Nope, not the fifty shades of it. And yes, I know that is Grey, not gray; the wordplay was just too good to pass up . . . or maybe just too obvious. Nonetheless, the gray I’m talking about is that blending of extremes that is neither black nor white, good nor evil, perfect nor imperfect. I’m talking about the muddled up ambiguity that makes decisions hard. That makes love risky. That allows us to be surprised by someone’s actions. That turns snap judgments upside down and makes life interesting.
It’s also exactly the thing that makes characters come alive in stories. Creating characters that lack idiosyncrasies, that are completely perfect or imperfect is like a line drawing with no shading: flat. And yet, for me at least, it seems to be a hard trap to avoid on the first pass through a story. I’ve got heroes and villains and no in-between. And let’s be honest, it’s the in-between that makes it believable. Heroes have flaws and villans have a soft spot for something and most of us have days when we could probably be cast as either.
And so I find myself going back and shading. Searching for the gray that makes it all less whole, more messy and deeper somehow. More like life.
*Need an example of awesome gray-ness? Pick up anything by Emily Giffin. Something Borrowed, for example, is full of beautifully drawn ambiguity.