Karma Is Difficult to Write For
I am not an overtly religious person, but I am a strong believer in Karma. If I do something wrong, immoral, inconsiderate or mean she immediately punishes me.
For example, five years ago, my wife and I went out to celebrate my birthday. We made reservations at a nice restaurant and dressed up for the occasion. We were both looking forward to a wonderful evening and talked about how good the food would taste as I merged onto the freeway. I neglected to see the car next to me and he had to slam on the breaks to allow my blissful movement into his lane. When he locked up his tires, it caused a blowout requiring him to pull over. When I noticed what happened, I couldn’t merge into the breakdown lane due to construction. I could only watch in my rearview mirror as his damaged car came to an awkward stop.
Of course, I yelled in frustration and felt terrible about my mistake. This event cast a dark mood over what should have been a pleasant evening. As a man of honor, I should have made every effort to pay for his damaged tire.
The next day, my car ran out of gas but the gas gage indicated quarter full. It took three weeks, and $1,000 to fix my dashboard gas gage. Two weeks later, my car ran out of gas again. This took another three weeks, and $1,500 later to fix my fuel tank sensor/pump/filter. A week later, I found my gas gage stuck at half full. They had installed the incorrect part, and I needed a different sensor/pump/filter. Karma clearly punished me for my mistake.
Taking an impartial viewpoint, one would think these are unrelated events. Not for me. I clearly connected the dots, and the lesson taught me to take driving more seriously. For me, Karma is real, never misses any action, a good memory and any sense of humor or forgiveness. Of course, she can be nice when I do nice things.
I first appreciated Karma while working at Kinkos. In case you are unaware, Kinkos is a chain of copy stores. I made copies and worked the cash register for minimum wage during and after college. As I worked, I began seeing patterns. When a customer acted nice, I acted nice. When they were mean, of course, I still had to act nice. But I did a sloppy job and made sure to charge them the full price (if not more.) While this insight into how life works may seem obvious, it served as an important life lesson for 20-year-old me. While my time at Kinkos proved to be quite negative, I did learn a lot about life.
I have come to understand that Karma is not central to everybody’s lives. Bad people remain terrible for years without consequence. Good people undergo constant pain without a break. Children get cancer and die young. That’s life. Right? Karma chooses what lives she enters using logic is beyond my comprehension. I must silently accept her choices while watching people commit terrible acts without punishment.
Overall, I try to lead a good life. I feel that Karma realizes my efforts to be a good person and generally treats me well. The problem with Karma is that she is difficult to write for. In my life, I constantly see that bad clearly follows bad and good follows good. A realistic plot requires characters without Karma. Readers hate it when the bad person instantly loses and the good person always wins. Plots like this are right out of bad 1950’s westerns.
Well, why don’t I simply ignore Karma when I write? Bad person, do your worst. Hey good person. Here’s a free punch in the face. It took me a long time to appreciate Karma’s role in my life and now I find it difficult to visualize a world without her. To me, writing a story where she is not present reads wrong. I keep thinking, “The world does not work that way.”
I understand that I do have writing limitations and try my best to work around them. For example, I like the band Rush and I think everybody should like this band. Have you not listened to the song Limelight at least a thousand times? I am well aware that not everybody likes Rush. If I wrote a bunch of Rush references into a story, this would lead to issues as 95% of readers would not understand my obscure song references.
The same is true with Karma. Real-life is not like cheesy 1950’s westerns. Bad characters win without consequence and their reprehensible actions force readers to hate them. This allows readers to bond with the hero. That’s the good plot even if Karma would not approve.
I try to push Karma’s envelope and put every effort into making my characters believable. However, I feel compelled to complete Karma’s circle of pain or pleasure. Facing one’s limitations will always be difficult. Perhaps I can change the people who don’t believe in Karma one book at a time.

You’re the best -Bill
September 04 2019

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