achieve an end (something good and just). Unfortunately, the means can be destructive even if the end product is just. The crusades are an example of a just mission that used corrupt means to restore the Holy Lands to Papal control.

In The Betty Chronicles, we see power wielded by men in back rooms with no natural constituency to rein them in: bad people are assassinated; governments subverted; the monetary supply of nations diluted; and the moral dilemmas of what lines are beyond the pale of the righteous use of power are explored.

Marvin, I appreciate your question.