Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Why? Because

When we ask as a teacher or reviewer "Whose story is it?" there is often an air of smug authority in our voice, indicating our knowledge of what the question really means as well as the satisfaction of having arrived at so lofty a plateau.

Truth to tell, we believe we are at the head of the line by asking the question in the first place.  Buoyed by this confidence, we go on to ask yet another question, as if to verify our position in the first place.  "Why that particular point of view?"

Often the answers to these two questions have to do directly with something the writer will have read some while ago, something in fact he or she may not have direct memory of until we, in our questioning mode, persist with even more questions to which the story teller, in a storytelling mode, answers.  Thus the power of the question in the first place.  Why did you give the protagonist red hair?  Why does the baby sitter speak with a French accent?  Why can't your attorney character not have a teak desk and not smoke cigars?

Questions from critics cut off more communication between the writer and characters, especially when sometimes the answers are best answered with the single word, "Because."

It is true that some time and effort become necessary; characters do not step forward confident and fully equipped. They must be pampered through a number of conflicts to the point where they are understood, formed, able to take whatever life has to give them within the confines of the story.  But once they have emerged and begun to feel their way into their assigned parts, give them the respect actors pay their favored directors; let them say of you that they were cast against an enormously large group of candidates, encouraged by the mere fact of being selected, and now ready to take on their part with confidence.  When someone in the audience asks why they were chosen, you can close your eyes and hear the appreciation as they respond, "Because the part was absolutely right for me."

1 comment:

Querulous Squirrel said...

I can't tell you how many times I've been stumped and even humiliated by such questions in writing workshops. But why IS the sky blue???