Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Income, Outcome, and Real Friends

In reality as well as in fiction, you have to have enough interest in an individual to care about any outcome they might encounter.  You do not have to like them.  In some way, perhaps the same way a worker bee knows which flowers to attend and which to avoid, you have to have some recognized sense of what the individual is about in order to make that next step of caring in any degree.

In most cases, your concerns about outcomes relating to strangers comes to mind when you are in coffee shops or restaurants; to a lesser degree your attitudes may become awakened, even aroused, in waiting rooms of medical centers, lines awaiting entry to a theater, perhaps even lines of individuals awaiting flu shots.  Conversation and its tone are the first wave, the literary equivalent of pheromones.  If a particular voice appears to honk or snort, perhaps even to speak at a decibel rate you find disagreeable, you begin by wanting that individual to stop talking.  Your experience is that such individuals do many things, but not talking is not one of them; they honk or snort or drone to the point where it is time for you to ante up and you do, with irritation.  I'll see your honk and raise you one pigeon or crow, flying over your head.

As your interest in an individual increases, so does your tendency to wish bad cess to that person.  This is where story comes in.  You must resist the urge to demonstrate your disapproval, your sense of superiority, your sense of moral outrage, even against the most self-absorbed, entitlement leaning individuals.  In story, you must approximate acceptance of that individual, searching for some skill or technique to blunt your sarcasm and disapproval.  This is the only way you can prevent the runaway slide of that character into monstrous cliche and intrusive attitude.  You want not only worthy opponents, you want bright, skilled, articulate opponents in order to have your protagonist's ultimate triumph have stature.  It is nothing to defeat someone who, on face, is despicable; it is only when you are up against an Iago that your true skills of evocation and resolution are called into play.  Goodness for its own sake is dull, lackluster.  Evil for its own sake strikes you as eighteenth- or nineteenth-century, in its own way as dull and lackluster as Sir Galahad is in his representation of goodness.

You want friends who disagree with you on specifics, thus the mutuality and reciprocals of the friendship bond.  Truth to tell, aren't you a bit suspicious when someone you know agrees with you too much?  You begin to wonder what the ramifications of this agreement will become.  How nice, when you have given what you consider a decent performance in some venture, only to hear a friend say, You'll get it better next time.  First that squirt of irritation:  What do you mean?  Then the reality, what you did could have been better, but your friend is still in your corner, supportive, still your friend, yet confident of your ability.

You want opponents who are not cliche, who are bright, perhaps a bit too bright for your own comfort.  You want opponents whose opposition to you and your regard of it help you delineate yourself with greater acuity than a mere acolyte.  In life and story, an opponent of dimension and reach helps you see yourself as worthy of the best life has to offer.

Opponent:  someone for whom you reserve your best retorts.

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