Although not unique to us will and intention are two of the foremost hallmarks of a human being. Each of us have any number of objectives that we are attempting to accomplish or to see happen or brought about at least partly through the efforts we make, and our actions and plans are aimed at such. Many of us will even have recently made New Year’s resolutions to that effect, and some of us will have so far been able to keep them. These objectives are of course different from mere desires or wants in that we actively pursue them and expend energy, time, quite possibly money, on trying to ensure as far as possible that they are realized. Other people will often be involved in our plans and although we do tend to recognize that their presence represents something of a question mark in the whole affair it is fairly easy for us to forget that they too have their own objectives and that their wills and intentions will likely not align with ours.
On the other hand, much of our days are probably not spent in a single-minded and dedicated struggle to achieving whatever it is that we are presently bending our will towards. We will have errands to run, we will have duties to attend to, we will have work and social engagements that require the same limited resources of energy, time, and money. We will also be culturally influenced and our attention will be taken by the things that others in our circles are concerning themselves with and which we find, largely by default, to suddenly be of concern to us as well. We open a news page or click on a link and what we see or hear takes us in a different direction and consumes yet more of our energy, time, and maybe money too. Our will may waver under the onslaught of the ever-present now of the multitudinous distractions that define modern life. But hold that thought, I just need to check my email. On and on it goes.
As with us, so it is with our characters. Katy is bound and determined to win first prize in next month’s spelling bee but Bob is bound and determined to wine and dine her in an extravagant lead-up to her thirtieth birthday which she will never forget. Both of them are after Katy’s time and energy but Katy cannot know what Bob is also after nor can Bob know just how Katy is experiencing the places he takes her to on his tour of all the starred restaurants in the greater Kansas City metropolitan area. He may know of her championship spelling aspirations and may even be helping her study but his intentions in doing so will be other than her’s. The two may even find that their wills clash.
So much so obvious; of course. Yet where does this leave us in our writing? Are we telling our story from Katy’s perspective or from Bob’s? Or from outside both of them? Who is the main character and who is the supporting character? The decisions that we make on these issues will influence – often quite subtly – how we approach the narrative we are creating. If Katy is our protagonist we may be tempted to shrink Bob down to a one-sided character who is only experienced via the lens of Katy, her will and her intentions. We might even think it right to do so if we are telling the story from Katy’s first person point of view. That, however, would be doing a terrible injustice not just to Bob but to our human experience of life. We all quite naturally look out at the world through eyes that are fixated on the will and the intentions born of the brain behind those eyes and driving what our seen hands and feet are doing. We see others as assisting or obstructing our will and our intentions, neglecting to take note that what they are up to is based on their own will and intentions. They aim as we aim, and so does Bob as Katy does. No matter how much of an accessory Bob is to Katy’s important story of the road to spelling stardom he remains an individual in the fullest sense that Katy is, and so when we write him we must keep all of that in mind. It’s Katy’s tale, sure, but the sequel could just as easily be Bob’s; that is, if he is allowed to really be Bob and not just here’s-Katy-with-Bob. A nuanced difference perhaps, but an important one I think.