** Arclight is About Perception **
My last post was about fear, and came with a description of one of the book's locations, called simply "The Dark."
There's a fairly well known lesson about darkness that I'll paraphrase here because I can't remember the exact wording, nor do I know who to attribute it to. Basically, the idea is that darkness only exists because of human perception. That's not nearly as meta as it sounds - it's actually provable.
There's a scale for determining levels of light, which are measured in lumens. There is no scale for measuring darkness because it's a term invented to mean "lack of light." You can't quantify the amount of darkness in a room, or add or subtract units of darkness. No matter how dim the light, it will always add value in a room lacking it. "Dark" is nothing but "zero" on the light scale.
The same thing is true of "hot and cold." Only one of those things is quantifiable (heat), yet, human perception tells us that both exist. We feel the lack of heat and call it cold.
Perception is a powerful thing. It creates absolutes in our understanding where such things don't actually exist. Your perception of a person upon first meeting (or prior to it, if you're going based on others' opinions) will impact how you interact with that person the next time you see them. The way you read or hear something will depend on your prior experiences, creating differences between you and someone with different experiences because you don't perceive the information the same way.
ARCLIGHT is all about perception.
The main character is put into different categories, depending on whether the character in question thinks she's someone to be feared or cheered. Most of her peers avoid her for this reason - they don't know her, but they perceive the threat in having her close by.
Her assumptions of people's character are based on how they first treat her. The friendly girl who takes a chance on saying hello - she becomes a friend. The venomous boy who taunts her at every opportunity - he becomes an enemy. But most people are enigmas to her, since she has no concrete references to compare them to, and it takes her a while to sort through them all.
I wanted a character who didn't just struggle with an outside opposing force, I wanted one who challenged things on a personal level because she begins to understand that if something doesn't sit right with her, it doesn't mean that she's the problem. If she perceives something as wrong, then maybe it is, even though she's being told it's right.
It's Marina's perceptions that create the wedge between what she's told and what she believes. She doesn't want to kill stray animals because they might have come from the Dark, and therefore be dangerous. She doesn't want to stay inside and be content with a future without a past. Those things are accepted by the Arclight and those raised in it, but they don't work for her.
That's part of the growing-up process, and something especially important for teens. They aren't going to agree with everything, and they're going to find their own ways of accomplishing their own goals. At some point, you have to realize that you're not doing things wrong, you're simply doing them differently, and that may be the key to success.