The cynic is the most misunderstood character. He or she can be mistaken for a pessimistic asshole or whiny bitch. If a person is truly pessimistic, he would appear apathetic. Think about it. We all know that the world isn’t a great place and things are getting worse. We are all frustrated with leadership, government, economy, broken families, family issues, illness and so on. If not, please tell me what the heck you’ve been smoking?
A pessimist sees the emptiness and would be more likely to face the world with an attitude of “que sera sera” or wouldn’t see the point of critiquing the world, discussing issues, or interested in social justice.
A cynic on the other hand recognizes the problems. Change for the better can’t happen with denial or naive idealism. Both naive idealism and apathy are opiates to self-soothe or shut the mind. A cynic is a person who actually cares and truly wants something better.
Most of my protagonists and narrators of my fiction are cynics. Cynicism is an intriguing trait that fits the themes of my novels. Our world’s fallen. Humans are also fallen. The future is unclear and chaos is common. My novels also portray that realism. Hence, it makes sense to have a cynical narrator.
This is where most people who encounter my writing will assume that the protagonist of the novel is myself. I have a cynical streak. But, there is a difference between the narrator and protagonist. Most beginning writers neglect characterizing the narrator. The narrator is a distinct character from the protagonist.
Regarding cynicism, I remember conversations with my friends. It seems that once I hit my 30s, I developed a “I don’t give a fuck. Fuck you…” attitude. That doesn’t mean rudeness or being unpleasant. There is no excuse for being a toxic person. What I mean by that is realizing what truly matters and learning boundaries with people and situations.
When I hit my 30s, I felt like a rose in full bloom. Having more life experience and education and skills, I became confident enough to recognize that I’m done with the pressure to people-please and conform. I feel that women are socialized and pressured into codependency traits: being docile, peacemaker, remaining silent and pleasant when people overstep boundaries. I’ve always been the independent girl and somewhat of a rebel. But only within the last few years, I felt confident enough to draw boundaries and kick people out. Growing with dysfunction fucks you up.
For example, I broke up with my father who is an addict, abusive, and a manipulative narcissist. In a conservative religious fundamentalist circle that seems obsessed with the father as leader role, it was not easy dealing with judgment, criticism, and desertion from other super-religious people. That religion I grew up with gives this message that self-care, assertiveness, establishing boundaries, self-reliance is selfish. How wrong is that? Conservative religion is my enemy to healthy boundaries and personal growth.
Personal growth came to me when I became increasingly unsatisfied and frustrated with this messed up world. I’ve always questioned, been a rebel, and unwilling to just settle for less. That is where my cynicism came from. There has to be something more. A compulsion to seek out truth beyond the surface, superficiality, and status quo drove me. It is a biblical concept of hating the things of the world. Even other religions and philosophies talk about the worldly things. Buddhism and Hinduism has insight about the worldly attachments of life and its falsehoods.
The means of seeking truth and meaning isn’t naive idealism. Idealism and wishful thinking isn’t faith. At first, it makes you feel good through a temporary escape. When the bubble bursts, you still have to deal with reality. It’s stupidity that causes more problems. Cynicism is what led me to seek the wellsprings of life or make the most out of life.
I suppose cynics make interesting, complex characters that drive the story. When that cynic is observant, the plot and themes are advanced and revealed in a specific way to my readers. At least, that’s the case in my writings.