Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Real West, The Real Writer, The Real Reader

sensory genome, the--a sequence of receptors for touch, sight, hearing, awareness of heat/cold, awareness of taste; the relative degrees in which characters experience sensation; a method of articulating individual characters; an adjunct of the psychological spectrum of a character

If you were portraying a character in a stage or filmed production, you'd have investigated the individual to the point of at least subliminally assessing the person's tolerance for heat, cold, pressure, hunger. You'd have an opinion about whether that character were more a "sight" or "hearing" person. Knowing the sensory spectrum of a character helps produce a more plausible and visible representation of that character. Such knowledge helps the writer determine defining specifics for a character: What would his favorite meal be? Was the character a cotton or wool person, dog or cat, wine or beer, vegan or meat lover. When coming into a scene for the first time, would the character first be aware of sight, sound, temperature, odor?

The sensory genome merits investigation with all ranks of characters because of the spontaneous appearance of thematic or otherwise relevant responses. Example: A pizza deliverer steps into a room and begins sneezing in allergic response to cats, which triggers a furtherance of an argument between the two front-rank characters to whom the pizza is delivered.

Individual character traits should have some relevance however remote to the landscape, tone, and outcome of the story, their inclusion determined by their enhancement of plausibility rather than the distraction of mere originality. Thus, in extreme example, a brief discussion of two cowboys during a cattle drive, in which they argue over the relative merits of hemorrhoid analgesic, speaks to the side effects of too much time on a horse, and adds a note of realism. The conversation might otherwise be deleted as having no material effect on the outcome of the story, but its inclusion will insure the characters place in the readers' memory.

writers block--a strategic narrative impasse occasioned by the writer not knowing what to write next; the result of too much thinking during writing time; the unwelcome presence of a cultural super-ego; a side-effect of the beginning writers belief in the notion of a narrative arriving all at once in near perfect condition.

One of the more effective approaches to coping with this affliction is to move on to the next scene, leaving a Post-It note to the effect, confrontation between Bill and Fred goes here, or sex scene goes here. Another effective approach is to stop thinking about theme- and plot-related matters in terms of questions, as for instance, What would Bill do now and is it plausible that Fred would want to stop him? Move instead to the id-related mode by asking, What does Bill want now? then listening for Bill's answer. If it turns out that Bill doesn't want anything right now, move on to the moment where he does want something. During early draft stages, thought is not a helpful ally, rather it is the equivalent of the dog or cat who jumps up on the bed at night, wanting the precise place on the mattress occupied by the writer. The true helpful ally is what the writer wants, repeat wants, to write, not what the writer thinks would be good to write.


audience for story, the--a group of students who are assigned the text of a particular narrative; a collection of individuals who read for pleasure or information; a number of friends and relatives of a writer; a team of publishing professionals who are on the look out for something; a writer who is obsessively compulsively driven to relate a sequential series of events; a writer who is bored with the prospect of having nothing interesting to read; a writer who has just finished reading a remarkable and compelling work by another writer; a writer who is pissed over some racial, social, intellectual, or scientific injustice; a reviewer who likes books; a reviewer who does not like books.

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