Saturday, September 18, 2010

What Choler Is Your Rainbow?

You have spoken out with considerable invective against the use of what you consider artificial devices as a way to set a writer to writing.  Most of the results of such ventures emerge sounding precisely like what they are:  manufactured sequences of words, mere exercises, perhaps demonstrating the ingenuity resident in the writer but only on rare occasions demonstrating the emotional core of the story.  One such device remains in you memory over a span of at least twenty years; the student proudly announced having written two entire pages without once using a word containing the letter e.  Still reeling from that memory, you recall a new visitor to the Saturday workshop, announcing the three prompt words built into an essay.  Fortunately for you and the newcomer, your cholers were set at room temperature and you were able to make your point without a rant; the newcomer saw the point, then returned the following week with a promising beginning to a promising story.

With this disclosure about your general response to exercises and to the production of any writing that does not have some inherent purpose of demonstrating opinion, humor, irony, subtext, or the glorious nuances of story, this confession:  You sometimes resort to a device that sets two or more characters against one another, illustrates two possible extremes of a point, leads directly to the thematic goals of a story. Place a character who is confident into a situation with a character who is some degrees more than confident, say stubborn.  See what happens.

The goal of story is some kind of combustion.  When you find out what the combustion is and is about, you are past the half-way marker.

The best use for this device is as a tracking mechanism, one that insures the necessary amount of tension and chemistry between individual characters to fuel the story.  Comfortable is a positive enough attitude for a character.  Put a character who is comfortable into a situation where another character appears the extreme vector of comfortable, say lazy.  Ah.  Soon the comfortable character is not so comfortable, thanks to the reminder of the lazy character's laziness.  Similarly, the lazy character feels, shall we say pressured by the comfortable character?  Yes; let's do.

Comfortable you says yes, this is a worthwhile approach to apply on occasion to keep the wire of tension taut.  The lazy you insists that it is nevertheless a trick, a device.  Stories don't need devices, the lazy you says.  Yeah, but you'd never get off your butt and want to get things moving, the comfortable you responds.  Soon both aspects of you are at each other with taunts, jibes, perhaps even insults.  Just enough to get you wanting to bring another character into the picture--to absorb some of the heat.

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