In this season of hotly contested political races, including the Presidential one, I think it’s interesting to sit back and try to learn something from all the commotion that surrounds them. I’m speaking here of what writers can learn from the current Republican nominee, Donald Trump. I’ll leave the political and economic and foreign policy and sociological and other lessons to be learned from this race to those better equipped to discuss them (as well as to those who have intensely held opinions), and deal with the more prosaic issue of writing. Specifically, what can Donald Trump teach us about writing?
Shortly before the first Presidential debate, a comment was made by a TV reporter that the Democrats were wondering which Donald Trump would show up: the combative, belligerent, trigger-happy one, or in direct contrast, the more thoughtful or reflective one. By the time of the debate, Donald Trump had begun to tone down his vitriolic attack on almost anything that moved, and the Democrats were unsure of how he would come off.
I didn’t watch the debate and I’m not sure exactly which Donald showed up, but that’s not the point of my essay here. It is, rather, the fact that Donald Trump has (at least) two different public personae. It is precisely this duplicity of personality which makes a character in a novel or short story far more interesting than a simple, one dimensional one. That is not to say that all the characters in our stories have to be politicians, but that they should be complex and interesting. We all are that way. We all have aspects of our personality that might seem incongruous to others. I, for example, am a PhD scientist, committed to using the scientific method (experimentation and logic) in my vocation, yet I have always been a deeply religious person too. Some people will ask, how can you believe in something you can’t see or feel or measure? I have my reasons, though I usually don’t speak about them. It certainly isn’t necessary that all of our literary characters need be as dualistic to the same extent as “the Donald,” but they should be to one degree or another. A few examples: the cowboy who writes poetry, the football player who does needlepoint, the banker who plays the horses, the priest who visits a strip club (probably in disguise), the jazz musician who attends the opera, the atheist who attacks organized religions yet surreptitiously reads the Bible or Koran—and there’s zillions more. Putting these people in situations where their odd interests become the focus of the plot line can make for interesting reading, and, for the writer, interesting writing.