Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It's All Relative

relationships--associations, connections, or the lack thereof among characters in a story; the attraction or force of obligation and/or distaste between a character and an institution, organization, or place; an awareness of romantic, social, and ethical potential among characters in a story; the degree of resident empathy between the writer and the characters created by the writer.

The writer has created every character in the story, a given that is the baseline of all other relationships in the narrative. Now the writer must establish with each character enough of a relationship to convey by direction and nuance the intent of the entire ensemble of personalities. Next comes the writer's awareness of each character's goal in the story, followed by the writer's awareness of the subtext among characters in every scene, while each individual is acting on his own agenda and intent.

Effectively taking the place of the standard Shakespearean Prologue, the equivalent of three bag ladies, off their meds, appear. All right, they're witches, who let us know they have some ability to "read" the future. They foresee a meeting "ere the set of sun," on the heath, there to meet with Macbeth. Next scene, establish Macbeth as a loyal captain. Establish also King Duncan, deciding that Macbeth is to be promoted to Thane of Cawdor. We have not seen Macbeth yet, but already we have information about him, including the fact that his promotion comes from his loyal service. Now we're back to the three witches, gloating a bit about their witch-like activities, then, just as they'd foreseen, noting the arrival of Macbeth and his coeval, Banquo--two great chums at day's end. The witches greet Macbeth, first by his old title, then, just as Duncan had decreed, as Thane of Cawdor. The third witch delivers the kicker: "All hail,Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!" Music to Macbeth's ears. estate management. He already has inner plans and dreams. Call it a hidden agenda. We have barely met him and yet, look at the details of his position and relationships we have gleaned.

Early in A Streetcar Named Desire, before she has uttered a word of dialogue, Blanche Dubois is seen taking a quick slug from a hidden bottle, then turned down the lights, giving us a highly intimate view of her relationship with her self-image.

Characters are in the constant flux of defining their relationships to their surroundings, their circumstances, and to those about them. Even in such subjective constructs as sobriety or romantic involvement, a character responds by carefully articulating his movements, thus not to reveal his drunkenness, or to reveal by body language, facial expressions, and words his regard for the object of his devotion. From these definitions, the reader is able to interpret dramatic intent.


Anonymous said...

Your blog is more useful than any book on writing because it goes to the heart of the process.

John Shannon said...


This is John Shannon, Jack Liffey's dad. Thanks for the kind and thoughtful review of Palos Verdes Blue. With a review that good--and not paid for in advance!--I owe you a lunch! I can't find a direct e-mail for you, so get in touch:

John Shannon