Monday, April 6, 2009

Frequent Reader Miles

transportation--the process of being taken to a mental, physical, and/or emotional state by means of reading a story or hearing it read; a condition of being caused as an observer of a staged drama, motion picture narrative, or televised presentation to identify with characters and cultures both in and out of your own personal background; a means of accepting and being convinced by the reality of a fanciful or realistic narrative.

The goal of the writer is to provide immediate, first-class transportation to the reader, with no hassle about lost luggage or chintzy in-flight meals; transportation recognizes the reader's passport immediately, does not insist on security checks. There are a good many competing conveyances out there in the world of conventional and electronic publication for the reader to have to experience any inconveniences. Frequent-flier miles are welcomed. Any successful story offers this seemingly ineffable quality of transporting the reader from his present, grounded reality into another reality in which the rules, conventions, and traditions of story exist to be broken, the ultimate goals being such destinations as disturbance, entertainment, information, and plausible suggestions for dealing with the moral and social conflicts of the reader's immediate present.

Twenty-first century readers may be transported to the eighteenth century,where they will experience a socio-economic landscape of pellucid clarity simply by picking up any of the three novels completed by Jane Austen. Similarly, readers wishing an entirely different type of transportation may follow the career path of one Valentine Michael Smith in Robert Heinlein's epic science fiction novel--regarded by many as the science fiction novel--Stranger in a Strange Land. Valentine Michael Smith is the son of two of the eight astronauts of an ill-fated first human expedition to Mars. Smith is raised in the culture of the native inhabitants of the planet, beings whose minds live in another world. By signing on for the trip, we get a picture of differing cultures and their effect on one another. Each of these two novels, written a tad over a hundred years apart, have influenced generations of readers, the one from a satirical observation point of view, the other from an imaginative gloss on differing views of human behavior.

In order for any work of the imagination to offer transportation, the characters involved must be caught up in some recognizable cultural and social clashes, enhanced by some form of deadline or emotional imperative.

Thus the question: How does a writer transport readers? The answers are various and simultaneous. The writer's first duty is self-transportation. Develop the vision of a place, a time, and the individuals who inhabit it, then write with the unfettered energy of enthusiasm for the vision, regardless of whether the vision is dark and gloomy or light and inspirational. Write with the detail and certainty it takes you to believe. The more imaginative the landscape, which is to say the more it appears to vary from convention, the more real it needs to seem, thus the characters must behave as though the terrain were absolutely, convincingly real.

Not easy to do, but not impossible: Your favorite writers do it for you most of the time.

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