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The little tyrant in us
Unwritable Story

By Abbas Mehdibeigi
January 23, 2003
The Iranian

If you were under the impression that being a writer is an easy task, you are in need of serious reevaluation of your impressions. The problem is not the creation of fiction or writing what you have created. This part is easy. Everybody can create fiction or write. That is the way we communicate in our daily lives. We are constantly recreating and rewriting ourselves as well as others. We rewrite ourselves as per demand, and rewrite others as per our needs.

Why do you think we get pissed off at others? I tell you why. Because the way they have written themselves does not match with the way we like to write them. Or, because the way they have written us does not match with the script we have prepared for our own character. The difficulty of writing is to create characters who can co-exist in a story. If the characters are not able to co-exist the story unravels. The words fall off the page and you end up with a blank piece of paper.

Of course writing fictionalized characters and putting them in a narrative is not as controversial as writing your own character. When writing your own character you are putting yourself in a straight jacket. First, you have to thoroughly evaluate what is expected of you in the situation you are in, and your script should meet the demands of that situation.

Second, you have to stick with your script. This is not easy. Sometime you forget which script you are supposed to follow. You might unwittingly be yourself for a moment and blow your current guise. I should say you might take "yourself " too literally and forget that that "self" is really a transient mode and is not really yours. Then not only your current self will lose credibility, but you will prove to everybody that you will never be a good politician. You have, then, to kiss running for an office goodbye.

So, you see, we are all writers by nature. But, the reason I said being a writer is not an easy task is because you have to choose between characters. All these characters that we constantly write for ourselves and others, and use them briefly wont go away. They hang around and look for another chance to be put to work.

Whenever I want to write, these characters surround me and each one strongly demands to be put into a narrative. They won't fail to remind me that I owe it to them. They are right, I wrote each and every one of them to save my neck one way or another as the circumstances warranted. Now, they say, they deserve to be put into a novel or a story or at least a short story so that they feel that they belong to some text. They like to be part of a narrative. Of course I agree with them, being a character has no meaning unless you belong to a text.

Stories are about heroes. In other words, heroes make stories. You are either a hero or you are nothing. I personally prefer to be a hero. Each time I've written myself, I've written myself as a hero. I am an honest person, and honestly, I have not seen anybody else who has all the characteristics of a hero as I do. This way I have written a lot of heroes.

Even though I have all these heroes, I have not been able to write a story that sticks together or can preserve its integrity. Each time I write a story, as soon as I try to proof read it, it comes apart. It unravels, line-by-line, word-by-word. Not even a single sentence stays intact. I can give you an example, then you might be able to tell me what is wrong.

Once I tried to write this story about a group of emigrants trying to organize their community so they can have a more active participation in civic activities in the city they were living for a long time here in America. You know how easy it is to organize here in America. You see all kinds of groups here. All it needs is a common interest, common hobby, ownership of a certain make and year model car or even a pet, then you can have your group.

Maybe the reason I am even mentioning this is because I am an emigrant myself (I should better say an hyphenated American). Probably if I were un-hyphenated I would have taken it as granted and I would not have even noticed it. Maybe that is why I was trying to write a story about it. You see, it took my fictionalized emigrants something like twenty years to realize that it is O.K. for them to have their own group.

I am not going to tell you which country they were originally from. It would be politically incorrect for me to say that, or I might be accused of being biased for or against. Besides, if an author tells his readers everything, he or she is encouraging the readers to be passive consumers of the text. And that is not healthy for the readers. Readers are consuming lots of other things already, if they consume text as well that would mean another dollar spent on weight loss program, and that is not fair. By the way, there should be a difference between text and popcorn or hamburger.

When I wrote these emigrants I tried to preserve their authenticity. I wrote them the way they were in their country of origin. They were not used to forming groups or to make decisions for themselves. They did not need to, because all decisions were made for them. Throughout their long history they had benevolent leaders that did this for them so they don't have to spend their precious time worrying about these trivialities. Like good shepherds these leaders knew how to take good care of their herd.

Regardless of the type of head cover these leaders preferred -- crown or turban -- they had one thing in common. They had mythic origins. They were either "shadow of god" or "spirit of god ". They were superhuman, heroes. When you have heroes as your shepherd you have to be out of your mind to worry about worldly affairs. Especially when your benevolent leader is always there to convincingly warn you about the consequences of encroaching on God's domain.

This constant friendly reminder eventually makes obedience and avoidance from decision-making part of the make up of your mind. It can even become, to the chagrin of the scientists, part of your genetic makeup, and can even be passed on to your descendants. The rest is theory of evolution and on-set of the process of natural selection, and before you know it you only have heroes and peons, leaders and followers, and nothing in between.

When my fictionalized émigrés decided to organize they had to overcome a big dilemma: decision-making. But decision-making belongs to the leaders, heroes. To decide you have to be a leader. So they decided to be leaders. But you cannot be a leader unless you have somebody to lead. Since all of them were leaders and they had nobody to lead they could not be leaders.

And when you are not a leader you cannot decide. They were in an impasse and my story was not going anywhere. Being the "Author", I decided to give them a helping hand. Something like a "Divine Intervention". That is what I like about being a writer, you possess Providential Powers over your characters, and you don't have to even run for an office. So I wrote them as heroes so they can decide. But the problem did not stop there. If you are a hero you need to undertake heroic tasks. A hero cannot bother with the mundane business of everyday life like work, family and civic duties.

Now my characters were looking for big problems to solve, the least of which was Human Destiny. They wanted to tell everybody how to behave, how to run their lives, and even how to think. They started to sound like their past crowned or turbaned leaders, the same ones who were responsible for circumstances that made them to immigrate in the first place. Everyone became a little tyrant. My story began to unravel again. Even my benevolence did not go far enough. I felt like the rest of the benevolent dictators who were destined for the dust heap of history.

Now you see what I mean when I talk about difficulty of being a writer? It is not just creating characters and putting them in a text or a story. You cannot put any character in any story as you wish. Characters should be compatible with the story. In case of my fictionalized émigrés I probably over-emphasized their authenticity.

Maybe that is why they did not fit into a narrative of democracy. I am not superstitious, but some evil spirits just don't go away by wishing so. Sometimes you need some serious exorcizing. To gain you should be willing to give. It is difficult to part with the little tyrant in us because that is what we have inherited as a species from our animal ancestors, but that is a price we pay for civilization.

As to the story of my fictionalized émigrés, I never could finish it. It sits in the memory of my computer as a text file. Whenever I open this file to finish it, I can hear my fictionalized émigrés still squabbling about who is going to be the boss. They remind me of the gods of the Greek mythology, sitting on their mountaintop and scheming against each other. That's why I gave up on that story and settled for writing this story about that story. This way I get an opportunity for some innocuous moralizing and a chance to pretend as if I am not one of them. Nobody said writers should not enjoy some perks!

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