Monday, October 5, 2009

Timeshares in Inevitability

Once you're aware that each character in a story has a separate and distinct reality, you're ready to enter the frightening landscape of inevitability, which is, after all, the guiding force in drama.

First you have to get through a few outer doors, beginning with suspense and its reputation for being the fuel that powers story.  Suspense posits a critical interruption of agendas, of plans under way or about to start.  Menace is often a stowaway to the interruption, either threatened or actual, the remaining questions being where, when, and what the afflicted characters will do next.

Tension is the next barrier, a tricky one to get over because it is a tangible byproduct of characters having differing realities.  The moment two or more individuals spend any time together, each of them begins to question, however under the radar the questioning, the reality of the other.

Inevitability arrives in a longer story early in act two, where characters begin to sense opposition, disagreement, and a measure of what each judges to be self-interest in the other. You can see the classic pull between wanting the freedom of aloneness and openness of choice fighting with the urge to form friendships or romantic associations.  A tentative compromise is sent forth, either to be accepted, ignored, or rebuffed.  Thus does tension begin, slouching toward the Bethlehem of suspense, fulfilling the inherent promise of inevitability.

Those who came before us spoke of inevitability as Fate or the will of whatever gods were accepting earmarks or outright tributes.  Some of us still hold those beliefs.  Whatever.  The evidence is there before us in story after story, whether a play, novel, or short form:  place two characters in the same setting and they speak to the story at hand, they respond in some way that creates at the very least a fabric of tension.  They do what persons in real life often don't--they respond and speak that sublime dramatic language of dialogue.

Ah, the misbegotten scenes of the learning curve, in which characters chatted, expounded on theory and philosophy, missed the nightly showers of subtext and agenda in the dramatic skies.  Ah, the moments when the author in us, eager to be in command, wrested control from the characters, individuals whose goals we barely knew, all but holding up posters explaining the motivations that should have spoken for themselves.

But with time, we came to realize.  It was, you might say, inevitable.

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