Good Writers Are Philosophers
Wikipedia defines philosophy as: The study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as: existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophers try to understand life, people and our existence. Philosophers must get deep into the core of a person. They need to strip away all the outer influences to understand a person’s inner essence. The true answers to life’s questions go far beyond the blasé answer of “it is the way it is.” True philosophers have deep philosophical theories that link values, religion, spirituality, and existence all together.
When I watch the news, I wonder about the motivations behind the people making the headlines. Usually, their reasons are clear and range from good intentions to pure wickedness. Of course, the reasons can take on many dimensions, for example, desiring fame or money.
I also enjoy thinking about the people around me and fictional characters. I want to understand all aspects of people including their motivations, decisions, and outlook on life. I also spend a lot of time thinking about myself. I want to know more about the reasons behind my existence and the fundamental elements that drive my decisions.
As a writer, I think about life and people. I truly need to get in the mind of somebody that does not exist and answer the ultimate fundamental question behind their being: Why…
From my own philosophical knowledge base, I create characters and story. Well, what is the difference between simply making something up? To me, it is essential to use philosophical knowledge to develop characters. For example, a basic protagonist is a bad person. A bad person kills a good person. The reader would not be impressed with such a simple story. The story requires background, motive, values, morals, history and a fundamental reason for terrible existence.
Well, how does a writer develop a nonexistent mind? True writers have to develop a character and understand their ethics, motives, childhood, decisions, and knowledge. This knowledge is translated into goals, wishes, and desires. Granted, not all of this information is available to the reader. For example, the protagonist had a bad childhood. That might aspect of their personality might be too complex (distracting) to explain within the context of a story, but the writer uses this knowledge to guide their decisions, dialog, and actions. The result is that the reader has a better grasp of what is behind the motives.
Let’s take a complex example of a character from one of my stories and look at her from the perspective of a philosopher.
Grace is a pleasant, smart, powerful, private and driven woman. She exists to be an artist, businesswoman, and ruthless killer. What values would be required for such a character? She appreciates the finer things in life, including music, artwork, and food. She is driven to make money to experience the best that life can offer. On the negative side, she does not value human life to the same degree as a normal person. To me, this is the philosophic crux that makes her so interesting.
Grace desperately wants to be thought of as a nice person and she does her very best to act pleasant and respectful. This overcompensation helps her to justify being a murderer. The result is that Grace is a conflicted individual that has difficulty speaking honestly about her choices.
Why does Grace exist? She exists to survive; the very definition of a person who forces the world to accept her existence, the ultimate top predator. She prays on the lives of despicable people (at least in her mind) to further her existence. This gives her an unusual set of morals resulting in odd values. In one area of her life, she is a pleasant businesswoman. Her morals meet the definition of an honest person of good character; somebody that we all would enjoy meeting. In the other area (that she defines as 1%) she has absolutely no regard for human life. She is the stone cold executioner without a trace of remorse.
When I developed the character of Grace, I spent a lot of time “inventing” her background. This included her life choices. From there I had to get into her mind. I am clearly not a mass murderer with conflicted morals. However, I had to think like one. This actually came rather easily. I pictured an above average woman with heightened morals and then crushed these values with the desire to kill. This formed the duality of her existence.
All of this thinking about her background made the character. I would mentally ask her questions and based on her morals, values, and experiences that I made up, I form an answer. Well, what about the philosophy part? I have to dig deep into my own mind and what I know about the minds of others to invent her existence. To me, this is the ultimate extension of being a philosopher. I am going beyond understanding my mind and other minds to create a new mind. This mind exists, makes decisions and has consequences. Of course, they are only written consequences…

You’re the best -Bill
March 27, 2019

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