Saturday, November 29, 2008

Guess Who I Bumped Into

collision--an accelerated impact of two or more objects, two or more persons, an unlimited number of persons and objects/bodies. A vital dramatic verb--you might even think of it as an intransigent verb--collide refers to the very clashes of individuals, agendas, and conventional behavior that informs and buoys story. Collision is conflict living in the immediate moment, so much so that you can hear the clink of body armor, the sighs of exasperation, the grunts of frustration.

In everyday life, individuals bump into one another, mumble a brief apology (for they are truly sorry), then move on. In story, individuals who are already late for some significant event do not merely bump, they collide. Tempers flare. Frustration sprays rampant like a dropped garden hose turned at full power.

After characters and voice, collision is such an essential ingredient in story that the merest hint of it will arouse reader anticipation; the results of it will send characters and careening merrily and idiosyncratically forth like toothpaste out of a tightly held tube. Story can not only be explained in terms of collision, it is set in motion by the impact of conflict. Imagine the unusually long building known as a linear accelerator, in which minute particles are caused to move about at unimaginable speed before being sent down these long corridors to--you guessed it--collide with other minute particles, which then behave in a multitude of idiosyncratic ways, not the least of which is that they are never the same as before the collision.

A young woman, already a tad late for an interview where she will be considered for a position in a prestigious law firm, collides with a distinguished looking man in the lobby of the building housing the law firm's offices. Of course this is a romance, of course he is the man who is to interview her, of course she thinks he is insufferably rude. This is how characters collide in romances.
They collide in differing ways in the various genera in literary stories they collide out of conscience and lust and jealousy and accident and...what have you.

Collision is what happens on Black Fridays in front of Wal-Mart Stores and again on Boxing Day, where the after Christmas Specials collide with those wanting to return gifts for credits. Collision is the consequence of conflict, its side-effects remain like pesky guests who stay to help with the clean-up but invariably fall asleep on the sofa.

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