Saturday, February 7, 2009

Loss Leader

loss--the quality of having experienced or possessed something at one time, but no longer; a sense of something or someone being valued then wrested away by circumstance; an ability, a position or talent once enjoyed and used, no longer accessible either through neglect or a deliberate disassociation; a relationship such as a friendship, mentorship, or romantic connection abrogated by death, neglect,or lack of interest; a prized possession lost or stolen; sums of money or other trade-based media subjected to risk then forfeited through rules of the risk; the after-the-fact realization of something or someone of value being appreciated in retrospect.

Loss, an important coeval to experience, is a significant means by which a writer can convey to the reader a sense of who a particular character is; a simple laundry list of things lost begins to supply background, but dramatic focus on such internals as Innocence, Face (thus dignity), Ambition, Power, Youth, Confidence begins to sketch in an inferential picture of how the character will respond under specific circumstances. The focus on such dramatic externals as Agility, Hair, Teeth, Eyesight, Hearing, and particular abilities associated with performance that do not result in pain or stiffness further define a character and that individual's attitude.

Imagine a particular character, then, engaging the loss of a loved one, a special professional position, or some treasured relic or memento. Imagine as well a particular character becoming aware of lapses of memory. In such awareness and recognition or, conversely, by lack of awareness, a dimension of the character emerges, propelled by loss, by grief, or by the stoic presence of denial stalking the battlements instead of a ghost with an agenda. Think about Beethoven, who revolutionized the music of his day, writing some of the most sublime music of his life after his hearing had departed from him.

As in real life, characters will do things with greater purpose in their attempts to regain what has been lost or to attempt to protect what might next be lost, in so doing revealing even greater depths of themselves, embarking perhaps on an ever widening path of vulnerability.

We can learn more from a character once we discover what that character has lost.


Querulous Squirrel said...

You have no idea how this struck home, both in fiction and in life,
"embarking on an ever-widening path of vulnerability."

Anonymous said...

I liked "the stoic presence of denial." It would make a great title for a poem, and well sums up a major character trait for my protagonist, who is faced with loss on many, many fronts....

Kate Lord Brown said...

Loss - oh yes. The heart of book one is 'love and loss come in equal measure'. It was called simply 'Love & Loss' for ten years (until deemed 'too depressing' by agent). But to me that's life - you can't have one without risking/having hope for the other.